Monday, January 18, 2021

Raised Bed Gardening

If you have a large amount of property it’s possible to put some of that land aside for cultivation of food crops. However, if you lack those large tracts of land, that might not be feasible. 

An alternate consideration is raised bed gardening. Raised beds are available in kit form, like these, but can also be made from all sorts of materials; just be careful to line them with a barrier material if using treated lumber as one of the ingredients often found in pressure treatment chemicals is arsenic.

The first raised beds I built were made from 3”x5”x8’ treated landscape timbers. These timbers cost about three dollars each at the time, and each 4’x8’ bed took twelve of them. The process was fairly simple and I learned as we went. 

First, my wife and I dug out the ground to about the depth of one layer of landscape timber and about six inches clearance around the edges. In the bottom of this we placed a layer of heavy duty anti-weed fabric which allows water to flow through but helps prevent other plants from growing up from underneath your garden. On top of the anti-weed fabric, we placed a layer of gravel to help with drainage. Then I started to assemble the bed itself from the landscape timbers.

As you can see from the pictures, the beds are made from full 8’ lengths on the sides and half lengths on the ends. The layers are held together with countersunk lag bolts, but rebar can be used as well.

Once the frames were assembled, the inside was lined with a double layer of plastic sheeting to help isolate the soil from the chemicals in the wood. The outside space was filled in with spoil from where we dug out the site, and then the beds were filled with garden soil which we'd had delivered and dumped on a large tarp next to them to save both money and time. After the beds were filled and leveled, we covered the top with lighter anti-weed fabric. Cuts were made in the fabric just big enough to plant through.

Over the twelve years we lived at that house we increased the number of raised beds from two to four, and when we sold the house almost four years ago they were still in good shape. The current owner of the home uses them to this day.

We also made a smaller raised bed with a stone border that we used for an herb garden which we called Stonehenge.

I couldn’t even guess how many pounds of onions, tomatoes, peppers (both sweet and hot), cucumbers, etc. we grew in these gardens, not to mention all the dill, oregano, parsley, basil, etc. from the herb garden. 

As an added bonus, our next door neighbors also had a garden and we coordinated with them to some degree. While there was always overlap between our garden and theirs, we both made sure to grow things the other didn’t and we traded produce at the end of the season.

For those on Facebook, there's a raised bed group where people share tips and tricks as well as success and failure stories. Give it a try; it doesn't take much time, effort, or money to increase your food independence using this method.

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