Small Scale Farming: Preparing Your Land

Food. We all need it, but do we really know what we’re eating?

The food we eat comes from far and wide. Transporting food long distances is not sustainable, and often means we aren’t getting the best quality food.

The easiest way to know what you’re eating and where it came from is by growing it yourself! This may seem like an intimidating task, but it isn’t nearly as hard as you’d think.

Follow along on this adventure as I, Shelby, try my hand at growing a few veggies and herbs this summer.

Preparing Your Land

First, you need to get your space ready for planting!

“Preparing” could mean a multitude of different things depending on your land and the scale of your garden. For established gardens this often entails tilling, removing debris, and adding nutrients to the soil. Starting up a garden takes a bit – okay, a lot! – more work, but is incredibly rewarding.

For me, preparing meant creating a brand new designated space meant just for our crop. Due to poor soil and an ongoing battle with goutweed we opted for raised planter beds. This allows for nutrient soil to be brought in, for a weed barrier to be put in, and adds visual interest to the yard.

How To: Build Raised Beds

Measure your space. We were working with a 10′ x 10′ space beside the deck. We decided on two 3′ x 8′ beds, which left enough walking room around both boxes for tending the garden and getting to the compost bin.

Figure out your materials. We used this guide from Lowe’s to help figure out what supplies we needed. This was also the general design used as it was easy to build and used only 2 x 4s (which by the way aren’t actually 2 x 4??? I figured this out the hard way…). We used 18 untreated 2 x 4 x 8s, which cut perfectly to our dimensions so there wasn’t a single inch of wood left over. We also used ~100 3inch deck screws, staples, and clear plastic lining (a barrier between the soil and wood to reduce wood rot, and protect the soil from any stain we put on the wood later)

Cutting the wood. We went to a local tool share/workshop my partner is a part of to cut the wood. Each box required six 8′ pieces (long sides), six 3′ pieces (short ends), and six 1′ pieces (support posts).

Putting it together. We started by stacking three 8′ pieces and screwing a 1′ piece onto each end, and another one in the middle for extra support.


This is when we figured out that 2 x 4s are not 2″ x 4″, and that the beds were going to be a little under the one foot high we were planning on. We used our mistake to our advantage by using the overhang of the 1′ pieces as “feet”. When we put the boxes in their final spots, we pushed them into the ground so the “feet” were buried for extra support.

Once we had both long sides together, we screwed the 3′ pieces to each end, stacking three high again.


The finishing touches. We stapled the plastic lining in so that it almost reached the top of the boxes, and had a little overhang at the bottom. Our land was covered in goutweed and extremely uneven, so we dug out all the weeds and evened the soil out before putting the boxes in.


Once they were in place we lined the bottoms with ~3 layers of newspaper as a natural barrier to stop the weeds from growing. We then filled them with A LOT of soil – I never want to shovel soil again!


Finished! Well, the preparations at least. This took multiple days longer than expected due to rain and stubborn weeds, but seeing the end product makes it worth it!

Next step: planting. It’s getting late in the season for planting so I’m doing that right away. I’ll update you with what I have in the ground in a couple days!


The Ladies of Sustainability ❤


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