Eddie Scales of Greenwood found a way to maintain a nice backyard with plenty of space to enjoy while growing a garden that produces an abundance of vegetables, all at the same time.

Rather than growing plants in the typical rows that cover a large area of ground, Scales uses what he calls a box garden and efficiently utilizes the space in his backyard to grow snap beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, peas, greens, squash, corn and more. He’s been using this method for about 10 years.

“You can do so much with it,” he said. “It’s easy. I spend 15 or 20 minutes a day out here. You don’t have to spend long hours.”

Scales grew up on a farm and began gardening when he was 12 years old.

“My mother started me off gardening one row,” he said. “We were out in the country, and I would plant behind the chicken house, and I had my own little garden.”

Since then, Scales has gardened every year except in 1965 when he was serving in the U.S. Army.

He has many years of gardening experience now but continues to find ways to improve his box garden each year.

Scales has several boxes throughout his backyard. Before building the boxes, he made a drawing of where he wanted each to be located in his yard.

“I would look at the sun to see where it shines most,” he said. “You don’t want to just put them anywhere. You want it to look pretty, not only to you but also to other people.”

He made sure to avoid placing any of the boxes under a large pecan tree in the middle of his backyard, so sap would not fall on his plants.

Scales’ garden boxes are 2 feet wide by about 10 to 14 feet long, depending on where they are located in his yard.

Scales recommends the boxes to be 2 feet wide because that allows enough room to work the soil.

“That’s enough room to plant the center, then take your garden hoe in there and work it, and you aren’t disturbing your roots,” he said.

He uses 2-by-4-inch treated lumber for each side of the box.

“If you’re going to build a box, buy treated lumber that will last you a few years longer than regular lumber,” Scales said.

He makes small trenches in the dirt inside the box and leaves a little space at the bottom so water can drain. The lumber will not retain the water, which is especially needed after several days of rain or flooding. Scales created a way to cover the box gardens during a downpour using PVC pipe and plastic tarps.

“That’s why I might have a garden when other people don’t,” he said. “They can’t cover it up, and I can cover mine up and slip the plastic over it. If it rains too much, then I don’t have to plant back over.”

For some of the boxes, when the plants in the center are fully grown and almost ready for harvesting, Scales will begin planting a different vegetable on the sides of the box. That allows him to harvest vegetables twice for each box. Sometimes he’s even able to plant a third time.

Scales allows some of the plants to grow until he is able to harvest seeds.

“I did that with some of my mustard greens,” he said. “I bought seeds, and I let two or three of them go to seed, and then I plant them.”

Scales said seeds can be usable for up to two years. Seeds purchased in a packet, however, can sometimes be more than two years old.

“I have bought seeds that were no good,” he said.

When Scales plants the seeds he grew himself, he knows for sure the age of the seeds.

“They are fresher,” he said.

For the soil in the boxes, Scales uses dirt from his yard and adds in some top soil. He doesn’t use fertilizers or chemicals.

“I just put a little bit of top soil to get the minerals back in the soil that the plant use up,” Scales said.

Rather than using a tiller, Scales sticks with a garden hoe. He keeps the soil in the boxes ready all year, which is why a tiller isn’t necessary.

“I chop it up and leave it ready for the spring,” he said. “It stays clean, and it stays worked.”

Scales also repurposes items in his yard, such as leaves or grass that has been mowed.

“I don’t throw away anything,” he said. “I let it go back to the soil."

For combating insects, Scales has a tried-and-true method that doesn’t involve purchasing poison.

“Take any kind of dishwashing liquid you have in your house, mix it with water in any kind of spray bottle and spray it,” he said.

After spraying the plants with the soap mixture, Scales said to rinse the plants with water.

“You only use it for washing it down,” he said. “When you wash the plants off, the bugs are gone.”

Scales recommends using about a tablespoon of mild dish soap and filling the rest of a regular size spray bottle with water.

“You already have it in your house, so you don’t have to go shopping,” he said.

Although the soap mixture works well for keeping the insects away, Scales has had other pests in his garden.

He was growing watermelons last year, and one melon was almost ripe.

“I was getting ready to pull the watermelon, and something, an animal that eats vegetables, put a whole in it and ate about one-third of the watermelon that I was going to pull the next day.”

Scales, who is pastor of McLean Street Church of God in Christ, enjoys sharing what he grows with members of his church or people he or his wife, Lois, knows.

He said the best feature of a box garden is that he is able to harvest the same amount of produce as a row garden right from his backyard.

“You’re at home, and you don’t have to go anywhere to plant,” he said. “You just go out in your backyard.”

• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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