Starting a Raised Bed Garden


Every morning I look out on my estate with hands at my waist a la the King of Siam and comment how all is right with the world. It is currently misting and the temperature is hovering around 50 degrees in Chicago. Normally, this would make me grumpy and research cheapest airfares to sunny locales. But this is just what my garden needs. My priorities have shifted to my raised bed garden.

A few friends inquired how to make their own raised bed garden. It is quite simple and could be setup on one weekend morning. The source text for this project was:

Front CoverAll New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space


I got mine out of the library, but you can snag a copy for the cost of shipping. Owning the book would be helpful as a resource when new issues arise. I grew up gardening with my mom and now that I have a yard, I wanted to setup my own garden.

How to Make Your Raised Bed Garden


You only need a few items to make your box. You can fancy it up if you want or go the cheapest route like I have.

  1. 4 pieces of lumber 4ft in length. Avoid getting pre-treated lumber. You don’t want the chemicals to leach into your dirt and veggies. The wood cost about $9. I found 8-foot long planks and had them cut in half at the hardware store.
  2. Wood screws. I bought a small bag of 2-3-inch screws for about a dollar.
  3. 6 nails or screws. These are for separating the box into the grid. Not totally necessary but it helps to divide the space when planting.
  4. Twine. My mom had some extra twine, so FREE!
  5. 1 bag/3cu. ft. of Peat Moss ~$8
  6. 4-5 bags of compost. I bought an array, mushroom, cow manure, organic hummus (not for dipping). These totaled ~$10.
  7. 1 bag of vermiculite. This was the most expensive of the soil components at ~$20.
  8. Newspaper

Raised bed gardening


  1. Build yo box! It had been at least 10 years since I took shop. Drill pilot holes in the edges of the wood. Assemble the box by screwing one piece into another. Follow the pics if you need guidance. I used two screws on each joint.
  2. Decide where you want your garden. They advise to place the garden somewhere visible so you can see your progress. You want an area that gets a lot of sun and potentially somewhere within hose distance.
  3. Make your expensive dirt. The goal is equal parts peat moss, compost and vermiculite. I combined mine in an old storage bin and used a shovel to mix the mix. This wasn’t the most effective method but it got the job done.
  4. Fill your box. If you are putting your raised bed garden on grass, it’s best to put a barrier between the grass and your garden. Eventually the grass will die off. You could use a weed barrier cloth. That costs money. I used newspaper to cover the grass after I decided digging up the grass was too much effort. Start shoveling the dirt mixture into the box. The soil mix should fill your box to the brim.
  5. Water. Water your dirt mix.

Planning and Planting

The book provides great advice on when and how to start certain plants. Some are best to start from seed (radish, lettuce, beets, beans). Others can be started indoors and transplanted. Plants like tomato and peppers are best to buy at the store and transplant into your garden. They take too long to grow from seed and our climate isn’t stellar to allow for that time.

raised bed gardening

After I planted my first seeds I woke up the next morning to gaze at my handiwork only to discover someone else was also a fan of the garden. An animal had come in the night and dug out all the seeds I planted. How rude and impatient! If they just waited 6-8 weeks they could have had a full, ripe vegetable instead of a dried seed. Savages!

I wasn’t about to let an animal eat my seeds. After researching local ordinances on having an electric fence on private property I decided to scale it back and fashion a chicken wire enclosure for my garden box. Be sure to use gloves when handling chicken wire. And maybe make sure you are up to date on tetanus shots. There are some plants that deter animals, so i’ll have to grab some of those this weekend. Marigolds are a front runner for repelling most garden-loving critters.

What did I plant, you ask?

There are 16 1×1 boxes to fill with veggies and herbs. My game plan is essentially to grow a salsa garden.

Row 1: Tomatoes – roma, beefstake, cherry and herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, oregano) in the corner.

Row 2: Peppers – Bell, Poblano, Tomatillo, Jalepeno

Row 3: Salad Bar – Romaine, Arugula, Spinach, Kale

Row 4: Miscellaneous – Sugar snap peas, radishes, beets, cucumber & zucchini


About a week after planting more seeds, they are starting to grow! Back to patrolling the vegetable cage.

A Day with Monet

window, monet, jardin, giverny

As the rain falls this morning in Chicago, it is difficult to believe that seven days ago I was looking out the hotel window at the mist making everything it touched glisten in Paris.

Wednesday was supposed to be the best day weather-wise during our stint in Paris. The plan was to seize the good weather day and visit Giverny, the home and jardin of Claude Monet.

We landed in Paris on Monday and were greeted not with a warm accolade, but with a gray, drizzly day. The next day was more of the same with temperatures in the low 60s.

The forecast promised Wednesday being warmer and sunnier until Tuesday night when the fickle European winds shifted. We discussed visiting Giverny another day, but opted to go anyway.

Giverny is an hour to the northwest of Paris. There are regional trains that make the voyage. You are supposed to buy the tickets in advance versus on board. I say supposed to because we purchased ours, which are reasonably expensive (about 30 euros RT), got on board only to never have the tickets checked. This was the third time we had purchased train tickets which went unchecked.

Tip: Use train time as nap time. Make sure to set an alarm for when you should be arriving.

The train stops in Vernon. From there you exit and can take a shuttle bus (4 euros each way), rent a bike or walk an hour. It was raining and we were light on time, so we paid the 8 euros for the RT bus. If it had been nicer we may have walked. The bus winds its way through the streets and over a bridge before burping out the tourists. The parking lot was filled with other tourist buses. Beyond the parking lot is a lush open field. There are paths toward the house and an Impressionist museum.

Meandering through old homes and quaint tourist shops, we found our way to the main attraction. We purchased the Paris Museum Pass, but discovered Monet’s house and garden are not included in the list of venues. To the back of the line we went. Admission is 9-10 euros. You can buy tickets in advance and save yourself time waiting in line.

Once through the gift shop you enter the garden. THE jardin. It takes a few moments to realize you are in Monet’s garden. You see some pretty flowers. The garden is a large grid, with rows and rows of vibrant blues, greens, purples, yellows, reds. Every color you could put on a painter’s palette. As I walked deeper into the flowers and trellises, I began to appreciate and accept the magnitude of where I was.

Starting and stalling to avoid photoboming someone else’s photo, I made my way toward the lily pond. You go through a tunnel and come up steps to see the pond replete with water lilies.

I slowly panned right to left, taking it all in. I was in Monet’s paintings. THIS is what he looked at and painted countless times. The rain started to increase, creating ripples in the pond, blurring the previous crispness of the leaves and lilies. The visitors opened their multi-colored umbrellas, which now resembled the array of flowers that preceded the pond.

We lingered here for a while absorbing the serenity of the water garden., listening to the sound of the frogs. For the past week and a half we had been running around from museum to ancient site. We had taken time to relax and enjoy each of the previous cities, but for me, the garden was an oasis to recharge. We sat for a bit on a bench that was kept dry by the overhanging tree.

Eventually we slowly strolled our way back to the tunnel, through the garden and into Monet’s house. A man at the door gave us a plastic bag for our lightly dripping umbrella and told us “no pictures.”

To the left of the entrance is a room of paintings, then Monet’s studio with large, open windows looking out on the garden. I still can’t fully fathom that I was standing in the room where Monet painted impressionist masterpieces, revered to be one of the masters of art.

His bedroom is upstairs, directly over his studio. It also has large windows that look out onto the garden. The house isn’t that large. It’s no Versailles. Back down the stairs and through the kitchen before exiting. Naturally, I snapped a pic of the kitchen on our way out. I wonder if Monet would’ve liked my cooking. Or if Monet was a cook.

The gift shop has an array of Monet offerings, everything from books to bobble heads to prints and calendars.

We found our way back to the shuttle bus, then train station and Paris. Our next stop was Musée de l’Orangerie. This is covered by the Paris Museum Pass and is home to “Les Nymphéas.” These are amazing and I highly recommend this 1-2 itinerary if you are interested in impressionism.

We started the day seeing the flowers and garden that inspired Monet. Then followed it up with seeing his panoramic lily paintings housed at l’Orangerie.

As I look out the window to my backyard, I don’t see a vast, colorful garden or a water lily pond like Monet’s. Instead I see a patch of pale green grass that stands a little taller because the lawn mower ran out of gas last night. But if I close my eyes, the sound of the light rain takes me back to that rainy day in Giverny with Monet.