Spring Valley resident Dennis Timmerman has found a creative way to recycle the bits and pieces of old concrete silos by creating lovely raised gardens.
Timmerman explained he originally got the idea of creating the raised gardens to help his sister. “A number of years ago, my sister developed Parkinson’s and she loved gardening, but couldn’t get down to the ground anymore,” he said.
So, while searching for different raised garden varieties and options, Timmerman became aware of someone who had various silo pieces, including the staves and wires, so he decided to give it a try.
“They are really handy; mini silos are basically what they are. And originally it was really easy to get the silo staves because they were taking down silos in the area, but that has kind of run out. So it is getting a little more difficult,” he said.
A side benefit of using the concrete staves is the structure is maintenance free and should last a lifetime.
Timmerman has also used the silo staves to create his garden edging and a small patio.
Since creating his first raised garden 12 years ago, Timmerman has continued to create more structures. He explained, “I’ve put two out at Good Earth Village, I have four of them here at home and I’m planning to put two more in. My son wants one in Harmony and my daughter wants two of them out in Milwaukee!”
In fact, Timmerman has made enough of the gardens that he can create them quite quickly.
“If I’ve got the stuff, I can put one of those up in about 2.5 hours. That’s not filling it, just setting it up,” he clarified.
The gardens, which are eight to nine feet across and 30 inches tall, have definite benefits, according to Timmerman. “It is so nice, because you go out in the morning and in just under an hour you can have them all weeded, you don’t have to get down on the ground and it keeps the rabbits out.”
For this reason, Timmerman usually plants his anti-rabbit plants such as beans, carrots, beets and peppers in the raised gardens, while his garlic, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, berries and asparagus find their homes in the lower beds or in his plots in the Spring Valley Community Garden.
“These are for plants that we want to keep the creatures out of and we have lots of rabbits around here,” he said.
Timmerman explained, because of the layout of the raised gardens, he can fit a large quantity of plants in the structures.
“You tend to pack things in a little tighter. In a regular garden you have rows for the most part and there is some distance between them,” Timmerman said. “In the raised garden you tend to get tighter and plant things closer together. What I do is come out from the center.”
As one would imagine, such a large raised garden does take a considerable amount of dirt to fill it up.
“It takes a lot of dirt. The third one I filled up using a wheelbarrow, because I can’t get back to them anymore, and I stopped counting after 60 loads. So it takes a lot,” Timmerman revealed. “The first one I got (the dirt) from when we put in an egress window, so I used the dirt left over from that. For the others I compost and there are also farmers around that I can go get some from. For about the first three years the dirt settles, so you just throw a little bit of fresh stuff on top. ”
Over time, Timmerman has also figured out some gardening tricks for the gardens.
“I do a lot with my gardens, but for my raised gardens there are enough grass clippings around here and that usually takes care of mulching it by the middle of the summer,” he said. “Then weeding becomes almost non-existent.”
He also suggests using natural fertilizer and switching crops annually to keep the nutrients in the soil.
To make the watering of the raised gardens easier, Timmerman added a special feature.
“Another fun piece is the sprinkler in the center. I have a valve on the hose and you just adjust the pressure with the valve so it just covers it. Then you can walk away and do something else for 20 minutes. They work very well.”
With the continued success Timmerman has had with the gardens, it seems there are no limits to his gardening, except when it comes to space.
“My backyard is pretty close to full right now. We have grandchildren, so I have to leave an area for them to run. It has been a fun project over the years and it’s useful. We grow a lot of stuff here,” Timmerman said.
In fact, he estimates he and his wife, Jane, grow up to 30 percent of what they eat, though he would eventually like to get to 50 percent.
“I suppose if someone would have asked me as a 10-year-old pulling weeds in my dad’s garden if I would be a gardener I would have said, ‘No way!’ But, it gets into your blood, I guess, I’ve gardened all my life,” Timmerman added.
While he enjoys many aspects of gardening, such as watching the plants come to life and spending time outside, Timmerman explained there is a more fulfilling reason to keep gardening.
“My favorite part is giving it away…but I enjoy eating all the stuff, too! It’s fun to have a bounty and be able to share. All my family really enjoy getting food from the garden,” Timmerman said.