Backyard Part Two: Our Raised Beds

One of the fundamental parts of our backyard design was to put in some raised beds for flowers and veggies. Not only do they provide happy healthy soil for veggies to grow, we also felt they would give some definition to what was becoming an open expanse of a yard.

We first showed you the beds here where we placed them during the “dig” phase in order to have a place to put the dirt that we were excavating.

One last recap of the yard post-tree-removal, pre-raised-beds:

Mmmmmm tree stump

Well, here’s the story of their design and construction.

Firstly, we searched online to see if there was a simple design that we could use that was more than just pressure treated lumber or concrete. We wanted something that would add a little texture and height to that side of the yard. I went to one of my go-to sources, Sunset Magazine’s online site and found a couple of articles with just what I was looking for. We chose this design because we liked the sturdiness, but also practicality, PLUS it had a set-up to create a hoop-house for cold weather growing that was fairly hidden. So, we set out to look for materials.

Being the cheap eco-friendly gals that we are, we went to the logical first source: CRAIGSLIST. First we searched for the exact types of lumber that the plans called for. No dice. So then we putzed around “materials” “household” and “home and garden” to see if there was something we could repurpose: and JACKPOT! A fellow about 15 miles away selling enough sections of an old cedar fence that we could reuse the members and improvise.

Something like this: although this isn't the actual craigslist photo, i just pulled this off google.

Pros: The cedar was already seasoned a couple of years, so the naturally rot-resistent wood had become a little bit hardened to the elements. Plus, for a reasonable price we would have MORE than enough lumber for all the beds we wanted this year.

Cons: The individual lumber pieces were a little bit thinner than we would have like (1x wood instead of 2x, e.g.) So, we’d have to double up on the supports a bit. Also, the craigslist ad was selling the fence in large sections (approx 6’x8′) to transportation would be an issue.

Long story short, we beat out other interested parties, broke down the fence sections into individual pieces, and brought home our loot.

We modified the dimensions to fit our vision for the yard, including a stepped pattern for visual interest and to accommodate different types of plants. Then, we began assembly with 2 1/4″ coated deck screws (to make sure that the hardware won’t be a point of failure). A crucial element of the design is building the posts several inches longer than the sides of bed so that they can be effectively anchored into the ground.

Not us, nor a dad, nor a neighbor. This is the sunset man since we were slackers and didn't take pics of the actual construction.

After initial construction, we placed them in their approximate locations and begun to dig post holes. This proved to be a little tricky because of the previously mentioned heinous root structure throughout the yard. We had to modify several of the locations because there were massive pieces of locust trunk buried beneath the ground. Ugh. Pretty much anything closer than 3′ to the fence is un-usable ground for us.

Preliminary placement (phew, a lot of digging)

After placing in the ground and making sure all sides were level, we stapled in some weed barrier fabric (Nothing fancy – just enough to keep some of the stray grasses from getting in our way later).

Weed Block!

Then, we started the process of transfering our newly amended soil: equal parts top soil and compost (along with straight up manure once we ran out of compost and got cheaper more resourceful).

After planting either bulbs (in the case of the dahlia bed) or the seed starts, we spread mulch that we had from the tree stump grinding to even out the soil, enhance water retention, and prevent weeds.

Here is a last picture showing the hoop houses that we installed later. As the design shows, we installed 6″ lengths of 1 1/4″ diameter PVC to the center supports on the beds. Then, we inserted 1″ pvc into both ends, bending to create plenty of clearance for the plants below. They aren’t tall enough now to cause issue with the visquene cover, but in the fall they may be and we want to be prepared for that.

PVC installation; Photo Credit: Sunset Mag
Hoops! Ignore the scattered yard clutter

So, with a little elbow grease, we have four raised beds to start our garden. We did learn, though, that while we thought these 4 beds would provide AMPLE space, we had more dirt and more plant starts than we had room to fill. So, next year we’ll probably expand by a couple of beds.

And here, a photo to show some of our happy little plants starting to grow!

Onions!
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