This is what we started with. The gravelly back corner of the open lot behind the teacher parking lot. As you can see, our school’s campus is right by the interstate, but this spot gets full sun all day. The Leland cypress in the background are on the south side of the lot, so the east-west path of the sun is not impeded.
Here’s a dog’s-eye view of the soil in that space.
We sent soil testing off to Auburn University’s soil lab in February 2015. My biggest concern was lead. Interstate 85 is less than fifty yards away from our garden spot, and from its construction in the early 1960s until well into the 1980s, cars ran on leaded gasoline. To me, that means that lead fumes were settling there for a few decades. I already knew we’d be growing in raised beds.
We raised some funds from our booster organization, FAME, and the supplies came in mid-March.
We measured out a grid, and staked it.
Then we cut in the beds.
Next we laid down weed barrier to avoid contact with the soil beneath the beds.
By the end of the week, on the rainy first day of spring, we had our new garden plotted out.
When we got back from spring break, we started building the beds. The wood I ordered to be cut into eight-foot and four-foot sections came to us at sixteen-footers, so we had to cut them to size before we could begin.
That work continued throughout the week, getting it all squared up and staked down.
By the last day of March, we were posing proudly for a picture with our (at this point empty) handiwork.
We only ran into one snag during the building process. April proved to be one of the rainiest months we’d seen in a long time. The rain set us back, mainly because we were coating the long two-by-twelves with linseed oil as a sealant, and they needed 24 hours in the sun to dry properly! Every time we got a sunny a day to paint on the linseed oil, the next day was going to be rainy . . . So I tried taking them home to paint under my carport, but that didn’t work as well.
We started filling the frames with pea gravel in mid-April. I wanted to be very sure that our plants wouldn’t be rooting in that ground, but in the midst of a very rainy month, I was also conscious of drainage.
On Earth Day, April 22, we were finishing construction! The soil went in, and the compost bin got built.
The rain finally slowed, and the sun came out. On May 5, we planted eggplants, peppers, kale, carrots, two kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of squash, basil, beans, cantaloupe and watermelon.
We had some successes and some failures. The eggplant, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and basil all did really well! But our beans sprouted and died almost immediately. (We didn’t take the time to get them established before putting them out in the sun.) The cantaloupe and watermelon were over-planted in the bed and crowded each other out quickly. In the end, the summer was bountiful, with plenty to be proud of!