First Year In Our Terraced Garden

Our Experience with a Terraced Garden-- What we planted & harvested. Simply Steep Homestead

Gardening. Whether you do it in a pot or by the acre, there is something about it that fills your soul [and your tummy].  It’s nice to get the fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and in the end- food.  With about 43,000 square feet of *clear* land, you wouldn’t think it would be hard to find a spot to put a garden. But with our steep backyard, it was a challenge.  We didn’t want all the soil, plants, and effort, to be at the bottom of the hill after the first rain. 😉

So our first step was to BUILD the garden. I’ll write a more detailed post on HOW we terraced the garden soon.

Gardening in a terraced garden is a little different. Aside from having to build it first, the water flow and soil type depths were factors that we had to take into account. We needed a 6 foot wall in order to make the garden level. Rather than building one 6ft wall and bringing in dirt, we decided to build 2- 3ft walls. We cut down into the hillside 3ft and then built up 3ft from the bottom to make a site level.  That way our walls were shorter [sturdier] and we wouldn’t have to bring in dirt. We dug out part of the topsoil layer and tried to keep it separate because about 6 inches down we hit clay soil.  In case you didn’t know- clay soils don’t drain well, and are generally frowned upon for growing plants. [But great for making pots :)] We made the best of the clay and used it to fill the bags.  What we ended up with was 8 inches of topsoil on the uphill side and about 3 ft of topsoil on the bottom. It was going to be way more work to dig it all out by hand to make the subsoil layer even. So we opted to just go with it and try to build up the soil nutrient and change the soil composition over time. Since we can’t easily get any large equipment in our backyard and it is way too steep to run the equipment comfortably. 🙂 The things we planted towards the back wall ended up a little waterlogged after some hard rains.  The plants toward the front wall did amazing though. That 3ft of nice soil really helped them along.

So here is our garden Before, During & After:

Terraced Garden Before, During & After --Simply Steep Homestead

From another angle:

Terraced Garden Before, During & After --Simply Steep Homestead

Our new little garden was about 300ft2 or 15’ x 20’. We built the walls of the terrace to follow the contours of the hill, so it’s not perfectly square.  That made our rows rather interesting. The rows may not be straight, but at least they were all level!  Having uneven, curvy rows wasn’t too much of a problem until it came time to trellis tomatoes.  In our previous garden [of straight even length rows] we used aluminum wire, attached to t-posts and then used plastic tomato clips to clip the tomatoes to the wire. Since we already had all the necessary parts, we made it work for this garden. We started and stopped the t-posts and wire randomly. Then weaved the plants accordingly.  I think it was still easier than staking the tomatoes individually. This picture can give you an idea of how we trellised the tomatoes:

Terraced Garden --Simply Steep Homestead

How I prepared the garden bed for planting:

Preparing the Terraced Garden Bed -- Simply Steep Homestead

I prepped the beds with store-bought compost, with the goal being to make our own compost in the future. I used the tiller to work the compost in a little. Then transplanted the plants I started from seeds.  I always start WAY more seeds than I need. So I ended up planting things closer together than I probably should have. 🙂 It took me a matter of hours to prep & plant the entire garden. Poor Evan. It had taken him 4 months just to get it built and I was “done with it” in a few hours.

Here’s what we planted:

  • Tomatoes- Supersteak, Beef Steak, Romas & Amish Paste
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Bib Lettuce
  • Green Beans- Tenderettes
  • Peppers- California Wonder & Jalapeño
  • Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Strawberries
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias- For cut flowers…LOVE my cut flowers
  • Borage & Marigolds- For beneficial insects
Garden Harvest --Simply Steep Homestead

The first fruits of our harvest. The boys LOVE picking [and eating] things from the garden.

The first fruits of our harvest. The boys LOVE picking [and eating] things from the garden.

When we started gardening 4 years ago, we also started weighing everything we harvested.  It was neat to see the average amount that each plant produced and how much money we “saved” by growing it ourselves.  This year we changed several factors, so our averages per plant were terrible. But that leaves us lots of room to improve! 

What We Harvested:

Garden Harvest 2014

Crop Plants Harvested
Super Steak Tomatoes 9 39# 13oz
Beef Steak Tomatoes 10 24# 7oz
Roma Tomatoes 11 11# 10oz
Amish Paste Tomatoes 7 7# 1.5oz
Total Tomatoes 37 82# 15.5oz
Green Beans 20ft 3# 1oz
Carrots 1ftx1ft 2# 1oz
Cucumbers 1 9 ct
Jalapeño Peppers 4 8- 1oz
Yellow Squash 2 4 ct
Zucchini 1 2 ct
Sweet Potatoes (Grown in a separate area) 10 slips 60# 5oz

Anything that didn’t do well or was hard to measure (i.e. Kale & Cherry Tomatoes) is not included in the table.

It’s amazing how much a small space can produce even if you aren’t doing everything perfectly.  Namely planting everything too close together and having 1/3 of the garden with only 8 inches of top soil and a heavy clay soil below.  Ah well. Lessons learned.

How about you?

What does your garden look like & What lessons have you learned?

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