In March of 2012 before I moved in we started with nothing – everywhere on the property – as far as the health of the outdoor environs were concerned. It was obvious we had to let the house go in terms of improvements and start with the outside.

The patio space was protected on three sides by structures; the house, shop, and deck, but was open and exposed to the hot summer sun and brutal summer SW winds. The only surviving plant was one lonely lilac sitting in lifeless dirt.


The second row of pavers looked clunky, so we tore them out and replaced them with stone for a better design and began to build the beds.

It should be said that raised beds have no business in a semi arid environment if you want to save water and help your plants thrive. Our first goal was to create a microclimate appropriate for raised beds by cutting off the damaging sun and summer SW winds.  Our second goal was to provide ourselves with a protected space close to the house and kitchen where we could sit and relax for ten minutes, a week, provided one of our neighbors wasn’t driving down the road and dusting us, or running a combine a mile away and dusting us. Dust, it’s what’s for dinner.

Dust has been here for eons. That’s what provided all dem hills after the great lava flows – windblown dust from Oregon. Now that whitey white Mcwhitey from yon European hinterlands has control of the region, 7 out of the 10 million acres of shrub steppe biome has been dug up and turned into ‘arable’ land for growing stuff, lots o mono-crop stuff. They are doing their damnedest to send that dust over to Idaho now each and every time they till, rip, and plant.

Initial costs were lumber, pavers, and a few screws. You can see the open area to the west in this pic.

We filled the beds with a combination of lifeless dirt, sand, some compost, straw, and coffee grounds collected from Starbucks (we collected 2.5 tons of coffee grounds for two and a half years) bin by bin.

Still getting pounded by full desert sun at 1800′ elevation we put in drip, hoops, shade cloth and planted only veggies that could survive the heat and low humidity. The cedar fence BTW was free and we tied it to T posts to test if they would hold back the wind. Why was the fencing free you ask? Because when I lost my rentals in 2012 from the banking & economic downturn I took a chain saw to the cedar posts and collected a couple thousand dollars worth of my fencing and brought it here.

Two patio table sets went in, and I moved them next to the beds to stack functions; the umbrellas protect us and they provide shade to the beds. Umbrella stands are expensive so I made my own umbrella stands using reclaimed old plastic pots and surplus PVC pipes.

Those are Pellegrino bottles sticking end up. We don’t have recycling here in Eastern Washington. Recycling is Too expensive for the towns and counties, so we save all of our bottles and re-purpose them into different designs and they drive their bottles hundreds of miles and dump them in land fills somewhere else. Huh. Yeah I know – the PVC isn’t exactly Pinterest material – I’m  aiming for function first and foo foo later (which I’m more than capable of). Not to sound like a jerk but 99% of the Pinterest crowd has no clue about the decline of cheap FF or where our senseless addictions to TA DA! will land us in the next 20 years. Meh.

Last year I finally put in posts and permanently attached the fencing and then used a few more bottles to finish the concrete bottle wall. I’ll be cleaning up the glass this year for the final touches to the wall.

I sloped all of the concrete work to catch and funnel rain down into a channel that waters the west hill on the other side of the fencing. To complete the job…eventually a rain chain (I’m making it now) will direct the water from the gutter, and a gate will be installed (I’m designing that now), along with climbing/vining plants to fill in the old metal gate and metal arch (just barely visible in the photo). You can see the Folgers cans. They’re filled with kitchen scraps and headed down the hill to feed the wrigglers in the orchard garden.

So this is what we have now.

Because we improved the soil by allowing weeds to come up, chop & drop, mulching with old free straw after the rainy season (to hold the moisture in during the dry season) and using minimal drip, the lilacs and elms on the other side of the fence took advantage by expanding on their own. The worms in the beds eat the kitchen scraps I give them and often ‘grow’ me a free avocado tree once a year.

Yesterday I finished cleaning the beds and prepping them with compost made from the chickens and worms last year and planted; arugula, parsley, cilantro, dill, basil, caraway, snap peas, marigold, a few red scarlet runners and kale. The lovage, lemon balm, mint and golden currant plants are perennials and come up every year.  The sunflowers plant themselves every year and all I have to do is thin them out. It took me an hour.

If you like this sort of thing, please share it with others.