Sunday, June 17, 2012
raised garden beds
We debated for quite some time just how to go about preparing the garden area this year.
till? no-till? raised beds? double shovel dug? pigs? hundreds of pots?
It's an odd space where a few established raspberry plants follow the curve of the pond on one side, a rhubarb plant is smack in the middle of the other side, and the straightest part runs along the fence where the neighbor's goats like to hang out. It is altogether rectangular, round, and square at once.
It's quirky. It's windy. It's rocky. And it's prone to the occasional flood. The combination of these factors makes for a space that at one time or another is usually overrun by weeds that have blown in as seeds (but that can't easily be managed because of the apparent rock garden lurking just below the soil surface) - or - appearing to be barren because a flood has just swiftly washed all the topsoil and newly planted seeds straight into the pond (which is what happened during our first spring here).
Raised garden beds seemed to be the best solution for this area, so that's what we've been working on this season. We'd like to move away from tilling in favor of permaculture farming, and I would say this is kind of the intermediate step. I've always had great success growing in raised beds. They're particularly valuable for crops like carrots and potatoes, which like a deep bed of soil to grow down into. Plants can be more tightly packed in the space for this same reason, too. They also give me the illusion that I have neatly managed and contained the outdoor spaces, which I every-so-often like to think I have control over.
We've got two completed and planted out, with enough space, wood, and soil for 6 more to be built, hopefully before the season is up. We squared off the middle of the garden area for the raised bed space, and I've taken to rogue planting on all the outskirts!
I must declare my absolute love of these beautiful beds, made from a cedar wood Craigslist score and hand-crafted by my husband to fit our odd space. They are each 8 feet long by 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep. As a kind of experiment, some will be lined with hardware cloth (to deter burrowing animals, of which we have several around, but don't know if they'll actually be a problem) and a layer of cardboard as a weed barrier of sorts. I also plan to layer cardboard and old hay on all the 3 foot walkways between the beds in an effort to curtail those pesky weeds.
Here are a couple of links we found invaluable in the planning of these beds:
Simple building plans
Cubic yard soil calculator
This serves as a very rugged "before" photo, and I'll be sure to share the "after" when they're all completed so you can see how everything came together! How do you grow stuff in your space?