Raised bed gardening

As we have had some really warm weather I was able to create an incredible mess in my garden. One of the goals for my garden this year was to re-do my raised beds. When I build the beds before I used 2×12’s. That was over 10 years ago and they were pretty well used up. So I put an ad on Craigslist for used block. I was able to scavenge 100 used blocks or so to build a few of the raised beds. In my area the local concrete company wants anywhere from 1.65 to 2.05 for concrete block. Crazy high prices. Each bed at 4 foot x 8 foot outside would then take 16 blocks per course and I wanted two courses or 16″ high for most areas and one bed at 3 courses high to use as a hot bed. So at two bucks a block that would be $64 for the beds with 2 courses and $96 for the two beds with three courses. Wowza, thatsallota dollars for a few raised beds. So used block where I could find it and blocks on sale for the rest.

First I dug up all of the old 2×12 beds. Most were trashed, but I saved the ones I thought I might be able to re-use. The remaining will be cut up into two foot chunks and relegated to the wood-burning furnace in the great room.

Then I went through the garden with the skidsteer and re-leveled everything. I would have been at least a month long job by hand so I was going to rent one until I found a friend that let me borrow his. We also used the trailer we carried the skidsteer on to grab the free blocks.

Hers are some pics of the garden with a big pile of dirt covered with snow.

The following day the snow was gone and I was able to finish two of the raised beds. The weather has now turned bitter cold so I will be relegated to working inside again. Here are a pic of the two beds complete.

so, two out of eight completed. Once the other 6 are done I can re-level that are where the dirt is so I can put the chicken coop in. I will work as weather permits. If the ground is not frozen I am okay with working when it is in the 30’s or 40’s but would rather work on the inside aquaponics project if it is much colder than that.

Garden Planning Goals

Container gardening, vertical gardening, aquaponics, vermiculture, backyard farms, permaculture, urban farming, urban homesteading, living a more simple and wholesome life…the list goes on. Where do we start if our goal is to eat healthier, save money and maybe become more self-sufficient?

The best place to start with any endeavor is to take a peek at what you want to accomplish and set some goals. Once you spend a little time setting goals you will have a rock solid foundation to move in the direction you choose and a nice road map clearly outlining your destination. You also will have a proposed timeframe that will be helpful in your planning and implementation. If you are like me this process is a drag and extremely boring, I would rather be “doing something”. I can assure you that going through this exercise will help you to focus your time, energy and other resources where they will best serve you in this endeavor. You are doing something…it is just mental calisthenics instead of building raised beds in the garden or canning spaghetti sauce in the kitchen. Having a great plan is very comforting and sets you free, it doesn’t mean you will hit all your goals, or that you will stay perfectly on task, it is just a starting point. Your goals and direction could very well change as you move along and you discovery new areas of interest in your venture towards self-sufficiency. Once we grab some overall and broad goals we will turn our task to planning a garden…it is December after all.

So to help you with the overall goal setting here are some tips that you may find helpful.

This little primer will hopefully give you a great way to get started setting your goals so they actually work for you. I have had success using the methodology below. As most of you know I am not a “process” oriented thinker. Wrong side of the brain, backwards and for me boring. But…this actually works so even though the thought of following a process is like listening to fingernails on chalkboard via Bose surround sound, it is an area where I actually follow the yellow brick road. For those who have seen this I ask you, are you using it?

It is like the fundamentals in any discipline, I keep coming back to it and refining my use each year.

SMART goal setting is an acronym for high achievement. Here is the acronym. I wish I knew where this originated from so I could give proper credit. Needless to say it is not mine, I stole this from some notes I took while at a conference decades ago.


Your goal must be specific. You must be very clear about what you want to achieve. Identify your why. Success Coach Jack Canfield states in his book, The Success Principles that, “Vague goals produce vague results.” In order for you to achieve a goal, you must be very clear about what exactly you want to put your effort into.

A great way to get you thinking about this is to use the 6 “w’s”. Who-Who will be involved in this goal with you for accountability or along for the ride. What-Exactly what do I want to accomplish. When-When will the pursuit of the goal take place? Where-will the goal take place. Where will I be? Why-what is the reason I would like accomplish this goal?

This is an area to sped a good amount of time. Drill down to find the emotional reasons, not logic. Logic doesn’t work when we bump into obstacles specific to our goals. Emotion is king. Use all of you senses here. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Sound like? How-how will I accomplish this goal? What will I give up?

M-Measurable Your goals must be measurable in some quantifiable way. You have to be able to track them as there is a psychological boost that comes from small incremental victories. But you have to recognize them.

A-Achievable Big goals? Absolutely but you have to have a core belief that they are attainable…and attainable for you if you hold to your plan. Setting unreasonable expectations will only break us down. When putting together a goal that will make us stretch you can scale the goal from 1-10, one being no challenge at all and 10 being perhaps not likely. You will generally want to be in the 7 to 9 range here.

R-Relevant You need to make sure your goals are congruent with your values and purpose in life. So here is where you indulge your passion and again make sure you are emotionally attached and committed. This is your moral and ethical check against your personal core values.

T-Timely Attaching a deadline is critical. I hate deadlines. I use this because it works. I don’t like deadlines because that is like slavery. The way I look at it is if I don’t set deadlines to specific goals and measures, someone else will set goals and deadlines for me in a job building someone elses dream. Ewww!  (note: some jobs are awesome) Also without setting a deadline you have no real compelling reason or motivation to begin work now. By putting a precise year, month, even time, your subconscious mind goes to work as your helper here.

So that is the SMART part of it. Next you need to make sure you write them down. The mere act of writing them down has power. It takes a dream and makes it real. Now you can hold it in your hand. I use computers, cameras, vids, all kinds of things to help me with this. The most powerful is the goal sheet I write in my own handwriting on a card to carry.

Next would be to work out a SOP or DMO. A daily method of operation or a standard operating procedure. That means scheduling your days. First and foremost would be top of mind awareness for your goals. You read them first thing in the morning out-loud, at a few key intervals during the day and the last thing before you go to bed. When you read them it is personal and in the present tense. Your subconscious mind can only work in present tense and we need that on our side. Then we break down our goals into monthly, weekly, and even daily tasks. It is simple then to look at a know what to do to keep you progressing towards those goals.

Here is an example of how I broke down some tasks for creating this urban farm homestead blog.

December 2011, Week one-conduct research on best way to teach and communicate what we are doing. Week two-research keywords and figure out structure to blog. Week three-finish first pieces of content for launching blog. Week four-buy domain name, load wordpress and publish first posts.

January 2012, Week one-buy garden planning software and explore, narrow to best option. Week two-begin and finish garden plan. Week three-write and publish the garden planning software reviews from research. Week four-order heirloom seeds that need to be started inside.

So anyway you get the idea. This makes it very do able with a weekly and even daily map to get there. Having the plan also helps “top of mind awareness” as I am living it daily. With this type of planning you increase your chances of success geometrically.

Okay next post won’t be so boring and we will start rocking with some garden planning stuff.