Gardener Story: Jennifer & Perry Johns

We began planning our garden by researching (reading blogs and books) about other people’s experiences with their gardens. We decided, after much research that a raised bed garden was the type of garden that best suited our family’s needs. After several iterations we finally had a layout/design for our garden and had picked out a spot on our property to create it. The plot that we chose, much like most of our property, is not perfectly level. In fact, it sloped down 8 feet north to south and about 4 feet from the northeast corner to the southwest corner. We decided to embrace the north to south slope but level it east to west. We began by tilling the ground, adding about 20 tons of topsoil, and finally re-tilling and leveling. 
Next, we began construction. We plotted and measured to install wooden posts at each corner and for a 4 foot back gate and an 8 foot double front gate. The garden area is 80′ x 40′. Once the posts were installed, we purchased raw lumber from a local saw mill and used it to build sixteen 4’ x 8’ x 10″ beds.  After all the boards were cut, we built the beds in place, squaring and aligning them with 4 foot spacing in between each bed. This row spacing was a choice we made after reading that many people were unhappy with putting their beds too close together when they built their raised-bed gardens. Once we were satisfied that our rows were straight and our beds were level, we scooped and filled the beds with the soil from around the boxes, added one wheel-barrow of compost to each bed before turning it, leveling it, and calling it done.

For the final steps, we installed metal t-posts as line posts and stretched fencing around the garden and created mounded rows around the perimeter to plant additional crops. We are currently in the process of building boxes for the perimeter beds. We covered the paths around the beds with cardboard and wood chip but it did not prevent heavy grass growth so we will look to improve that area this fall. Once the paths were covered, we went straight to work planting, fertilizing, and hoping for a healthy harvest!

The Johns Garden Team members are: Perry, an active duty Air Force officer and farmer; Jennifer, a stay-at-home mom; and three homegrown gardenhands. In preparation for Perry’s retirement from the military, they moved from St. Louis, bought a farm in Limestone, and are learning to produce their own food as well as have plans for an organic grass-fed cattle farm.

More images from the Perry garden!