Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Raised Beds Revisited

You may remember that last year Dianne had a workshop at her home to demonstrate how to build a raised bed.  (See Part I, Part II, Part III.)  This last weekend my wonderful husband, Walter, (and our wonderful neighbor, Raymond) built two new 4x8 beds plus a 2x2 bed for Raymond's little girl, Alice.  Alice was a big helper!  This morning I helped out at PAR Collierville as third-graders from Collierville Elementary School toured the garden.  We explained the benefits of raised bed gardening to them and some of the parents had questions.  So I promised to post details about what I'd done this weekend.  I'm going to break this down into what it takes for one bed.

Per Dianne's advice, we went out to Germantown Lumber to get cedar to construct the beds.  Remember, you shouldn't use treated lumber because of chemicals that can leach into your soil.  Charles Speed, the owner, listened to our plans, then advised us to use cypress instead of cedar.  He said it would last just as long and cost about half.  Well.  We bought 2x12 boards.  He cut them into the correct lengths for us: two 8' lengths and two 4' lengths.  We also bought a 1x8 board and cut it ourselves (don't you like that "ourselves" part??) into eight 4" pieces for the corners.

from the Yellawood Raised Bed Project
Since we bought 12" boards for the frame and 8" boards for the corner pieces, we centered the corner pieces on the frame.  In the above picture, the corner pieces and the frame are the same size.  Centering the pieces gave us the advantage of being able to pick the whole thing up more easily.

The guys put some weatherproof glue on the ends where they joined together, then used 3" deck screws to screw the pieces together. They put the same glue on the corner pieces, then attached them with 2.5" galvanized exterior common nails.  Voila, the frame was built!  We let it sit inside the garage overnight so that the glue would set.

They put the frame where I wanted it, which was in a area previously used for a holly hedge that was removed a few weeks ago, included the stumps.  So it was bare ground.  If you're going to place it on a grassy area, lay down some corrugated cardboard and put the frame on top of it.  That will kill the grass.

Next we used the lasagna method to fill the bed.  We put down four cubic feet of topsoil (four 1 cf bags), then a layer of shredded leaves, then a layer of shredded newspaper, then half of a 50 lb bag of composted cow manure.  We repeated these layers, then topped the bed with another four bags of topsoil.  I soaked each bed and now the layers will start "working."  I'll probably have to add some leaves and topsoil during the winter because the level will drop as everything starts decomposing.  I'll be judicious about the leaves, 'cause I want everything to be composted by early next spring so I can start planting.

You may be wondering about the shredded newspaper.  I did a raised bed last year and tried to shred newspapers with my little home office shredder.  It worked ok, but it was S-L-O-W!  So I've saved my papers for a while instead of putting them out for the recycling truck.  I took them over to Shred Shop of Memphis at 318 Collins Street.  They'll shred your newspapers for you at a cost of $10 for the first 25 pounds and $.25 a pound after that.  It's a deal.  Turns out I had 32 lbs of newspaper.  I was so happy.

So, total cost for one bed:

          Lumber                             $80
          Screws & nails            10 (but we had lots left)
          Topsoil                                21 (16 bags @ $1.30)
          Cow manure                         5  (one 50 lb bag)
          Newspaper                           6 (about 15 lbs)
          Leaves                                  0 (plenty of leaves around!)

                      Total                   $122

A good time was had by all!


  1. That's great to know about the cypress. For the corrugated cardboard a bicycle box works great. The Peddler usually has some behind the shop, free for the taking.

  2. This is great, and just what we needed! Cort, Sunday project??


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