By Drew Harris, originally published in the May 2021 print issue of Front Porch Flyer
he Front Porch Flyer is profiling various backyard gardens in Mueller. If you are interested in sharing your garden, please email [email protected]
Like many of my Mueller neighbors, I decided to make use of my extra time at home during the quarantine to learn to garden. In a short time, I went from a dull backyard, just of dirt and grass, into a small but fruitful cinderblock herb garden. I grew fresh rosemary for flavoring grilled steaks, and fresh mint to serve with fruit as a summer treat. Here are the steps I took and the lessons I learned.
Start Easy with Potted Plants
Before you commit a patch of your backyard as a dedicated garden, try using pots or other containers. Containers are much easier for starting out, as you don’t need to worry about weeds or spacing. You can test out different spots in your yard to see how well your plant handles the sun or shade.
To get started, I went to Home Depot and bought various pepper, mint, basil, and rosemary seedlings. I also bought some pots and potting soil, and then set up the small container garden in the first photo.
For a Cheap Raised Garden Bed, Use Cinderblocks
When my potted plants began to thrive, I decided to take it more seriously with a raised garden bed. Aside from looking nicer, raised garden beds help with draining and avoiding soil erosion, as well as keeping weeds and pests away.
While there are various raised wooden garden beds that easily cost over $100, a more economical approach is using cheap cinderblocks to frame your raised garden area. I bought all the cinderblocks for less than $10. I dug up the grass, laid out the blocks, filled the area with garden soil, and then transferred my potted plants to the raised area.
The bell peppers and jalapeños thrived in the raised garden, while the mint (which, if unchecked, can grow into a spreading invasive pest) was successfully contained to a cinderblock cell. Eventually, I hope to have each of the cells (even the small ones) growing a separate plant.
Regular Watering Is Key
But planning and building the garden was little effort compared to the almost-daily watering I had to do for my plants to survive the Texas summer heat. Near the cinderblock garden, I planted zucchini seeds on the side of my house. With constant watering, the seeds quickly (over two weeks) blossomed into large flowering plants. But after neglecting to water them for two blistering sunny days, they quickly shriveled and have produced no edible food.
Right now my cinderblock garden is small, but I’m inspired by the more established examples found in the community gardens in Patterson Park. These impressive gardens show that you don’t need a large wooden structure to have a successful raised garden. Best of luck with your gardening efforts!