We eat a lot of fresh produce in our house. I’ve been wanting to grow more of it myself, but sunny space and time have been limiting factors. That changes this year.
A month or two ago, when the first warm weather began to hit, I prepared a new raised bed so I’d be ready when the frost date passed. The garden on the south side of the house got torn up last fall when we added on to the house, giving me an opportunity for a fresh start. Now it’s time to build a garden again.
Constructing a raised bed
The new raised bed is 16 feet long by 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep.
- First, I marked the four interior corners of the bed, squaring them to the house. The back of the bed is 18 inches from the wall of the house, which will permit me room to move around easily as I maintain and harvest later this year.
- I pounded in stakes made of 2 x 4 lumber, roughly 20 inches long, at the four corners and at a point halfway along each length, making sure they were plumb and level. This is the most tedious part of the job, but it makes a great difference in the appearance and stability of the bed. The stakes extend about eight inches into the ground and 12 inches above.
- Then, I laid out a pattern of 4 x 4 posts, leveled them, and attached them with screws to the stabilizing stakes at the four corners and in the center of each length. I staggered the post ends in a kind of running-bond pattern, so as not to create deepseams that might work their way apart over time. Four-inch deck screws hold the posts to one another, and the corners are further anchored with 5-inch-long lag screws. This hardware ensures that when the children inevitably use the bed walls as a balance beam, the posts won’t topple down.
- To deter burrowing critters like voles, I stapled lengths of black fiberglass window screening to the inside of the bed walls, overlapping the corners. The screening extends about eight inches into the ground. The voles have been minor problems in the past, so I hope the window screening will be enough to keep them at bay. Although I’ve seldom been accused of under-engineering a project, I opted for the screen over the much sturdier (and correspondingly expensive) hardware cloth, on the grounds that hardware cloth seemed a bit excessive for the threat presented.
- I removed the weeds present, broke up the heavy clay soil, and laid lengths of cardboard in the bed’s base. The cardboard will suppress weeds in the short term, until I can fill the bed with soil, and will break down over time and improve the soil’s tilth.
This bed is going to require more soil than I have to hand, so it’s time to order some quality compost.