As much as I love a traditional garden with its neat rows of lush vegetables growing directly in the soil, that just doesn’t work here in the part of Florida where I am. What we have here is basically glorified beach sand. Nematodes love sand. The first few years of my garden here, I had what looked like a Miracle-Gro commercial. It was lush and green and bountiful. I was picking so many beans that I bought a large scale to weigh them – the harvest was that big. About 4 or 5 years later, the garden would produce almost nothing. Where the first year I had okra that was taller than me at the end of the summer (I am 6’6″ tall), the last time I grew okra directly in the soil, it reached about 10″ and did not produce a single okra pod from the entire garden. Rotating crops, applying fertilizer, adding organic matter – nothing made a difference.
There are many different kinds of nematodes and some of them are beneficial. The major plant-parasitic nematode types are Root-knot, Cyst, Sting, and Root-lesion (or meadow). Since nematodes thrive in sand, one of the best ways to control their damage is to have a highly organic soil rather than the typical Florida sandy soil.
It is virtually impossible to eliminate nematodes, so the emphasis is on controlling them. That is the major reason why we built this raised bed garden. Another is to have it physically raised so that we don’t have to stoop down to work in the garden. It’s not a big issue now, but we plan to live here for the rest of our lives, so we try to design for the time when our bodies aren’t what they used to be.
How much did this whole project cost? I really don’t know, but it was a lot. When I first began this project, the concept was that it would be a permanent food production system for our home. Just as a home should have a plumbing system, a garage, an electrical system, and a kitchen to prepare food, it should also have the capability to produce some significant amount of food for the family living there. That is part of the self-sufficiency package that I believe a house should have if possible. This simply is not practical for some people and some places, but where it is practical, I believe that it should certainly be done. That is part of what takes it from being simply a home to a homestead.
Parts of it were done as part of a larger construction project and those costs were not broken out. I know that the labor to lay the block (not including the footers) was $900. The 3 tons of crushed concrete drainage rock was $111. The Fafard 3B potting soil is $493 per pallet, and I have bought 2 pallets so far. Peat moss is $17.30 for a compressed bale that decompresses to about 7 cubic feet. Vermiculite is $17.30 for a 4 cubic foot bag.
Yes, it is expensive, but I have a difficult time assigning a dollar value to the comfort of knowing that we can product a significant portion of our food right here without having to depend on the stores or the government or the transportation system or the financial system or any external human controls for our food. That close tie to the land is what the Southern Agrarian movement was all about and what this web site is all about.