Raised Beds, Horticulture Therapy and the Flint Hills

A few weeks ago we stumbled upon Tara Claycamp, a realtor in Manhattan, Kansas, with a degree in Horticulture Therapy and a popular blog about the very best that the Flint Hills has to offer.  When we saw her post entitled “Backyard Boxes” on her blog The Little Apple Life we were floored! It’s exciting to know that our raised beds are blossoming all the way out in Kansas!

Read more to find out how her trip to Denver, and some Backyard Boxes furthered her journey back to her family and horticultural roots. 

Tell Us About Your Raised Beds Garden 

I spent a lot of my summers in the garden with my grandma and my parents. As I got older and busier we just didn’t have time and then before I knew it, the garden was a thing of the past. I eventually turned back to Horticulture in college and graduated with a degree in Horticulture Therapy from Kansas State University. I always knew the benefits of gardening and even worked in some of the local hospitals and nursing homes as their Horticulture Therapist. Then, life happened again, and again, I got away from the garden, but that all changed last year. 

My grandma frequently told us to “go to the garden”

My husband and I talked about starting a garden, but I didn’t think we would have the time for one. Finally, he talked me into a small container garden and instantly I remembered how much I enjoyed working in a garden. As the plants began to produce, a sense of pride came as we were collecting all our produce and herbs to share with our friends and family. I knew that even though the garden would give me more “to-do,” it would also provide me with an escape and the stress reliever that I was in desperate need of. My grandma frequently told us to “go to the garden,” she knew how important it was to work with the plants and in the soil, so that is exactly what I did.

How Did You Find Backyard Boxes?

On a trip to visit my sister in Denver, I went out into her garden and immediately noticed her raised garden boxes. I told her how nice they looked and she said how happy she is with them. She shared how well they were made, easy to assemble, and the ability to sit on the ledge while you were working, and then she shared the story of the company, Backyard Boxes.  When I got back home, I could not get my sister’s raised bed boxes out of my mind and I couldn’t find anything in my area that matched the look or the quality, so I called my sister and asked for more details and the rest, as they say, is history. Especially when I found out that they even shipped their boxes, I was sold!

What Do You Love About Your Backyard Boxes Raised Beds?

Backyard Boxes were the perfect solution for us. They allowed us to purchase raised garden beds that fit the area we had, not the other way around. In addition to the variety of sizes to choose from, the all natural stain options from Vermont Natural Coatings, and the customer service was great. I always seem to have questions and the staff at Backyard Boxes are beyond helpful and always quick to respond. We have tried to make more of a conscious effort to look at what we are purchasing as well as consuming, so the boxes being made of all natural cedar wood and then the use of natural stains was another big selling point for us! 

“They allowed us to purchase raised garden beds that fit the area we had, not the other way around.”

Not being local to Denver had me a little nervous wondering how I would get the boxes here, but I could not believe how easy and affordable the shipping was. After the boxes were delivered and I looked at how well they were packaged, I was even more impressed. Every aspect of Backyard Boxes has been so well thought out, from the design of the boxes to the packing for shipping.

What Do You Plant In Your Raised Beds?

Our garden has a lot of the typical plants, but most of them are grown from seeds from either Johnny’s Seeds or Baker Seed-Rare Seeds. Being a Horticulture major, I think we are predisposed to growing unusual plants. We have a variety of tomatoes, chard, lettuce, herbs, peppers, carrots, radishes, strawberries, melons, and cabbage, but we also have several plants that we have never heard of before.

That to me is part of the fun of gardening, you plant the seeds and see what happens. Since we are K-Staters, we have beans that vary in color from deep purple (Go State), to marbled (purple and white, our school colors), to traditional green beans. The tomatoes we grew range from black tomatoes named Black Beauty, to Black Strawberry and even tomatoes with the name, Green Zebras! If all these take off, we could be sharing some interesting tomatoes this year! One of the things I am most excited about is the Pink Celery we are growing. The online reviews are a little mixed, but I am curious to see how it grows and tastes so I can decide for myself. 

Tell Us About Your Blog

My blog is relatively new. I started it in 2020, with the idea that I would share all the things I love about living life in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. I wanted to connect the people and places that I love so much to each other. Since I have always been a creative person, blogging about it seemed like a natural fit. I often joke that this makes me an unofficial ambassador to the area. 

In the last few years, the blog has evolved into what you see today and has become more than I could have imagined. Wanting to continue to build on the connection with family and friends who were no longer in the area, I started incorporating more about my daily life and what I call, “Journeys from The Middle.” I have even added a few recipes, from restaurants that are no longer in business, and for my family I have added several of my grandma’s recipes straight from her recipe box. 

Do You Have Any Advice For Current or Future Raised Bed Gardeners?

I think probably more for the future raised bed gardeners, as I am still very much in the learning phase of raised bed gardening. One of the key items that I think is more important for a raised bed garden than a traditional in-ground garden is placement. It is so important to consider location since once the boxes are set, leveled, and filled, moving them is quite a chore, but it is more than that.

Considering the placement for the size of the space you have, the layout of the boxes you will need, and what you plan to grow is very important. We knew we were going to plant some things that did better in a little bit of shade, and this is why we based our placement for one of our raised beds to be slightly under a tree, and the rest are in full sun. I also knew that I wanted the space in between the boxes to be wide enough that I could comfortably work in, so for me, a space of three feet was measured on all sides of each box. 

The other item to plan for is deciding where you are going to get your soil from. There are so many options when it comes to soil, you really want to understand what you are looking at and make the best choice for you. Since raised beds function differently in regard to soil composition and drainage, we went with a specific organic raised bed mix to fill our boxes and have been thrilled with the results.  

For more on Tara and her beautiful garden layout, lighting design and her automatic sprinkler named Oto visit her blog The Little Apple Life

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: