We've been gardening for years in my family. I started my garden at our current house in 2009 but we went to raised beds in 2014, when we created a DIY raised bed garden with reclaimed wood. Last year, we decided to install raised beds. Why? They're easier to access than sitting on the ground and, because we started with all fresh dirt, there are fewer weeds. My back hurts when I garden! Even raising the bed 7″ is enough to make a big difference. Plus it is easier to see where things are planted and where to walk. Raised bed gardens can be installed in small spaces and are great for starting community gardens as well. Right now is the perfect time to start thinking about starting a garden so you can harvest early summer and fall vegetables later this year. Herbs are also a great addition to the garden, like these chives that have reseeded themselves for 5 years straight. Mmmm, I just love fresh chopped chives on a baked potato!
Raised bed kits are expensive and the one we did buy, did not last long. Luckily, as I was driving back from taking the kids to school one morning, I saw a sign at a local warehouse that they had free construction lumber. Crews had installed solar panels on the roof and all the 2x4s they had used during installation were going in the trash unless people took them. I loaded my car to the gills with as many 2x4s as I could fit and we got enough to build 5 more raised beds! The construction guy said that we could go to most any construction site and leave our number with the foreman and they might call us when they are ready to dump building materials because they save money by not having to pay to haul it away. My brother-in-law built his horse shelters the same way, with wood from a construction place out in Barstow. You just have to be ready to drop everything and drive out there when they call.
Here's how we created our raised beds for our garden:
Cut eight pieces of 2×4 to feet feet long each. These will form the sides of the planter box for the raised bed. If you want rectangle raised beds, adjust to cut four pieces for 2×4 to the length of the longer side and four pieces of 2×4 to the length of the shorter side of the raised bed.
Cut a 4×4 to 4 pieces, each eight inches long. These will form the corners of your raised bed. Using outdoor screws, screw the sides to the 4x4s as pictured above. Level the ground and place the planter box on top, using a level to make sure it is straight and level on all sides.
The next step was getting dirt to fill the beds. We got a load of manure from my brother-in-law and he helped us fill all of the beds. Buying steer manure is expensive but you can reach out to local farms and horse stables and see if they will let you haul it away. Sometimes they will. You can even put an ad in the paper offering to haul away manure. You just have to have a trailer or something to put it in and the muscles to shovel it. If you don't want to mess with manure, you can always use Scotts Miracle-Gro to feed the plants in the garden. I use Miracle-Gro with the manure for extra healthy plants that produce alot of vegetables. Mircale-Gro is available at most big box stores like Walmart and is easy to apply.
Here's what my garden currently looks like now in 2015:
Discoveries of raised bed gardens:
- We wasted alot of space on walkways. We are closing the gaps between the raised beds this year to make more planting space and less walkways.
- Manure makes healthy plants that reseed themselves. Kale, broccoli, potatoes, thyme, chives, onions, sunflowers, tomatillos, and a variety of lettuce all reseeded themselves and started growing before it even stopped freezing this year.
- Take the time to make the beds level when you put them in. I was in such a rush last year that we just seemed to toss the beds out there. Now we are having to remove them, dig them down in places, and then level them out and refill them with dirt. Back breaking is an understatement.
- We grow alot more, faster, especially root vegetables. The dirt is loose so root veggies grow better and it is easier to plant things close together.
- The walkways collect water and grow weeds really well. We are lining the walkways with felt this year to prevent the weeds from growing but to also provide a porous, mold-resistant surface for the water to drain through.
Over Easter we had our first harvest from the garden – a mesclun salad made completely with lettuce from my garden! Do you do raised bed gardens or any other type of gardening? Leave me a comment telling me how you enjoy gardening and about what you grow.
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