First let me say that I wish I had more room for my garden. The way our property is set is that the only area that can have a garden is on the side of the house blocked by lines of trees and bordering with our neighbor. If you're going to build a garden and you have space - please make sure it's on the sunny spot where it will get at least 8-12 hrs of direct sun exposure. It's best to have it on the south side or southwest side with no large trees to cast a shade during the day. Unfortunately for me it means very limited area even though the rest of the property is pretty big but I'm not complaining because I'm just glad to be able to have a garden, no matter how small it really is.
When we started building our garden I wanted to protect it from the wild life in the area so I asked my dear fiance (DF for future references) to help me build it to withstand animals big and small. Our neighbor next door have been feeding deers for many years and we were warned ahead of time that there is a flock of deers that come every day through our back yard to feed. And of course it means they're going right through the area where I wanted to have my garden. Which means we had to build a fence to protect our future garden or it would have been "all-you-can-eat buffet" for them. I was not about to give up on my dream of having fresh picked greens in the summer so we dug into the soil. We dug up top soil and leveled it so the garden would not be slanted, lined up bottom with heavy duty wire to prevent groundhogs from digging underneath, dug out large holes for 6' poles to support our fence and waited until spring time. My DF has also build me garden boxes - 5 of them actually.
Why build them and not use regular beds? Well to keep it clean first, but more important the ground where the garden was going to be is all rocks and clay - there was no real soil to use so we would have to bring it from outside anyway. And I knew that some of the plants like tomatoes and peppers like to have room to grown under deep so I asked him to build me boxes. Each box is a foot high and 4 feet wide. Why 4 feet? Because it gives me 2 feet reach into the box from either side without too much strain on my back. There is plenty of walking area between boxes, with the smallest in the middle measuring 7 feet and largest at the far sides at 10 feet.
Now I can hear this question coming from a mile away - do I really need to go to such length to have a garden?? And the answer is NO, you don't have to. You don't have to dig it up, build boxes or fence it around if you already have a secure border on your property that keeps creatures away. But if you have bunnies, groundhogs or deers then I would recommend doing this to protect it. Now what about boxes - do you really need them? Once again answer is no, you can make it much easier and have regular garden beds. For example, if you live in the area with good soil but it's covered with grass, make it a "lasagna" bed. Take newspapers and line up area where your bed will be. Make it at least 1/2" of newspaper layer. Then take some straw or hay and top it all to cover paper. Paper will prevent grass from growing through your bed and while decomposing it will also help feed your garden. Same goes for hay. It's a fertilizer and a mulch that keeps your garden from over drying. Now layer some good compost and regular dirt for the top layer. If you do it in the fall before frost then by the time spring is here you'll have wonderful bed ready for planting. If you're doing it in spring then you can still plant in the same bed - just make small holes and plant your seedlings in those holes and they'll grow just fine.
Anyway, back to my garden set up. Now that we have boxes, we ordered some top soil to be delivered and shoveled it out to the boxes. I made sure that my soil was well amended with compost and manure and started planting!
While I was tweaking my seeds and seedlings, my DF has finished building walls for the fence and put a door with a latch so I can get in but keep animals out. The fence is 4 feet high and is connected to the metal liner on the ground and attached to the 6 foot high poles. I hope it will hold well against the deers. For the information on the seeds and seedlings check next post.