Florida in the summer is like Connecticut in the winter. It’s when I put a pause on planting anything. I don’t like to plant seeds in the summer due to two reasons: It’s really hot in South Florida therefore I don’t spend much time outside and it’s hurricane season. If a hurricane happens to visit Florida like a summer vacation, the plants would uproot anyways. Summertime in my garden is a time to amend and condition the soil with organic matter so it can be ready for my plants in the fall. Over the weekend, this became a special project for my kids and I. Our goal was to fix the garden in a couple of hours. They really enjoyed doing this with me. As you can see, I’ve neglected this garden for some time. After the addition of my third child, I just let it all go. Weeds were overtaking the garden along with my self-propagated tomato plant.

I must say though, my plants performed very well this year without any of my help. But I got tired of looking at it honestly. So it was time to do something about it. Side note: I recommend if you do plan on making a garden, to build a raised bed. There are so many benefits like: Not having to till the land, your plants are somewhat contained, and the amount of weeds that generate are fewer. Here are some tips on both building your first or updating your raised bed.

Clean up the area

This part was the most tedious. I had to uproot all the weeds and my out-of-control tomato plant. I started doing this by hand, but then I got the hoe and scraped all the weeds out. I made sure I was careful around my perennial plants.

I carefully uprooted my aloe plants to another location. It had many brown spots, so I planted it in a location where it would receive more shade.

Use pressure treated wood for raised beds

I have two raised beds that are connected and on one side of the bed, the wood was completely rotted. My husband and I built our raised beds about 6 years ago and we must have used untreated wood on that particular side. So note to all: Use pressure treated wood when building raised beds. Well, at least we got the other side right. Since my kids were helping out, I made it a fun trip with them. We went to a home improvement store and bought wood fencing materials. It was like $4.00 for a 12-foot piece. I also used leftover dog-ear picket fence for the sides of the bed from a previous project.

Amend the soil with free organic matter

Did you know there are many resources to get organic matter to amend your soil?  When we were planning to build our raised beds we realized that it would require hundreds of pounds of soil, which meant the cost could quickly add up. We looked for other alternatives and instead of buying bags of soil I collected free composted horse manure from a local horse ranch. Our SUV was able to handle those loads of crap. I also went to my local Starbucks to get their free bags of used coffee grounds frequently. Let’s just say the employees knew me by name. I added all these materials to my raised bed and put the remaining in my compost bin along with yard waste.

My compost bin is made from wood pallets I picked up from work. This was constructed several years ago and has held up pretty well. Plants like to grow in there, involuntarily. My kids also like to find worms.

After we bought the lumber, I drove to a wood chip pile near my house. The pile has been there for some time and as you can see, some of the bark and leaves are decomposing into rich topsoil.

While I was shoveling along, the kiddos took the opportunity to play around.

Stain wood for extra protection

I had some remaining outdoor stain from a previous project and stained the wood for extra protection against the elements. I only stained the outer perimeter of the wood because I didn’t want chemicals leaching into the soil. The stain we had on hand is a semi-transparent stain that comes in a variety of colors. I can’t remember the name of the stain, but it is tinted in a brownish-grey color. If you are interested, here is a link to the brand.

I had some extra time, so I cleaned up my compost bin.

Look at the progress we’ve made.

Here is the before:


All in a day’s work. Are you planning a garden refresh?