Our soil here is very heavy, very clay-ey, and pretty low lying compared to the fields and houses around us. This makes it a challenge to grow carrots, and other root veggies, since they prefered ground that they can really stretch out in and grow straight. It's also really difficult to plant spring crops, because the garden doesn't usually dry out enough to be worked until June or so, and because spring is pretty brief here, it's much too hot for things like lettuces, spinach, peas, broccoli, and cabbages and cauliflower.
One solution I devised last year was the lettuce patch I built last summer and fall near the deck of our house. This is a very protected area that warms up more quickly than the rest of the yard and is really well draining because the grade of the yard has been built up considerably for the house. This worked very well for lettuces, because their roots are relatively shallow, but it's not suitable for onions or carrots since they earth beneath the lasagna bed is still pretty hard packed, and they wouldn't be able to grow much deeper than the three inches or so that we built up there last year.
I knew that a good choice for the spring plantings would be raised beds, but was unsure about being able to build any this year.
Then I found this beauty at Sam's Club last weekend. This is a Greenland Gardener Raised Bed Kit and it's 84"X42" and 8" deep. It was $40 and a great solution to our raised bed problems. I figured out that it would cost just about as much to build a raised bed from wood, but this one slides together beautifully and came in a box that was very easy to transport. Not having a truck is a big obstacle when building things, since lumber just will not fit in our car. We were able to bring home two of these plus all the groceries and a trunk load of topsoil, manure and humus.
I laid the first one out on Tuesday, using lots of cardboard and newspaper as weed barrier, and the bags from the soild around the edges to become weed barrier for the paths. For now, I laid flakes of straw over the plastic to keep it in place and make it look nice, but eventually we'll use shredded bark or wood chips for the paths in this area. This whole bed used 18 40 lb bags.
I decided since raised bed gardening is all new to me, I'd try something else that's new to me as well, and use a Square Foot Gardening type of planting layout. I found a lot of guidance from this site, which is an awesome gardening site, square foot or not, and laid out my grid.
Another small advatage of this product is that it came with these little clips in case two are being stacked together. We're not stacking them, but the clips were perfect for holding my guide twine and then I could just unclip them and move them to the next side, and they were easily adjusted for the correct square proportions.
I planted cabbage starts in the middle four squares with radishes and carrots along the lines and yellow, purple, and white onion sets along the outsides. The onions are slightly crowded, but we love eating young onions as green onions, so they'll be thinned as they grow and we'll leave enough room for the maturing ones when they're larger. The two squares on the ends are planted in buttercrunch lettuce and bloomsdale spinach.