Building a Garden from Nothing

We live in a wildlife corridor. This includes rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice, and gophers (as well as coyotes and more) – all who live around the property and eat any seedlings I’ve tried to get started. Gophers come in beneath established plants and eat their roots. When I seed, the birds come in and eat them. This is a problem when you want to grow food.

Working on the raised garden bed walls.

I chose the ‘back yard’ area as that is the flattest, and began to plan out a yard for our giant tortoise, Gil, with garden beds all around. He’s a Sulcata and needs lots of room to wander, but building garden walls high enough can keep him from getting out or seeing what’s growing.

Original side of yard.

I decided to try a Gabion Wall idea, using rocks from around our property. Gabion uses a cage technique to hold rocks, which is an easy and almost free way for me to build quickly. With a double-sided fencing and chicken wire on the inside to keep critters out (hopefully), I am sliding flatter rocks in between them. On the outer wall, I put in fencing, then over that I attached hardware cloth dug down a bit to keep out snakes, rabbits and any other critters who might want in.


Fences in place and rocks being slid in.

At the bottom of each bed, I rolled out half-inch hardware cloth and tucked it into the edges to keep the gophers and moles from digging into the gardens.


I stacked 2 X 4’s from old buildings on the property for the backs of these beds. Once the outer shells of the beds are made, I began to add layers of cardboard, compost, Gil’s poops, horse manure from my neighbor, straw – anything that is organic that will break down and feed the soil – into the beds.


Layers of materials that break down and build soil are added to the garden beds.

Beds are finalized in the Fall to over-Winter for Spring planting. I did not get a chance to cover-crop them, which means to seed a Winter crop to also build soil and then seed over that in the Spring. I do plan for that this Winter.



Spring and Summer, 2018 photos… Using straw and branches to keep the beds moist, and targeted shade systems where the Sun gets too hot. I like to seed and also add seedlings, and build a small forest of plants so they can keep themselves regulated throughout the day. A large amount of diversity is also helpful to keep critters and bugs at bay.

Garden from June to August, 2018


Next is beginning beds on the other side of the yard…

Adding food to the next beds.