April 14, 2012

Raised garden bed tutorial.

We recently built one modest raised garden bed and have yet to plant anything in it (frost is still expected this early in the spring) but it's still a success!

Why go raised?  
1.  Your soil will retain heat better, which will extend your growing season.
2.  The higher position of your plants will allow for better drainage.
3.  You will be able to remain more upright while gardening, saving yourself some aches and pains!
3.  You can control the type of soil the plants are growing in AND it will not erode away.

Here's a little summary and description of how we did it:

First, you need to decide how big to make your garden. Length is as big as you wish (consider how much wood you can transport) but the width is pretty important- you need to be able to reach the middle of the garden easily. We opted for 6'x4'. (Those dimensions yield 24 square feet of garden!)

XxY= total square footage of your garden.

Next you need to purchase your supplies. This can be a bit challenging. You need untreated wood. Although chemical treatment of some wood has changed in recent years, consider that whatever is in the wood has the potential to leech into your plants... and your vegetables if you opt to grow edibles. Cedar is quite expensive, but lasts longer than standard untreated wood. We stuck with the cheaper stuff and figured we'd see how that holds up over the next few years.

We bought:
8 feet of 4"x4" wood for the corner posts.
*This was cut into four 2' posts at the store. Many places will cut the wood for you for free, up to a certain number of cuts.
40 feet of 2"x6" wood for the sides.
Four 6' pieces.
Four 4' pieces.
6 bags of topsoil.
6 bags of compost with manure.
1 cubic foot of peat moss.
Landscape fabric.
32 screws.

Other tools you'll need:
A drill.
A shovel.

Once you have your supplies, it's time for the physical part to get started!

Mark off the area you want to put the garden bed in. Then you need to dig out the grass and the weeds that are there. This prevents this stuff from growing up into your garden (think of it as preventative weeding) and will help your garden "sit" securely where you want it to be.

This took me a while- I wanted to shake off a lot of the dirt from the grass roots and there was a lot.

Cut your landscape fabric to fit the space. This is an extra barrier against weeds, but also helps hold your soil in.

Then, you need to assemble your bed. This is best done with two people- one to hold the wood, one to drill. I'd suggest starting with the two shorter sides. Then, those can be tipped up on their sides, and the other boards can be added.

After your bed is put together, you can move it into position. We dug 4" holes for the posts to rest in. We also left some post above the top of the bed in case we need to add fencing to keep rabbits and other critters out.

Then you can fill your bed with compost, topsoil, peat moss and whatever else. Ours didn't fill completely, but since soil and compost are relatively cheap ($1-3 a bag) you can always add more.

You're ready to plant!

Comments, questions? Let me know and I will respond as soon as possible!

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