Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How To: Build a Raised Bed Garden

One of the recurring themes in many of the gardening books I have reviewed is the importance of good soil. I have slowly realized that the lack of this may be causing some of the issues in my garden. The soil around my house is primarily clay and rocks. It is actually amazing anything can grow in it.

Before the arrival of some new plants this fall, I thought I would prepare a double-dug raised bed.

The raised bed garden will provide many benefits:

1. Low maintenance
2. Less compaction
3. Higher production per square foot
4. Improved drainage
5. Less water use
6. Improved pest control

This is a step-by-step account of the process.

Step 1: Build a frame and position in place. This frame is constructed from three 8 foot 2"x8" planks, with some 2"x4" sections in the corners for bracing. The bed will be approximately 4'x8'. Mark around the frame to highlight the outline. You can use flour or just scratch with a shovel.

Step 2: Remove sod. This can be saved, turned over, or composted. Since I am planning on planting soon, I opted to add it to the compost pile.

Step 3: Now for the double-dig. First remove a trench of soil and set aside on a tarp or wheel barrow. Then till the bottom of the trench with a garden fork or other handy tool.

Step 4: Repeat this process. This time take the soil from the new trench and lay it in the old trench. Attempt to keep the soil "right side up", as generally the soil farther down is of lesser quality.

Step 5: Continue this process for the entire area. Use the soil that you removed from the first trench to fill in the last one.

Here are some of the rocks that were removed. It really was crappy soil.

Step 6: Add organic material. This is a wheelbarrow of leaf and grass compost.

Step 7: Use the same tilling tool to finish breaking up the soil and incorporating compost, topsoil, manure, sand, vermiculite, and/or other amendments, depending on what your soil requires.

Step 8: Reposition the frame and continue to add soil amendments until the bed is a few inches from the top. The raised bed is now ready to plant.


Chief said...

I just added two more wheelbarrow loads of compost today, since the soil had settled a bit. When the strawberries and asparagus arrive I will post an update.

Tim Lundie said...

I built the same raised bed garden with about the same dimensions two years ago. It was a reasonable way to get started in vegetable gardening. Like some newcomers, I made the mistake of planting too much but in the end it was a success. Avoiding any kind of toxic pest control was also a goal, and while I think there was a little more work involved, at least I didn't worry about what was on my gorgeous green peppers!