Updated: Mar 11, 2020
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In 2006 we spent our summer here in Kalispell and decided to clear one fenced in area 28’x50’ and another 8’x20’ area of overgrown non-producing raspberry bushes and grasses. We put in three 4’x8’ raised garden boxes and a 10’x’10’ area where corn was planted. The open area was covered with tarp and covered with pebbles. We were not able to return the next summer to continue our project and the area returned to its former self, not raspberry bushes but lots of tall grasses.
Fast forward to 2018. I began the long process again of clearing the same area; however, the condition of the plot was worse than the overgrown raspberry bushes we found before. I mowed the area with a riding mower and weed whacked what I couldn’t mow, discovering many items left in the garden: wheel barrow, 2 hoses, 3 raised garden beds, several garden tools and a pile of hay (which had turned into great compost). None of this was recognizable until I began clearing the area; so this gives you some idea of how tall the grass had become.
I realized that this was a project that I wouldn’t be able to do myself, so I hired a young man who was spending his summer in Kalispell. It took him 1 week to clear the entire area. So much for tarp and pebbles keeping out grass and weeds. He would pull the tarp back and cut roots in small increments. There was no easier way. (If someone has done this before and found an easier way, please join the conversation.) Round up was not the solution.
The following took a week to complete:
Because there were still so many pebbles, we decided we would just continue with the pebbles in the walking area, but no tarp.
We used the three boxes that we found under the grass for some veggies and strawberries for the summer of 2018. The old soil in the box was well composted, and we had a wonderful crop of cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes and lots of strawberries, which were covered with net so the birds wouldn’t devour them. I was so surprised that we were not bothered by any bugs. The only problem we had was no pumpkins on the pumpkin vine and no potatoes that were planted in tires. I attribute the failed pumpkins to being planted on the ground and invaded by ants. The potatoes produced a lot of stems. As they grew we would cover with straw and then add another tire. So I was surprised to see nothing when we removed the tires. Maybe if we had covered each layer with soil, they may have produced some potatoes.
My next job was to plan for 2019. I decided to go to https://www.almanac.com/ and sign up for the use of their garden planner. They give you a week free. Check it out here. It does too many things to list here.
I decided to make the garden boxes I would need. I used fir wood because treated was not an option for me and cedar was too expensive. I used a new product Eco Wood Treatment for a wood preservative. It comes in two sizes: 1 gallon and 5 gallon. I bought the one gallon which was not enough, so had to order another one to finish. You paint it on your wood and it sets up after the treated boxes have gotten wet either through rain or by hose. You can see the difference with the treated and untreated boxes in the picture below. The lighter boxes have not been treated.
I made nine new boxes 4’x 8’ and two boxes 4’ x 4’. The boards were $5.94 for an 8x6x2, Eco stain was $1.73 per box, corner boards 2”x2”x12” were $1.08 per box and $1.00 for screws, for a total of $27.63 per 4x8 garden box. I used 2 boxes, making them 12” deep. I have 2 areas 8’x8’ without boxes. I have full sun during the day which is ideal unless I want to grow something that does well with a little shade during the day, so I made tunnels for two of my boxes. I used three 10’ 1/2 inch PVC pipes for the hoops attaching them to the box using 2 hole clamps. And then ran an 8.5’ pipe down the middle and attached it to the loops with u clips. This was done to stabilize the hoops. We have a lot of wind in Kalispell MT.
I put one set of the pvc tubes on a 4' x 8' frame made out of 2" x 2" boards so I could hinge them to any box where I might need them.
After I made my boxes, I lined them with cardboard for weed control and then covered the cardboard with some hay (which I got from my meadow) and cow manure that I got from a dairy farm. The dairy farm has made a compost pile of their cow manure, and you can get as much as you can put in your truck for $20. I added some soil to the boxes. They should be well composted by spring.
Everything is all ready for spring planting, so I am off to Florida for some R and R until February when I will be back to start my seeds.