Building a Backyard Garden

How’d I spend my weekend? I showed a couple houses, dropped my blackberry in my coffee, negotiated an offer on one of my listings and built a raised-bed garden in my backyard. I’ve talked green for years, encouraging walkability when clients are making purchase decisions, riding my bike around Charlottesville and Crozet whenever possible … my progression continues.

More and more people (and my clients) are building gardens, more buyers in the Charlottesville area are wanting garden spots/areas when they’re looking for homes. I’m participating in the journey.

The garden:

$82 of lumber from Nature Neutral

8 scoops of dirt at AM Fog in Afton

$75 design and planting schedule from C’Ville Foodscapes

– My neighbor’s time, trailer, tiller and building knowledge.

– A bit of an education and supplies from Fifth Season Gardening Co. on Preston Avenue (in the former Vespa dealership).

– About 10 hours of work.


– We want to grow some of our own food – watch Food.Inc. and try not to come to some of the same conclusions we have.

– We want to teach our children about where their food comes from, give them knowledge and skill they won’t learn anywhere else.

– We wanted it in our backyard; our neighborhood has an organic community garden, but it’s about 300 yards from our house. We want to integrate the garden into our lives.

– I’m tired of feeling incompetent and impotent; I want to empower myself and my children.

– I grew up with a huge garden and I remember how great the food tasted, weeding, pulling carrots out of the ground and beans off the plant and eating them right there. I want that now that I’m sort of grown up.

As a client said yesterday, we’re blessed to be able to dedicate a weekend to undertaking such a project. Many people can’t and are 100% dependent on corporate food. What we’re doing is a lot of work, from the outset to the ongoing maintenance.

Garden in Crozet Neighborhood
The nearly-finished product of our labor
It felt good to build something.
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  1. Steinar Knutsen March 22, 2010 at 08:32

    Looks great and sounds like a fun project for the family. We planted some seeds yesterday to germinate in some recycled plastic cupcake containers on the window ledge. Bring on the fresh lettuce and beans!

  2. Jim Duncan March 22, 2010 at 10:14

    Elizabeth – all I need is my handgun. Or my neighbor’s .22. 🙂

  3. Justin Beck March 22, 2010 at 15:59

    Awesome Jim, just awesome!

  4. Lewis Nelson March 23, 2010 at 16:06

    I’d have to agree with Elizabeth! Your blog posting could match something similar my wife, father and I did last year (only we did 3 yards of compost/top soil mix from Rose Hauling in Barboursville) and used pine trees we had cut down from our back yard as the borders. The garden grew wonderfully! Then one day, it was all gone. They did manage to leave behind a few hundred peppers though. We want to plant again soon and we still haven’t come up with a solution to the deer problem (we’re in Preddy Creek neighborhood)

  5. Bob Albrecht March 28, 2010 at 11:47

    I have been vegetable gardening for 20 years, and Crozet has proved to be quite a challenge.

    My investment in a garden is worth many times the time and money put into it, but you have to be smart to protect it from nature.

    My garden has been attacked by deer, mice, ground hogs, bear, and lots of insects. I have 8-foot deer fence, buried chicken wire and traps for ground hogs, traps for mice, and electric with peanut butter / foil surrounding the whole thing.

    Organic insect control is a lot of work, but worth it.

    Now that stinkbugs have invaded Crozet from China I wonder what is going to happen. I did some experiments and found that diatomatious earth will kill them.

  6. Nathan Hughes March 28, 2010 at 13:06

    That looks great, Jim! We’ve been gardening in our backyard for the past few years, and I always love being able to have an entire meal from just what we’ve grown. It’s an incredible feeling, and tastes so much better (even if it’s just psychological at times).

    We were bad last year about weeding and things got a little out of control. Fortunately, there is always the local farmer’s markets and CSA’s to fill in the gaps.

    Good luck!

  7. Bob Albrecht March 31, 2010 at 10:23

    I didn’t mean to scare anybody with my gardening stories.

    Just build a 7-foot deer fence with partially buried chicken wire at the bottom and the critters won’t eat your garden. I don’t think bear are a problem in most places, but if they are you will need electric fence.

    You can use 8-foot metal t-posts and plastic fence for the deer. It is all available at Blue Ridge Builders Supply.

  8. Peter Cefaratti April 6, 2010 at 11:10

    I, too, am working on a backyard garden. My biggest challenge is adequate sunlight, due to mighty tall pine trees that shade most of the available area. Fencing will cure the deer and rabbit problems; however, many people don’t consider the gopher and mole threat. I am planning to put chicken wire in the bottom of the planting area. I would like to know if anyone has a better idea for this, perhaps a material that will last longer in the moist soil.

    Can’t wait for beans, greens, and beets!

  9. Morris April 19, 2010 at 02:26

    I use Havahart’s Deer Off for my garden. It works really well and there’s no need to put up any ugly fencing. Also, it’s the only truly organic repellent available because it has an OMRI logo on the label. Have you used this yet?


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