Constructing Our Living Gazebo

Posted on February 8, 2012

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While the Florida sun is great during the summer for certain crops (or so I’ve heard – we’ve yet to grow much during that part of the year) like watermelon, peppers, etc. it doesn’t fare so well for greens, which appreciate a much cooler clime than we have here in Tampa. Nate is obsessed with Swiss Chard and I would like to keep fresh salad around longer than the summer might allow, so we decided to utilize the shade under the tree in the side yard to create a plant-gazebo from a pentagon shaped raised bed.

Someone was throwing away probably 40 bags of these water-reed cuttings. The yard smelled a bit fishy initially, but the smell went away and it is nice to know that these plants are highly unlikely to seed or grow through the compost since they are obviously water dwellers.

After I raked out the reeds I lay down boxes within the frame to suppress the grass weeds growing underneath and to help create a barrier that will make heat and faster decomp for the weeds and the reeds.

It took all the compost we had left in our pile (some of it not entirely broken down) to fill the pentagon. We laid own boxes over most of the rest of the side yard and covered that in reeds as well, to suppress grass and provide some organics to cover the boxes and break down slowly over the mostly sandy ground.

Our raised beds are not nearly as deep as what most people recommend for raised beds, but for us they have primarily served as partitions so that we know where we are planting our food. Since we have rabbit poo and duck poo aplenty (6 growing ducklings makes for a lot of duck fertilizer!) and we collect compost on a regular basis in addition to what we actually generate, supplementing our growth with organic material on a regular basis should never really be an issue. I have gotten the impression that the deep raised beds are to keep out very hearty weeds (which we have so few of since so much of the yard is straight sand and the few weeks which are there grow fairly low) and to make the bed easier to work without bending over, which we don’t mind doing since we’re still young and spritely and under the age of 30 for a few more years yet!

The plan is to string rope or twine along the top of the bars at each point of the pentagon and plant beans, climbing nasturtiums, and cucumbers (if they’ll hold up climbing that) to create a sort of living gazebo wall around the tree to provide extra shade for the greens that will be growing underneath. I placed large slate tiles in the middle of each section and we already have a few sprouts, my favorite of which are the hot pink chard – which is a color I never though occurred in nature prior to seeing these sprouts. Anybody know if these are natural or if they were engineered to be those colors?!

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