I love to garden, but the hard, rocky soil at my Southern California home just about had me throwing in the trowel.
Over the 13 years we have lived in our house, I have spent countless hours turning the soil, working in amendments and compost, trying to get the dirt in decent enough shape to support a vegetable garden and flower beds. When a shovel didn’t work, I resorted to brandishing a pickax to attack the rock-hard soil.
But after a remodel and the landscaping of our backyard, I have happily and thankfully put away the shovel, hoe and pickax for good.
One of the best things we did in our redo was to have our contractor build planter boxes that run along the fence separating our yard from our neighbor’s.
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The boxes take up the space once inhabited by a narrow planting strip that contained — you guessed it — rock-hard soil in which I somehow got some rose bushes to produce blooms. However, those boxes have proven to be infinitely more useful and easier to maintain than any other garden space I’ve had.
My inspiration for the planter boxes came from a neighbor around the corner. His three boxes, sitting in a sunny patch of the front yard, are low to the ground and contain an assortment of flowers and vegetables. And that was my original intent — to have boxes built low to the ground.
However, the foreman on our job proposed making the boxes taller — 30 inches in height. I agreed, and it proved to be a move of pure genius. No longer do I have to stoop down or bend over to plant and harvest my crops. I just lean over a little to plant and pluck. Because neither I nor my back is getting any younger, the setup has made gardening fun again.
The boxes are built of cedar planks. (Redwood would be another choice.) They are supported by six interior 4-by-4 posts. The boxes themselves are 35 inches wide and 66 inches long.
Our contractor installed a drip irrigation system in the boxes that is hooked into the rest of the yard’s irrigation, making watering a breeze. The boxes were filled with high-quality soil, so all I had to do was pop in the plants and seeds.
I use one box for growing vegetables. Another box contains the herbs I like to use for cooking. The third box I use for cutting flowers.
I realize I will never have big expanses of vegetables and blooming flowers sweeping my yard like those I see in magazines.
But what I have now is more practical for me and the amount of time that I have to garden. I was able to plant all three boxes in less than an hour.
And I never had to break out the pickax.