|September 30, 2009||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
Here’s a guest post from Joshua, cross posted from his blog at Jack-Booted Liberal. Original post here. Joshua is completely in charge of the gardening for our upcoming homesteading adventure, but I’m fascinated by the possibilities and am eagerly following along.
I’ve been working on planning my garden for next year. Now that we’ve closed on the Knoxville house, I expect to have lots more room to do up a garden proper. Or get in way over my head. Either way, I’ll be smiling.
Like any good geek, I started with a spreadsheet. Plants down the Y-axis and weeks of the year along the X-axis. Week zero is the estimated last-frost date for my region, and weeks are numbered plus/minus from there. The nice thing about this is that, if my zone changes, I can easily modify week zero and the other weeks will update.
I indicates that I start the plant indoors. G is the estimated germination. Green squares indicate that the plant is growing indoors as a starter. X is estimated transplant date. Yellow squares indicate that the plant is growing outdoors.
If you are interested in viewing this spreadsheet, you can do so at this link. For any gardeners who are reading, your feedback is welcome.
For most of the plants, I have identified a specific Seeds of Change item number that I will order, and I took the estimated dates from those items. I realize that this is an insane amount of detail, and actual results may vary, but I had so many things that I was planning to plant that I really needed some tool to get my head around them, or I would have absolutely no idea what to plant when.
Left of the plant names, I have columns that indicate the Seeds of Change item number, so I can easily compile an order later in the year. I’ve also estimated the number of plants I want to grow, recorded the recommended spacing, and then calculated the total square footage that will be required.
Based on that square footage, I estimate that I will need about ten 4′x8′ beds to hold all these plants, or the equivalent (4′x8′ is just a common size for a raised bed). I had originally planned to use raised beds, because they are similar to the container gardening that I have done until now, and they present various advantages, but they may turn out to be cost-prohibitive on this scale.
By my calculations, I could build five 16×4 raised beds using 2×12×16 boards for a cost of about $600. That breaks down to about $300 for lumber and $300 for 12 cubic yards of screened topsoil. That’s for treated pine boards (set aside, for the moment, the debate about whether it’s safe to use treated lumber in raised beds). Even treated boards will wear out and need replacing eventually if they are in contact with the soil, at considerable labor.
I found a design online at the Noble Foundation for corrugated sheet metal beds with rebar reinforcing. These would last essentially indefinitely, but would run about $800 including the soil. Even more expensive!
Given that it looks like raised beds will cost me $600-$800 right off the bat, I think I’m going to just see what I can do with the good old dirt that’s in my front yard. That’s too much money to spend on solving problems that I might not even have. I can always add raised beds later if I have poor results.