Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Building a Raised Garden Bed

I’ll be the first to admit that the Notre Ferme Urbaine household was a little over ambitious with our garden plans. Three raised beds, a chicken coop, a fence? That’s a lot more work than we are used to doing. But we had big plans this year and we were not going to give up on that. The garden beds were not too difficult compared to the fence, but took a lot of planning and required a lot of lumber.

Garden Bed 13

Mike thinks I'm crazy about my views on pressure-treated lumber, but everything I read said that you shouldn't trust it to grow your plants around. Heck, Lowe’s has a big warning sign in front of their pressure-treated lumber, so I was adamant about using untreated pine (cedar is a really good option if you are able to find/afford it). One thing about untreated is that it does not last as long (like only a few years) so you have to keep that in mind. I've read that putting linseed oil on the wood will help preserve the beds longer. Because I am an extreme novice in woodworking and life in general, please do your own research if you are using lumber for your garden beds and decide for yourself.

Our beds are two feet high. Most raised beds are a foot high, which is a good height. If you're crazy like me and want to add a lot of work to your project, you can go to two feet. The primary reason I chose two foot high beds was for pest protection. Hopefully keeping it raised this high will keep out some of my crops’ predators. It will also be helpful for keeping our chickens and dog out of the beds. Also I don't have to bend over as much to pull weeds!

Garden Bed 12

Okay, first step: purchase a ton of lumber that requires you to take it home in two trips in your mid size car. The first two beds are a standard 4x8 size and each required four 2”x12”x8’ boards, four 2”x12”x4’ boards, four 4”x4”x2’ posts, and some nails. When we got to Lowe’s there was a pack of 2”x2”x2’ posts all ready to go and we decided that would suffice for the 4”x4” posts. Just to let you know…they do not suffice. Taking this shortcut was stupid and not a shortcut at all. The boards kept popping out of the posts and it took forever.

Garden Bed 6

Because I’m a terrible blogger, I only managed to get a couple of pictures of the construction of the garden beds. Basically, we nailed the posts to the long eight foot long boards. The posts were put in three inches from the top, leaving three inches to be put underground. Then we added the short four foot long boards to the posts.

Garden Bed 7

At this point your beds are half done. Then you can add the rest of the boards to the bottom. It took both of us to turn the bed over, but after that it was easy street. We both took some turns hammering the posts into the ground.

Garden Bed 3

Garden Bed 5

Once we had the beds somewhat put into place, we had to level the ground a bit and fill in any cracks with dirt. Then we hammered the posts in some more.

Garden Bed 10

I lined the beds with garden cloth to get a jump start on weeds. I don't totally trust garden cloth after what we had to go through with clearing out the garden and the fact that weeds are already popping through the garden cloth in the coop, but I put it in anyway.

Garden Bed 12

We had to order four cubic yards of compost/soil mix and also used our to bins of compost to fill our three garden bins. Then we added 20 bags (1.5 cubic feet each) of organic vegetable planting soil.

Garden Bed 13

All done! I have started filling them so I will let you know soon what I put in them. Things are slowly falling into place!

Stuff we still need to work on:
  • Clearing out all the weeds (again) and laying down mulch.
  • Putting up compost bins in the corner.
  • Getting the fence done! Trim, post caps, a gate!, filling in gaps with soil.
If we wait too much longer, summer will be over! Hopefully in-between the two weddings we have coming up we will be able to get some stuff done. Stay tuned!