Thursday, March 25, 2010

A New Raised Bed for Spring Planting

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.

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Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

They are gorgeous!! I want raised beds...still haven't got hubs talked into building them yet! :) He's already worried about replacing the wood on them...I'm like, we have to build them first! Can't we worry about them rotting AFTER we build them?!?! Men...;)

Bronnie said...

They look great! Will you come and make one for me? lol

Bethany said...

Jennifer, if you happen to have a Sam's card, this might be the way to go. No hubby nagging, and they won't rot. This is just one of the two we bought, so this one cost forty for the box, and then about $30 for the soil. I'm going to fill the other with a soil-less mix, just to experiment a bit, so it will cost slightly more, but they're a great deal.

Or you could let him price cedar for building the raised beds, and he might not mind about the pine rotting. :D

Seriously though, maybe cinder blocks? They won't rot. You just make a box out of them by laying them end to end on the ground, and then you can even fill the holes with soil and plant herbs and flowers in them to be a border. Marigolds and lots of herbs even help keep pests away. I think I'd like to try one like that sometime too.

Bronnie, sure, where would that be? I'm not sure if your profile says, but I'm guessing from the way you write, Australia? I could use a vacation, why not? ;)

MMM said...

oneI got my set at BJ's for $39.95 last week.They just issued a coupon good from 3/30-4/14 for $29.95. I may go get another. That should make it better and easier than a do it yourself from wood or ocncrete blocks.

meborino said...

I'm planning on growing peppers and tomatoes. Do you recommend that I stack 2 for depth?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am just starting my very first little tiny garden. I bought this raised bed today,but smaller- the size is 42x42x6" the tall size OK for planting some tomato,peas and herbs?

Bethany said...

I think these are deep enough without stacking to grow tomatoes, etc. Especially if you have them over dirt, and not concrete or something.


It depends on what varieties you plant, but you should have enough room for a couple of each. If you look for "compact", "container", "dwarf", "patio" on the labels, you'll be buying smaller plants and will definately have the room. Tomatoes can go a little wild, but you can keep them pruned. You definately will need cages for them to keep them from falling all over the other plants.

Herbs like mint, lemon balm, yarrow, chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are all perenials, which means they come back every year and get bigger and bigger. And some of them, like mint, spread invasively. Just be aware when you're planning your spacing and everything if you want to plant something like that.

You'll save room if you plant a vining pea and use a nice trellis for it to climb. Remember to put tall things, like pea trellises, to the north side, so they don't shade out the sun loving tomatoes and herbs.

In most locations, it's a little late to plant peas, they're actually a cool weather crop. You can plant them in August or September depending on your frost dates for a fall crop. You might want to try a snap bean right now instead. Kentucky Wonder is a nice one that climbs, and Contender is my absolute favorite bush bean.

Anonymous said...

To Bethany...WOW, thank you for the replay, Bethany! It is very helpful!
I may get back to you with more questions later:-) Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I also purchased 2 of the smaller beds @ BJ's with coups so they were $29.95. Very easy to set up for a Sr. Experimenting with organic fillings. Also added earthworm castings that I received from a friend. (Also a few stray worms). I planted 9 tomato plants, basil & zinnias in the first one. I use The Buddy System poles for my toms. I have had them for at least 15 years - no rust & I leave them out all winter (in MASS). This makes it easier to keep the plants neater & easy to plant more in a small space. In the 2nd box I planted 3 toms, yellow squash & zucchini. I have been growing vertically for years so I can cram in more plants. Also added flowers & herbs. I just purchased 2 of the large boxes on-line with free shipping. I loved the small boxes but couldn't get any more @ BJ's. Wish I had a Sams card - these were a lot less expensive there. I also have another raised bed from Gardeners Supply. I LOVE the ones from Greenland Gardener. They are far superior to Gardeners Supply - sturdier & more aesthetically pleasing & less expensive. I can't wait to receive my 2 large boxes so I can continue planting now that the weather has warmed up enough. I recommend these highly to everyone. The added 8" of height also is easier on my back.

Caroline said...

I am getting ready to plant my raised bed garden in Florida. I also bought the square foot gardening book! What a great idea to use the clips to secure twine to section off each square. Thanks!

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