Monday, May 9, 2011

Raised Beds For The Garden

 Raised beds, looking north; the first 
one is done but not completely planted.
Eggplant at the near end, leeks at the 
far end, beans to go in the middle soon.

My husband built me some boxes for raised bed gardening at the back of our yard - 5 nice big ones (three are 4' wide x 8' long x 8" deep, two are 4' x 8' x 6" and raised on bricks).  When we did the lawn renovation project in the back yard last fall, I used some of the topsoil to partially fill each box, but I knew I'd have to add another several inches of soil and compost to them this spring.  I'm doing one box at a time - one down last week, four to go.  This week I'll be making multiple trips to my friend Sharon's farm, to get some composted horse manure.  A couple wheelbarrows full of that in each box will do wonders for the soil, I'm sure.  I'm also adding some peat humus to the boxes (NOT peat moss - peat humus is coarser and better for the soil, and won't form dry pockets or repel water like pure peat moss can, or decompose as quickly).  We also added some fine gravel/coarse sand, just a couple buckets full to each bed, again for drainage.  I want to finish filling the boxes in the next two weeks so I can be ready to plant my tomatoes, peppers and beans, and the squashes and melons.  We're having a dry spell (read:  more than three consecutive days without heavy rain, after 18 straight days of precipitation), so I can finally work in the back yard without sinking in up to my ankles or miring the wheelbarrow up to its axle.

Raised beds are easy enough to create.  You don't even need to make boxes to contain the soil if you don't want to.  We wanted boxes for cosmetic reasons, and for the ease of mowing/trimming around them.  My husband bought untreated lumber to create the boxes, and at my request he used 2" x 8" x 8 foot boards because I wanted deep beds.  You can use narrower boards (4" or 6") or stack them to make higher beds - it depends on how high you want the beds raised.  They're fastened together with weatherproof (deck) screws.  I asked for 8" deep beds because of the drainage issues at the back of our yard, which sees the runoff from several yards uphill from us via a drainage swale which the beds abut in parallel.  The smaller beds going across the side of the yard will only need to have 4" high boards added (a fall project for my husband and I), because the drainage there is good, and again the boxes will be for appearances only.  Those beds are already raised about 3-4" above the level of the turf and simply sit in the lawn.  Edging them a couple times a year by hand is a nuisance, so the boxes will make it easier to maintain them in the long run.

I haven't decided if I'll stain the boxes when I do the deck in a couple weeks.  If I have enough deck stain, I might.  It will mostly come down to time and weather, though, since I'll need at least 5 consecutive dry days to do the deck.  But I've no lack of things to keep me occupied lately - between the kids' activities, normal house stuff, and the garden, I'm keeping plenty busy.

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