Raised Beds, the Hard Way

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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It seems that every time a project comes up, it’s always done the hard way. Over-engineering takes much longer than needed, and so it is with my garden, but when it’s done it’s built to last a lifetime. These rocks that I have found for my raised beds come from my neighborhood. Many walls have been built with these rocks, and — as they replace them with the new, modern, retaining wall blocks — it gives me a ready supply of rocks to use for raised beds.

I have hauled away several walls of rocks and used them for outlining the raised beds that have been built in Terra Nova Gardens.

A layer of weed barrier laid down will keep the weeds from growing. My favorite barrier is old dumpster carpet from apartment buildings. An overlapping layer does the trick. I’ve had some carpet in the garden for five years without any sign of deterioration. Four corner stones are placed in position to anchor the corners and to use as a guide for the sides and ends.

A rope is stretched from one corner to the other on the same side. A good, sharp, carpet knife cuts through the carpet about three or four inches inside of the rope.

For the other side of the raised bed, the carpet is dragged into place under the stretched rope. Then rocks can be laid along the rope with the flat side out against the inside of the rope line. The two-to-three-inch lip of carpet will be under the rock line, and the jagged edge will be facing the growing medium of the bed.

Once the rocks are all in position, a good cleanup of the debris will make the bed ready for the digging. I turn to beds when, in the spring, the soil dries out enough for a good, smooth bed result. Since this one is a virgin bed, it doesn’t have the fall grass/leaf mulch cover that the others have. When the soil has been turned, the first thing to sprout is the early spring weeds that are sliced off below the surface with a hula/strip hoe and the weed debris removed. About three weeks later, the grass sprouts, and the same method is used to clean up the beds. After that the bindweed and other vines grow up, so hula hoe and rake for the final time.

By this time the last frost date has passed, and it’s time to plant. The three eradication processes of weeds and a layer of mulch after planting do a good job of keeping the weeds at a minimum. It’s been too wet to do any digging just yet, and the soil temperature is still under 45 degrees. Hopefully the rain will end soon and the digging will begin.

This completes half of the garden area with a total of seven beds. I already have another five beds that I use for the main garden area, bringing the total to twelve. All the pathways between the beds will have hard wood mulch over the carpet at a depth of two inches. The seven seen in the above picture will have an additional fence around the area, with an electric fence to protect the area from garden predators. It’s an extension of the the sweet corn fortress from last year.

As you can see, plants are busting to get out in the ground. They are getting familiar with the outside weather. Today was a good day for them to be outside; the temperature was in the upper 50s with very little sun. So garden life is good on the Urban Backyard Ranch and Terra Nova Gardens.

What’s been happening in your garden?

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