Building Raised Beds
Thinking of starting a garden? Perhaps using raised beds?
We've helped quite a few neighbors and friends build raised bed gardens similar to ours over the past year or two. We use raised beds for the many advantages they provide - the ability to grow more in smaller spaces, the ease of keeping weeds out as they are not flush with the rest of the yard / lawn / ground, the ease of working with the soil because you don't have to bend down as far, and the ability to better control the soil in the beds - keeping it turned and loose plus filled with nutrients. There is also the advantage, for those with limited space, to at least have a garden of some type. Overall It's just a more controlled environment.
If you are thinking of starting a raised bed garden, now is a great time to plan and build, and if you get started soon enough, you can even get in veggies for the short fall growing season. You could also get the beds built and soil and compost in - gearing up and getting ready for 2016!
Here are a few things to consider when planning your raised bed gardens.
**Like any garden...SUN. Where does the sun travel across your yard or space? You'll want as much as possible. Almost all the food you'll want to grow will want as much sun exposure as possible. MInimally 6 hours per day, ideally 8 or more.
**Bed sizes and shapes. Your options are unlimited, but we do have some suggestings for ease of use. We build our beds 3' wide and have at least 3' in between them. These sizes can vary if you wish, there is on "one way" to do things, but the space between gives plenty of space to move around and work the beds plus room so that one bed won't shadow the next during the day. The width of the beds also makes weeding and tending easy. Any wider and getting to the middle, especially once the plants have grown and are at their peak.
**Bed height. We built our beds 24" high. Using two 2x12 yellow pine boards. Our beds are built over a concrete pad that once was parking for our home. Because of this we wanted to give plenty of room for roots to grow before hitting a solid surface and also allow for drainage. You don't have to go this high. I'd recommend building at least 10-12" high BUT if you want to go 24" or so it also makes working the beds easier! Once again, not bending over and down as far.
**Filling the beds / soil. Because we built higher we did the first 10 - 12" with chipped wood. A friend has a landscaping and tree service company and brought a load of chipped hardwood. This allows are beds to drain and also saved us quite a bit of money over buying twice as much compost or soil. Over time this chipped wood breaks down and the beds (regardless and every year by the way) will compact and the height of the soil will diminish. They need refilling and work between each season. Above the chipped wood we added compost and good soil until the beds were full. Again, we add every year as the components break down (and you'd do this anyway to add nutriets as the soil you have gets stripped by the growing season). We also leave some beds unplanted during the fall and winter and pile leaves from the trees around us to the beds - these slowly break down over the months and by spring have turned into soil - which we then turn under into the beds.
**Materials. We use untreated yellow pine. It's easy to find at any lumber yard or big-box home improvement store. You don't want treated wood - it's chemically treated - or at least we don't. I've read where some claim what they treat it with these days won't affect your food. Why take the chance? Treated wood will last longer, but pine isn't terribly expensive and our beds in other places have lasted well over 4 or 5 years with replacing a couple areas here and there but very little. You can also choose untreated cedar - it's more expensive but will last a good bit longer. It is a bit harder to find - not on the shelves of most retailers.
Once the beds are built and filled they are ready to be planted. Choose for the season, plant according to directions though we mix a lot of stuff in each bed to maximize their yeild.