Friday, March 4, 2011

This Week I Will Build a Raised Garden Bed

Since I ordered some cold-weather vegetables seeds, I better have somewhere to plant them. And since the cold-weather vegetables I plan to grow are root vegetables they can’t go in my regular garden spot. The soil where I live is dense and clayey, lousy for root veggies, which is why I haven’t grown any before. The solution is to build a raised bed and fill it with looser turnip/radish-friendly soil. Many raised beds are only 6” – 8”, but what if I want carrots later? I’m making mine 12” deep.
I find it interesting that in trying to do good for the planet; I keep coming back to gardening. Most environmentally conscious actions are actually inactions. I won’t drive. I won’t use plastic bags. I won’t buy meat from New Zealand. But growing food, especially growing food without chemicals, is a positive action I can take that reaps many benefits. It is actually good for the planet and for us, not just “less bad”.  So, until I can design a new solar car engine, I will write about growing food. And this week I will build a raised garden bed.

Here's the bed. I threw stuff on top to keep out
the neighborhood cats until I can plant
After looking at prefab garden beds, I decided to build my own because it would be a fraction of the cost. I already bought the wood (sorry, I don’t know where it came from, other than, “my region”) and 3” galvanized screws. The lumber yard cut my 2” x 12” x 16’ board, which cost $16, into four foot lengths. I recruited my dad to help me assemble it. We used simple butt joins and the work was quick and easy. The biggest problem was that dad wouldn’t let me drill. I like to drill. Anyway, I leveled the ground while he made pilot holes and the whole thing was done and in place in under 45 minutes.

Why Bother?
I should have much more control over gardening conditions with a raised bed. My choice of soil, easier watering, no soil compaction from walking near the plants. I should be able to plant very densely in the four by four box. If you don’t have a lot of planting room this is supposed to be a great solution. I’m thinking about making a grid and trying the four-square method in which 1’ x 1’ section is treated as its own garden, often with a different kind of plant. And for me, I’ve never been successful with root veggies in the ground. Now I’ll know if it’s really my soil, or just me.

Part of the rest of the
garden. There's still a
lot of work to do.
Even so, I consider this an experiment. I built one 4’ x 4’ bed and I’m planting the rest of my garden straight into the ground, like always. I’ll see how much difference the box really makes for me before I go building raised beds all over the yard. This experiment cost about $60, mostly for the soil. I bought a recycled, composted mixture from Costco at $7.79 per bag. If I had a pickup truck it would have been cheaper and bag-free.

My seeds arrived this week and I can’t wait for a calm time to do some sowing!

P.S. I’ve been saving clear plastic clamshells and lidded containers from food to use as mini greenhouses for seed starting.

DIY Raised Garden Beds

What to Plant When

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

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