Well, I am pleased to announce, I have made it through another Midwest winter with most of my sanity intact. No small feat. And one thing that always helps arrive at the days of green and color, is planning my summer garden. It’s like a magical tincture to chase away the winter doldrums.
I have always been a garden bed kinda gal, just dig in the earth, plant your seedlings, pull some weeds and give some water and……PRESTO……FOOD !!! But then……we MOVED. And at our new home, in our new yard, well, the soil is less than spectacular. In particular, the draining (or lack thereof) of the soil. My plants were NOT happy with their very wet home.
So this year, we are going to do something different. Something new. Something I should have done YEARS ago. We are going to garden in raised beds. Gardening in beds is going to do a few things for me this year, it is going to increase my yield, and save my back. Both of which sound pretty good to me.
Do you absolutely NEED to garden in raised beds ? Nope, but if your soil is not ideal, or if you want to grow deep root crops such as carrots, it is the way to go. And if you REALLY dislike hunching over your garden plot for several hours a week, causing you to walk around like the bell-ringer at Notre Dame, trust me…..it’s worth it.
But are there other benefits ? YES !! They keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. The sides of the beds keep your valuable garden soil from being eroded or washed away during heavy rains. In many regions, gardeners are able to plant earlier in the season because the soil is warmer and better drained when it is above ground level.
Raised beds are NOT garden planters. Planters are elevated containers which have bottoms to prevent the soil from falling out. Planter bottoms usually are slatted, with some type of semi-permeable cloth barrier which permits drainage. Raised beds, however, do not have bottoms; they are open to the ground, which offers the benefit of permitting plant roots to go further into the ground for available nutrients.
Raised garden beds are available in a variety of different materials, or they can be made with relative ease.
After doing a lot of research, I am ready to build and more than ready to GROW. So, let’s take a look at how we can make this happen :
Our family has decided to go with traditional wood beds, as we happened to have it at our ready, and one of the only thing that compares with my love of gardening, is my love of all things frugal. SCORE !!
Building a standard 3-ft x 5-ft garden bed with wood is typical; however, you also can use blocks, pavers, stone, or a pile of soil. For this project you will need 2 x 4s, a 4 x 4 post, tape measure, pencil, square, drill with bits and screw-driving bits, a circular saw, work gloves, soil, landscape fabric, shovel, hoe, level, utility knife, sawhorses, soil, wheelbarrow, and a soaker hose. You’ll also need the flowers or vegetables of your choice.
Select a location with plenty of sun and access to both sides for easy upkeep. Mark the outline of the garden bed on the ground and dig up the sod without disturbing the soil underneath. Check the ground with a level to make sure the base is even.
Lay the landscaping fabric down and cut to cover the bare soil with about 6 inches extra along each edge. Cut the 2 x 4s and 4 x 4 s to length, screw the ends of three longer 2 x 4s to a pair of 4 x 4s with the edges and ends flush to form panels. Then screw the shorter 2 x 4s to the 4 x 4s to form the box.
Position the box on the landscape fabric and check that it’s level. Cut any excess landscaping fabric and add soil or compost, or BOTH. Next, which is my favorite part, plant your vegetables or flowers by pulling back the dirt. You can also add an irrigation “system” by running an irrigation, or drip hose between plants, but I prefer to water by hand, as I find it therapeutic !!
Now….get out there…..get dirty….and embrace these days of spring, as the dog days of summer will be here before you know it. And nothing tastes better than salad you’ve grown yourself !!