Dirt-Stir-Crazy (And Other Backyard Preparation)

May 18, 2012   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Gardening, Supporting Sponsors, Tools   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

Thanks to Black & Decker for making this possible. I’m under no obligation to write about the 36V cordless tiller I received for free, but I’m doing it anyways. Because it’s badass.

We had a few very wet, cold, windy days immediately following the afternoon that I assembled our veggie and flower planter boxes in the backyard. It’s a good thing I hadn’t put the tomatoes in the ground right away. With the sun out this week I couldn’t put off the project any more, so I got right down to it.

Last you saw, I had this set of planter boxes assembled and resting in the middle of the yard just off the deck. Super convenient placement. Not. After discussion, we had determined that installing the planters in the back left corner of the yard would be most logical: close to our raspberry bushes, in a part of the yard that gets a lot of sunlight, and best of all, far enough away from Cody’s running loop so as not to trip him up. Dog likes to run, you know?

New set of planter boxes.

I debated removing the grass in an oval all around both boxes and making a mulchy walkway, but in the end decided to only clear out the spaces directly on the inside of both planters, leaving the outer edge grassy, and most of the yard in tact.

Easily said and done, once I was positive that the planters were in position, I used some leftover white spray paint to mark the inside of each box so I knew precisely where to cut. I didn’t spray the outside of the box because I didn’t want to chance a lot of white paint coating the wooden exterior, which I anticipate to wear naturally over time.

Spray painting along the inside of the planter boxes.

With the boxes out of the way, my dig-plan was clear. And the dog was intrigued.

Spray painting along the inside of the planter boxes. The dig only took an hour, but was a good workout; I trimmed around the edges first with a straight edge shovel to loosen the grass, and then moved inward, shaking as much loose soil back onto the ground as I could manage, aiming to only throw out a lightweight grass toupee.

Removing grass for the planter boxes.

Completely cleared, the ground was ready for the most exciting part: a serious tillin’.

Squeal, ready for the tiller!

The tiller, I’ve been really excited about since our trip to Arizona for the Black & Decker Blogger Event. It’s the only product that we didn’t have a chance to test on-site, probably because the Angels field maintenance crew didn’t want to deal with our path of destruction, but I’ve been eager to give it a try in our own yard.

No, I’ve never tilled before. Never operated anything that did such a thing so powerfully. I assembled it myself on the deck last weekend, and was eager to put it to use, so I got to it.

For a number of reasons, I decided to make this part of the post a video:

  • Pete wasn’t home to see the tiller off on her maiden voyage. It’s partially for him.
  • Sure, it’s kind of like a lawnmower, but I’ve never operated a tiller so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought you might like to see what a first-timer goes through to operate the product.
  • It seemed like a more entertaining option.

It was a one-time video shoot, with no redos and no retouching. I think you’ll be able to tell that I’m a tilling newbie right off the bat. Nonetheless, enjoy. I want to take it to the whole lawn now. Anyone have something I can power through?

I’m weird, right? Was I tilling deep enough? That thing was yanking me all over, which I guess is what it’s supposed to do to an extent, and I guess goes to prove that the 36V cordless product by Black & Decker has some brute strength for being battery-powered. Yeah, I need to practice more, that’s the lesson here.

The finished and tilled squares looked and felt good. Very light soil, but not enough yet. Before I loaded more into position, I had to get the planters in place and installed, which was as simple as pulling the structures back into position and hammering the rebar into the ground so they were flush with the top of the box. The dog happily scratched himself in the background, he’s uncontrollable.

These things are locked. in. tight.

Installing the planter boxes by hammering rebar reinforcements.

The big game plan was to use the box on the left for tomatoes, and the one on the right for an assorted mass of flowers. Before I could begin planting and seeding, I bought a lot (a lot, a lot) of soil to optimize the situation.

$30 bought me a healthy amount of peat moss, planter soil, in-ground gardening moisture-hold soil, hummus and manure for the tomatoes, and extra dirt. I made my dollar go a little further by purposefully selecting damaged bags at Home Depot; even a little tear in the bag (with seemingly no lost soil) saved me 10-50% off the retail price depending on the extent of the damage. It’s my understanding that “it all depends on the person ringing you out” so be sure to inquire and point out all damages when you’re paying to save a few dollars.

Soil, soil, soil.

Spread and mixed up a little by hand, both planters were considerably more filled and ready for planting. Notice that the soil on the left is darker? That’s thanks to the hummus and manure bags, which I layered in to give the tomato babies extra nutrients.

Soil, soil, soil.

I sprinkled flower seeds in the one on the right; only time will tell what that’s going to look like. For now, not much, but expect to be seeing Four O’Clocks, Marigolds, Gazania, and Gomphrena. Crossing my finger that they take root since the impatients were a big fat failure.

The tomatoes have been adjusting to real sunlight in the sunroom over the last week; my parents start them from seed early every spring and hand deliver me whatever ones they think I’ll like best. So lucky. These little guys just about ready to go into the ground. Hoping to get them adjusted this afternoon.

Assorted tomato plants, from Mom and Dad, 2012.

Till anything good lately? How does your springtime garden grow?

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci
    6 years ago - Reply

    “I want to take it to the whole lawn now. Anyone have something I can power through?” Come on over to Kansas, we can tear up the whole back 50% of my lot and put down grass seed! Right now it’s just sandy dirt and weeds (lots and lots of weeds). Your collection of Black & Decker power lawn tools is making me jealous!

  • Heather
    6 years ago - Reply

    I just roto-tilled my yard and it’s hard work! I’m impressed you want to roto-till anything else. You’ll find that the dirt settles down over time–you can just add compost from here on out to keep your soil productive and the level high.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Awesome! Thanks for the tip; I grew up next to a horse farm, and the compost was plentiful. I have such a hard time wanting to pay money for it by the bag now!

  • Ken
    6 years ago - Reply

    Don’t forget some pepper plants for the salsa, fajitas, etc that are the perfect mix for your t’matos. You should ask Pete to crank the tiller and see who took longer to get it going :)

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Pete took one look at the video and said “there’s a button at the side, right?”… no question over who would have gotten it running first. We did peppers and basil last year, but the tomatoes were pretty suffocating in the space. This year, cilantro and basil in separate containers :)

  • emilie
    6 years ago - Reply

    Basil in the same bed will increase your tomato production by something like 20 percent.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Is that so? I have some sprouting right now. I’ve done that in past years and knew they grew well together but didn’t know there were stats like that backing it up!

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