Making a Raised Bed Garden
Update on my raised garden
How did my raised garden grow? After reading this page check out some of my results.
I've added 5 more beds and my garden feeds me all the veggies I need for the summer and fall. Here is my page on 12 plants that will feed you for a summer, and longer.
Why Raised Beds?
Why go through the trouble of making and filling raised beds instead of just planting in the ground? In my case I had several problems.
- Drainage is very poor in the area. In the spring the ground stays squishy for a very long time.
- Ground rock is very near the surface. Soil is only about 6 inches then rocks for a couple of feet and soon solid bedrock.
- Many trees compete for the shallow soil. I did not want to damage roots. The area is a hickory / oak forest and hopefully these trees will outlive me.
- It's just a little more difficult for my furry neighbours to damage the garden if it's higher. I have rabbits, groundhogs and lots of little rodents of every shape.
- It's more convenient to have the weeds and plants higher, old bones and bad knees!!
- It will also be easier to cover the beds in case of frost.
- Easier to control watering and soil improvement, and prevent any invasive plants from escaping.
I chose to make my beds with 2x8x10. 8 inches high is a good compromise in terms of price, weight and work to fill the beds.
Making the Raised Beds
The beds are 10 feet long and about 40 inches wide. I can handle this size lumber and comfortably reach across the beds. I brought the boards home on the roof rack of the car. I'm using Spruce boards. If my pockets were deeper I would have chosen cedar or another slow rotting wood but spruce is what is available easily here. I avoided treated lumber because I don't want any chance of chemicals leaching into my soil.
I cut the smaller pieces using a Japanese pull saw. The wood is not so hard and it was fast.
I put together the beds using long screws but I think nails would have worked just as well. I prefer screws. There are 4 posts for the corners made from 2x4's, these I cut to a point and drove into the ground. It anchors the bed and allows me to screw in the side to make a more solid corner joint. I don't think I really needed to pound the corner posts into the ground but I did.
My bed is now ready to be filled. I tried various things. In the first bed, I dug down and took the grass layer out. This is when I saw that the soil is really only about 6 inches deep. In other beds I put down leaves to stop the grass and weeds from coming through. In the last 2 I put the soil directly on the grass. After 6 weeks it does not seem to have made any difference.
This is what 6 Cubic Yards of soil look like. One cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. I went to a local supplier and got their garden soil. We tramped through the mud to look at the lovely rich soil. Lots of humus and some sand. It does not compact and has lots of organic matter. He told me he gets left over mushroom soil as part of the mix. I could also smell some manure. It cost me under 300 for the soil delivered, including taxes. The plants love it.
I used a wheelbarrow to move the soil. It is quite hard work. My beds are about 22 cubic feet each. It took about 8 trips to fill my bed after I had stomped on the soil to unfluff it and settle it in.
Here is my first bed!! Ready for seeding. This bed is earmarked for things that are planted as soon as the soil can be worked.
Onions, garlic, lettuce, swiss chard and radishes are to be planted here. There is still frost at night but not snow anymore, I hope.
Fast forward a few weeks. The lettuce has come up and we are hoping for radishes any time soon. They only take 28 days to harvest. I've added a few more beds and planted them with seedlings from the nearby greenhouse. Tomatoes, peppers aubergine and herbs. Frost is not likely now but still possible. I'm taking a chance.
It is wonderful to see these little green things coming up. The branches are to keep the cats out. They love to go in and dig. As city cats they are discovering the joy of just digging for the fun of it. They dig and roll around in the ground.
We bought 5 composters. One is by the house and 4 are by the garden. I've put leaves in and expect to put garden waste as it becomes available. The leaves are tough and will take some time to break down. The raccoons have figured out how to open the household composter and dine there regularly.
I am also experimenting with soil mounds. Here there are strawberries and honey berries. They are supposed to be really hardy and similar to blueberries. You need a Mr and Mrs Honeyberry to get fruit.
I've also put asparagus, catnip, zucchini, cantalope and cucumber in soil mounds. They get more weeds but I'm hoping they will work out. The mounds are much easier to make than the raised beds. The spot is higher so drainage should not be as much of a problem.
The garden is now up and everything is growing really fast. I've been eating lettuce, and all kinds of other greens. I have a couple of zucchinis growing and the tomatoes have little flowers. I'm lucky, the groundhogs and the rabbits have not found the garden yet. The cats patrol for mice and so far the deer have not come in. The squirrels regularly dig in the beds hiding stuff.
The raised beds dry out faster than the ground so I've watered some but the weather has been good and I'm about to be buried in vegetables.
Every morning after my breakfast I walk out to the garden to see what has come up, if there are any ripe strawberries, and to see what has been dug up. There is always one or 2 cats following me and enjoying the morning.
As the summer went on, lots of birds started patrolling the garden looking for grubs. The birds took care of any cabbage worm on the broccolli.
How did my raised garden grow? Fast forward to the middle of August.
The next year I added 5 more beds. My garden now pretty much feeds me all summer and fall. Here is a link to the 12 plants that supply the bulk of my food.
email me: Christine
Raised Garden BedsPopular Mechanics article on Making Raised Garden Beds
This Old House article on Raised beds
Canadian Gardening article on Raised flowerbeds
Wikipedia on Raised Bed Gardening
Fabulous collection of raised beds with lots of photos
I test my new leaf chipper-shredder machine I plan to use it mainly to make lots of leaf compost.
Terra Preta, is a soil found in South America. It has been produced by many generations and is stable, fertile and productive.
Self sufficiency on a quarter acre
Companion Planting is a way of increasing yields, reducing pests and protecting good insects.
Square foot gardening
French Marigolds help keep nematodes away. I put them and lots of herbs and onion sets in between other plants to keep pests away. They add the most cheerful look to your garden too.
This information is for general knowledge. This reflects my ideas and experiments. If you decide to build anything make sure you know how to use your tools, be careful and have fun.