Seattle has rubbish weather for vegetable gardening. It’s grey, it rains frequently, and our sunshine quotient slacks off in spring and autumn. I’m doubly unlucky in that, despite the great feng shui of my house, our little plot of land is not suited to farming, urban or otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my back garden. Mature trees, deep shade, covered deck off the second level of the house, it’s like a treehouse for grownups. But it’s not suited for vegetable gardening. I’ve also finally put the front gardens into shape, and now that Three Trunks has been taken down, the roses, the lavender, and other flowers are loving the extra sunlight.
So, where to plant a vegetable garden?
I do have this little triangular slice of land on the house’s north side, but the soil is just plain awful. Our cul-de-sac is situated on what used to be a sloping hillside. The developers took all the topsoil from our side of the street and dumped it all on the opposite side of the street to create a wide, level space to build houses. Unfortunately, this left our front garden with no topsoil. Dig down two inches (literally, two inches) past the struggling sod, and you’ll find hard-pan: a compacted, nearly concretized layer of diatomaceous soil that takes no water and allows no roots.
Solution? Raised bed gardening. Sure, but that’s one hell of a lot of work, especially if either my talents or the bit of land prove unsuitable to the task.
EarthBox (the company) creates EarthBoxes. Designed by tomato growers, they are a quasi-hydroponic system. Each box has a reservoir of water in the bottom, atop which you place the growing medium. Columns of packed soil reach down into the water and wick it upward through capillary action. The boxes are covered by a mulch protector to keep down weeds and keep in warmth (black on one side, it’s white on the other to keep out excessive heat in lower latitudes).
Our neighbor, who’s been blogging about his experience, introduced me to these EarthBoxes, and it seemed a great way to test out the area for minimal cost and labor (especially labor).
So, this weekend, I set up five of them. I put down some lengths of 4×4, to provide a level footing for each box, and then I filled them up. You can see in the photo that one of them has the staking kit as well, for some of the taller plants.
Since it’s already June, I’m getting a late start, and the selection of vegetable starts was limited. In the back boxes I put in some heirloom tomatoes (Hey, it’s the Italian in me) under the trellis, some cantaloupe, cucumber, and zucchini. In the front boxes I put in strawberries and herbs. No salad greens, this season, and no tuberous veg, either.
Overall, the EarthBox system is easy to use, and would be great for balconies or patios. The company has several very detailed and helpful videos on their site. Buying the boxes direct from them was cheaper than via Amazon. But, so far, so good. They haven’t cracked open or fallen over or completely drowned the starter plants.
In the end, this is a test garden. I’ll report on it throughout the growing seasons, and determine at the end of the year whether I want to put in terraced raised beds.