Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Build a garden bed!

I decided to add some space to the garden this year. The soil in my backyard is like cement, so a good option is to build raised beds with good earth, and it will gradually break up the hardpan underneath and make for a nice little garden plot.

The first thing to do is stake out some territory. This is good to do a few days in advance so you can see how the sun hits the spot, if you trip over it all the time, and if the lawnmower can get around it. Throw some junk in there while you're at it since it will give the worms something to eat at the bottom of the bed and might help break up some of that concrete on the bottom.

The next step is to build the walls. Lee Valley sells these cool connectors from Sweden that do a great job of holding boards together. They are meant for making stacked planters, but work just fine for one storey efforts too. I used cedar 10 inches wide and one inch thick. Cedar costs a bit more, but it will last forever and you don't have to worry about all that preservative gunk they use to make other woods survive in the great outdoors. The board at the top is a guide to make sure the boards I am attaching are straight.

Essentially, you just bolt up your boards and put them on the ground. Since the metal brackets are only 8 inches long, you have to decide which end of the boards to put them on. I keep them at the bottom, since the earth will settle at the top anyway.

Here's a shot of one on a two-year old bed, and it seems to be doing just fine.

I also hammer in some 3 foot rebar against the wall on each side to help support the walls against the pressure of all that dirt. I'm not sure it is absolutely necessary, but then again I wouldn't know because I always do it. I give them a spray with rust paint first to keep them looking lovely.

Once your bed is laid out and filled with garden debris...

...order your dirt! I used a premium organic blend from Greely Sand and Gravel. It looks like good stuff to me. I got 5 yards, but the 8 foot by 12 foot bed only needed about 4 yards to fill it.Can't hurt to have extra dirt though, and as you know, I'm a too-much-is-better-than-too-little kind of guy. (Note, the beer and radio are vital accessories for this work.)

One important point is to not bolt the whole thing together at the start. Leave one bracket unattached so you can open the door for your wheelbarrow.

Speaking of wheelbarrows, I had THE most spectacular wipe-out of my gardening career on load number 34.

There I was, happily chugging away on the project when...

...all of a sudden the stupid piece of wood at the front of the wheelbarrow dug into the ground. (I think this is the design flaw of the century, nay! of the UNIVERSE!)

So I ended up flying right over the wheelbarrow (ass over tea kettle is the proper term, I think).

And landed somewhere, somehow in such a way that I only got a wee scratch. Some people out there may think that the beer contributed to this wipe-out, but I am positive that it saved my life and kept me all bendable like Gumby so that I didn't get hurt on impact. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. I thought this whole thing was pretty hilarious -- Americas Funniest Home Videos worthy for sure. Sadly (maybe not, actually), no one was filming this miracle so it has been brought to you via paper and a Sharpie.

ANYWAY, pile the dirt nice and high. You need to keep the door area clear so you can close it and bolt things together so it's good to pile it up and rake it back into that empty space at the end. Once you think you have enough dirt in there, bolt the door closed, hammer in the last piece of rebar, and start raking.

Go for a walk on the garden once you've done the initial raking to pack things down a little, and ...

volia! Mission accomplished! Ninety-six square feet of total fun! I put a wee plant in there right away in the top corner for luck -- you know, like putting a penny in a wallet when you give it to someone. Now you're off to the races! Get plantin'! (And watch out for bumps!)

1 comment:

  1. LOL, love the drawings describing your fall...oh both my husband and I have had wipe out moments!
    Wow, your beds are just beautiful! Mine are not as pretty as those, very good job!:-) roberta