Digging In

| 4/5/2012 11:25:59 AM

digging in boxes laid outThis year’s garden is a major expansion of what we had last year, reaching up a sunny slope and installing another 16 boxes (there are two more behind the barn that you cannot see).  The old garden occupied the only “flat” area of our so-called lawn (and that was not especially flat or level).  The expansion reaches up a slope that is 20-25 degrees in many places.  If I just flop the boxes out on the grass and leave them, the soil mixture will tend to wash out the low corners in heavy spring rains, often taking some of the seedlings with it.  To keep everything where it belongs I must level the boxes.  These don’t have to be perfectly level, but better than they are now.

In getting this task done I’ve developed and perfected a technique for accomplishing the task in a minimum of time and bother.  I’d like to share that with you here.

 diggin in lined upStart by building the boxes, installing the weed cloth bottoms to the lower edges with plenty of staples and lay the boxes out in roughly the right positions.  No need to get real fussy yet. 

Last year I used a rather cumbersome method of digging in each box, clearing out the interior dirt then laying in weed cloth and stapling it to the inside faces of the box.  Don’t do that.  Grass and weeds have no problem pushing up in the spaces between staples along the sides of the boxes and removing them is tough because they’re actually rooted outside the box.  If you must go this route, add a thin batten over the weed cloth and nail or staple it liberally to pinch off any entry route.  This year I fastened the cloth to the bottom edges of the box so the weight of the frame will help close off potential entry points.  At least that’s the theory.  I probably should have used battens here too, but I didn’t.  We’ll see how this works out.

Required tools:

  • Garden spade (round nose)
  • Square nose shovel
  • Carpenter’s level (or equivalent)
  • Digging frame (you can use a box without cloth on it or build a frame of 2x4 that is much easier to lift in and out)
  • At least 4 marker sticks: these could be straight sticks, scraps of wood, light rebar, tent stakes, whatever you have on hand

digging in supervisorNot required but very handy:

4/8/2012 6:31:18 PM

Thanks Dave. I envy your ability to flop, fill & plant. I do mulch most things. I found last year that the tomatoes do not like being mulched and did much better when I pulled it back out. But I was using wood chips. Had I used straw it may have worked better. Apparently the decomposing wood chips use up something the tomatoes need - nitrogen? Removing the chips and adding a tomato fertilizer brought them back to happiness. Good luck to you with Terra Nova... I'll be following a long!

4/8/2012 1:47:30 PM

Allan, you have the raised garden bed box building down to a technique that's for sure. I've not had the privilege to build a raised bed on uneven ground. All my garden beds were on fairly flat ground. Your step by step method should be clear enough for anyone who wishes to build a level raised bed. The weed barrier is a great addition. When I built mine, I didn't do that and now every spring I have to pull out a few grass sprouts. That's even though I put 8 inches of composted soil over the grass. Good luck with all your garden beds for this year. Do you mulch in your vegetable plants. I try to mulch at least 4 inches deep around the big plants like tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, etc. Have a great day in the garden.

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