I’m dreaming of warm sunshine and bare feet, of swimming pools and butterflys. Outside, despite the fact we have hit spring on the calender, it is raining and in the thirties even here in the south. After all the warm weather it’s rather shocking to people, animals, and plants. I hope all our fruit trees will still produce this year as it’s supposed to get below freezing tomorrow night.
In hopes of warm weather being back to stay, I thought I would do a post on building raised garden beds. We can’t go down very far with our gardens, so we do almost everything in raised beds. This is actually a bit more expensive a way to go than just tilling your soil, but it has advantages too. I can sit on the edge to pull weeds, and the produce is easier to reach. I don’t have to work the soil very much for planting, and I can easily plan for depth and soil quality. It’s great in areas with poor drainage, too.
Raised garden beds are becoming very popular. You can go to almost any general store and buy a kit with a 4’x4′ bed about 6-12 inches tall with a trellis for $50-$200. That’s a little out of my price range. My garden beds would have cost me around $3000 doing them that way, and I still want more. Not to mention you still have to put dirt in them!
Here are two ways we found work and are pretty inexpensive to build. One way is to buy landscape timbers or railroad ties on sale. The railroad ties just need to be laid end-end, the landscape timbers have to be stacked to the height you want, staggering them like you would a brick wall. I cut lengths of rebar with a diamond blade on my circular saw, drill a hole through the landscape timbers, and pound the rebar through and into the ground 1-3 feet. Make sure to do your corners! This is rather rustic, but they will last a few years. We have a bed that is ten years old and still holding up. The two beds on the right near the trees are landscape timber beds, the other two are made with 2×4’s.
The other easy way to go is to buy 2×4’s or 2×6’s or some such for the sides, and make wooden stakes that you pound in a foot or two (you can anchor these with rebar attached with brackets, too) and set to the height you want your bed. Screw the wooden sides to your supports, again staggering for strength. Nails won’t hold real well. You can also use brackets used for housing to hold the walls together. Fill the bed with dirt, and your ready to go.
Now, here are some bed tips from our experience.
~Never build a bed wider than 4 feet, no matter how tempting it is to go just one extra foot. It’s very hard to reach the centers of the bed without climbing in!
~Remember to give a cross support bar if you make bed’s longer than 8 feet to keep the sides of the beds up straight.
~Start your bed by killing or removing the grass in summer, and build the bed frame. Begin composting in that bed, so that by next spring you will have wonderful soil. You can get your neighbors to save their compostable items for you as well, and if you have kids send them on a compost collecting adventure every night or morning.
~You want your bed sides to be at least a foot high (12 inches), more if you cannot dig down at all. I have all mine at least 2 feet high except the ones I put trees in. They started at a foot, but have slowly compacted to about 6 inches.
~If you want things to be easy, install a simple sprinkler system in your beds at the ends and use removable yard and garden sprinklers through the beds. This makes watering easy, and is very helpful if you have the money. There are tons of ways to do irrigation in the beds, so use your imagination!
~Leave enough room between multiple beds for a wheelbarrow and a lawn mower. I would remove the grass between beds unless it’s a non-invasive variety. Grass in your raised beds is a nightmare!