The Agile Gardener

2017 : October 24th

This weekend was Labour Day in New Zealand; our first public holiday since winter and it is traditionally a time to get the garden sorted as we look towards summer.

We took on a project over the weekend.Our goal was to turn a boggy, unusable garden into a raised vegetable patch, with the desirable outcome of being able to eat home grown vegetables by Christmas.

We started with Sprint 0, a design sprint. Our solutions was two good sized raised beds made from wood, filled with new topsoil. Enough room for potatoes, beans, a few berry bushes and the usual mix of lettuces. We were able to estimate size the project, how much wood we required, and how many trailer loads of topsoil we thought we would need. From this we were able to estimate a budget.

Original Outline Design

Sprint 1, was to develop a small but reusable prototype side wall in order to prove our design concept and our user experience: was likely to look good. With a post at either end, we screwed the timber railings on and then dropped the whole things into holes dug into the soft ground. A good start, it proved easy to get the levels right and we were happy with the height of the raised bed. We had the right tools for the job and we got an idea of how long it would take.

Sprint 2 was to tackle the larger of the two areas. Often it is good to take on large or complex aspects early, that way you are sure to complete them. Leaving big tasks to the end of a project could mean we run out of time, energy or budget so it is a good idea to hit them early. Using the same techniques as per the prototype, we were able to complete the whole of the bed in one session. Our MVP was ready. Off to get the topsoil for this area, 2 trailer loads and it is almost full. Our sprint retrospective provided a small but valuable lesson from this – leaving one side open until the last minute would allow us to wheelbarrow the topsoil straight in, without having to wheel it up a ramp.

The product owner (my wife), came up with a small design change at this point. Being agile, we embraced the change, reviewed the impact and realised that this new design would make life a little easier, reduce the amount of topsoil we would need and thus reduce the cost. Change is often good!

Sprint 3 – implement the newly re-designed second raised bed. This was faster than the first as we had developed better techniques for our build. We got two more trailer loads of soil which we wheelbarrowed in (having left a gap in the retaining wall), we screwed on the final wall and hey presto, we have completed our raised garden. Our product was ready to go live!

Sprint 4 our final sprint was to start populating the product – the first vegetables migrated from their existing locations, and some new vegetables planted. Migration is often harder than expected, you can uncover some deep rooted problems, but thankfully no issues surfaced.

The final product

Future items in the backlog – we know there will be ongoing maintenance of these raised beds, some plants will be discarded (archived to the compost), new plants added. Some additional scope items can be added now the product is “live”; we will put bark around the frames to provide easier, dry access; we will add some bed netting to protect some of the fruit. Now we have the beds there may be other things we want to achieve, but we can look back and say we met our objective – on time, under budget!

As with all good projects, we celebrated our success over a beer or two, but we can’t get too complacent, there is always the next project to start! Come Christmas we will have a post project review, hopefully tasting the fruits (and vegetables) of our labour.

Until the next time …

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