Introduction: Eco-Garden

Right off the bat, I know what you're thinking (that is, unless my psychic powers are misleading me). You're thinking, "Blake! How can a garden be ECO? I mean, isn't just having a garden pretty eco-friendly in itself?"

Why yes, (lets pick a nice nickname for you, gotta be gender neutral... Jack? Jack! My old pal, Jack)--Yes, Jack! You're absolutely right! However, there are ways to make it MORE eco-friendly!

What??? MORE eco-friendly!

You heard me right, Jack, MORE eco-friendly. All caps. And I don't just mean that it's good for the environment. This eco-friendly project will also be nice to you wallet! Are you ready? Let's get started!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Before we go too much further, let's define what exactly it is that we are building. We are creating a raised garden out of scrapped and recycled materials. What makes this particular style of raised garden so much cheaper and easier to make is that we will be burying the materials that we use to create the border in the soil, eliminating the need for braces, bolts, and other complicated things that might scare some away from creating a raised garden. 

Alright, Jack, this is where we start to put up a bit of money. Personally, I borrowed the majority of the equipment from a friend (we'll call him Jack), but you may need to buy some stuff yourself--especially if you plan to make more gardens. 

-a shovel
-discarded materials for your border

-a pickaxe or hoe (to break up grass and tough soil)
-a trellis (for vines, you can find them very cheep at your local home improvement store)
-pine bark
-natural charcoal [from sticks and logs in a slow burned fire (please do not chop down trees for this as it nullifies the "eco" part of the project. I gathered mine from the road after a tornado blew through the city)]. 
-a hammer
-coffee grounds (free at your local Starbucks).

Now that you've got your stuff, it's time to get to work. I recommend blackmailing a friends or family members into helping by using the word, "eco" a lot and perhaps the phrases "good for the earth" or perhaps "but it's for the children."

Step 2: Dig It, Uh, Oh, Oh, Dig It

This, Jackie-san, is the hard part--digging. I recommend getting that trusty, dusty, pickax and tearing up the ground in the area that you want to start.

"But Blake! I thought this was going to be a raised garden!"

Once again you are correct! Pat yourself on the head. What we are doing here is getting rid of grass so that it doesn't overrun our garden, AND we are extracting some of the natural soil (which we will mix 50/50 with our topsoil). We are also creating a place to embed the boarders of our garden. 

So, to make things concise:

-measure out the exact dimensions that you want for your garden
-break up the ground
-remove the grass (perhaps make a pile of it somewhere so the crickets can make their homes there)
-loosen the soil underneath (try to rescue as many earthworms as possible)
-sing the "Holes" theme song

Step 3: The Fun Part--Create a Boarder

Believe it or not, this is my favorite part of the process--simply because there are SO MANY options for how to create a boarder. On my first raised garden, I used leftover scraps of wood (as you've seen in the pictures) that a friend had when she finished a construction project. On my second (for my Mother on her birthday), I went more ornamental, gathering pretty logs from rotted trees on the side of the road (with the added benefit of bringing fire ants to guard my garden from pests). If you want to go super-eco (which will be my project on my next garden) go walking and find discarded glass bottles on the side of the road. These have the added benefit of working as containers themselves for small flowers (while being super-ornamental). Just line them up and let the dirt keep them lodged in place.

WARNING: Glass can break... and broken glass is not fun for skin or eyes... so be careful, Okiedokie?

For short:

-line the natural border of your dug garden with your wood scraps or glass bottles. 
-if using wood scraps, nail them together for added support.

Step 4: Get Dirty

This is my second favorite part, getting dirty!!!!

So listen here, Jack. What you'll need to do now is get a good amount of topsoil, manure, pinebark, coffee grounds, natural charcoal.

A good ratio is as follows:

-40% native soil (so that your pants don't become to wimpy and so that you can keep the native critters and minerals in your soil mix).
-40% topsoil (because it TOPS all the other! Get it? No? Aw...)
-20% all other materials (just put about the same amount of each) 

When you are finished, the soil should be elevated slightly to moderately higher than the ground around it (though not overflowing over you boarder). Not that high yet? Go get more! These materials are not expensive. In my garden (which you saw in the first picture) I only spent about $15 on enough soil to completely fill my car trunk and put some on the backseat). 

So what you need to do for this step is:

-fill your dug out garden with the native soil,  topsoil, and other natural elements.
-mix the soils together with your shovel or hoe.
-(optional) plant a trellis in the soil for vines to grow on.

Note: This will be the final step in securing the border for your raised garden. The soil will be the major thing keeping the scraps or bottles in place.  

Step 5: Plant!!!

You've done it! You've created your garden! So go out and plant some stuff!

Go out, buy plants, import native flowers from your yard (mistakenly called weeds), plant seeds! The world is your shishkabob! I'm going to show off my garden with some pictures. Yay!

Now hit the road, Jack and don't you come back no more....
(but seriously, don't... please stay... love me... be my friend.... *puppy dog eyes*)