Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Build a Raised Bed 
(for those who have no idea what they are doing)

So you want to have a garden?
What do you do if your yard is full of weeds, soil dried up years ago, and has a ridiculous amount of glass... because you rent.

And what do you do if you move? You don't want to leave the 'plant babies' behind!

My solution to all of the above: Portable Raised Beds

My husband and I have been looking to buy a home for the past year or so.
At any time, we could find a home of our own, and leave. I needed to figure out a way I could do a real garden without leaving all the wonderful things I planted.

So this year, gardening got serious. We've been building raised beds.
Don't be fooled - if you are going to do this, it's a real project.
For us, it turned into a big project, thanks to some late spring hail and snow. 
(We live in Central Oregon, after all, so no real surprise there.)

These beds are useful for other issues too. If you have back problems, and can't stoop as low, they're fantastic. If you have acidic soil, (like us here in Bend,) it's a great way to start with some fresh, PH balanced soil. With the lining in the bottom, they are a great way to keep the garden weed free.
Also, the boxes look so nice and organized out there! :)

Here is a step by step tutorial for making these wonderful gardening problem solvers...

Building Raised Beds

Step 1: Decide What Type of Gardener You Are

What do you want to grow?
What does your family like to eat?
How much time do you want to spend on gardening all summer?

Answer these questions first before you start your plans. 
If you're already a gardener, you probably know the answers, but if you are what my hubby calls a "N00b," (a beginner,) you might want to start small, or only choose a few types of veggies, and do just 1 or 2 beds, or make them even smaller.

Step 2: Plan, Plan, Plan!!!

Seriously, do your research! I spent a few days doing research on Companion Planting. It's one of the best natural gardening techniques. Some veggies do not like to be near others, and some benefit from being next to another. For example, lettuce and the cabbage family loves radishes, because radishes fend off those wormy bugs that like to eat them before we get to. Also, squashes are very picky about who their neighbor is, and won't grow as well. The same is true for tomatoes, (picky little boogers!) 

Good ol'wikipedia has a fantastic graph showing which plants can be 'friends.'

 There are many other resources out there as well.

This planning step also involves planning what type of beds you want to do, determining size, and supports. Draw up your plans, with measurements. Keep in mind how much of each plant you would like to plant, and where they would go in these beds.

I decided I would do four 2ft X 6ft beds, with two 2ft supports. Big enough for planting a bit, small enough to be moved (if necessary, by several big, strong men.)

Since I wanted it to be portable, I planned to have two supports beams on the bottom, and hardware cloth underneath to make the bed portable.

I drew up my plans based on which plants would be neighbors and how much of each plant I wanted to do. Keep in mind that some plants are spring plants, and some are summer, so once the spring lettuce is gone, you could do another row or two of carrots for continual planting.

(Note: This was my rough draft. I revised this plan later. I was told my a gardening friend do not plant pumpkins near other things. He said they can take over, and need their own space!

Step 3: Shopping for Materials

Bring your plans to the store, and price EVERYTHING!
I am always thankful that my husband Ben is 'the numbers guy.'
He helped me price everything down to the screws to figure out what each bed would cost. This included the lumber, the hardware cloth for the bottom.

We decided on:

~ 2 X 8 X 8  Douglas Fir lumber (no chemical pressure treatment! Yuck!) 
~ A big roll of hardware cloth to nail to the bottom and sides, 
~ fabric liner inside so weeds won't go through, and will hold the soil in
 ~ 4 bags of organic soil, per bed, and mixed in 1 bag of organic compost, per bed,
(made from veggie scraps, not poop!) 
~ Don't forget all the screws and U shaped nails.

You could just to do that, but if you are like us, you have little animals that want to get into what you've just planted. Even though my yard is fenced, we've had deer. 
Also, if you know me well, you've heard about my neighbor's cat problem. He has 10 cats. Yes, seriously! And they are all in my yard, trying to poop everywhere!
So, we got some wire to shape and netting to cover it.
(Honestly, I need to reevaluate my cover plans. The wire I got was too flimsy. I'm going back today after writing this to look at other wire or different ideas.)
I have to keep the cats out!

Yes, this is one of them... one of ten!

Step 4: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Just so you know, an 2 X 8 X 8 are not always 8 ft, but can be a little longer. And 2x4 are not exactly 2inches by 4 inches! That's a rookie mistake!
Don't assume because a board is call that, that it's the exactly length. Sometimes, they are that long, sometimes, they are longer. 

Again, the good old saying, "Measure twice, cut once" applies.
You'd hate to have to go back and buy MORE wood and not be able to use what you have.

Step 5: Lay it out

Wood has print on it from the lumber mill, and an occasional black mark from the processing. Give them a good look over, and plan so those are on the inside.
Measure and mark where every screws will go.

This is the part I'm having trouble explaining!
Make sure every spot screwed in in in the middle of the middle board's thickness, and is not too close to the edge, (an inch in from the edge should be fine.)

You're just going to have to do your own measuring!

(Oh, and that's when it started to hail on us, and then snow! That's just Central Oregon spring for you.)

 Two inches of snow, in April!

Step 6:  Screw it together!

Now that you have measured every last screw mark, drill a very small hole on each. We found that helps the screw to go in better.

I realize I have a lot of pictures of Ben doing every part of this, 
but I worked on them too. Promise! :)

Step 7: Hardware Cloth Bottom

This is hardware cloth: a metal wire fencing, like chicken wire, 
but thicker gauge and more sturdy.

We flipped it over, and hammered it in on the bottom supports and on the sides (we tried one nailed outside, and one inside. It was MUCH easier to nail it outside, and probably sturdier too.)

Nailed in and ready to go! 
This is the one where we nailed it inside, which was much harder.

Step 8: Add the Liner and Dirt!

Well, that's pretty self explanatory!
Just remember that when you are adding dirt, keep the side of the liner 
up so you don't loose your gardening soil down. 
When it's full, you may have to tuck in the corners.

Step 9: Plant Your Veggies!!!
Remember to check for your last frosts before planting. Also, you may want to check out the Old Farmer's Almanac for best planting times.

Now, I'm off to Lowe's to get more soil and compost.
These took more soil bags than we had originally thought.
I'm so glad we did just one first before starting on all the rest.

I will post pictures when things start coming up.
 In a little bit, I hope to post another blog about seedings!
They are all starting to come up too! They will be ready to plant soon, after the last frost, and being hardened off.... but more about that later.

For now, a picture of the little "plant babies" (as a friend and I like to call them.)

Happy Building & Planting!
And Happy Earth Day!

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