Thursday, March 1, 2012

Raised Bed Gardening - How to Build a Bed

Dianne's raised bed - just planted

This is the first in a series about Raised Bed Gardening.

At Winter School this year we were treated to a demonstration of how to start a raised bed garden. 

(Have you noticed the Winter School theme in recent posts?  If you're a Tennessee Master Gardener and you've never been to Winter School, please think about attending next year!  If you're not a Tennessee Master Gardener, find out how to become one here.) 

Our fellow Master Gardener, Dianne Parks, started a raised bed garden last year and has graciously offered to let us follow her progress.  We're going to blend her experience with what we learned at Winter School.

Dianne followed the instuctions on the Yellawood site to construct her raised bed.  Note, however, that Yellawood itself is treated and is not suitable to use for the actual bed.  Dianne chose cedar because it is long-lasting and won't warp.  To extend the life even further, she gave the wood two coats of linseed oil.  (Use pure raw linseed oil, not the boiled, which has petroleum additives.)  Other suitable materials include cypress, larch, and even some of the new non-wood building materials.  Just be aware of the toxicity of any materials used.  Dianne found that she was not able to get cedar at the big box stores, but had to go to a lumber yard.  The good news is that they cut the boards to size for her!

Speaking of size:  you don't want to go any wider than four feet.  The key to raised bed gardening is NEVER step into the bed.  Four feet is a width that allows almost everyone to reach into the the center of the bed from the side.  I put in a raised bed garden several years ago and established six beds that are 6x6 feet square, strictly for aesthetics.  I so regret that now, but not enough to redo the beds!  A depth of at least 8" is recommended, with a minimum of 6".  Note that some plants will like it deeper.

Use screws instead of nails to connect the boards, to further minimize warping and nail popping, then use "L" clamps to connect sections, if desired.  Dianne's final bed was two 4x8 foot sections.

You can lay hardware cloth or weed block cloth on the ground, then place your frame on top of that.  This will help control those pesky critters and weeds.  Do not line with plastic, as this will prevent earthworms from getting into the soil in your beds.

Next:  Filling the beds.

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