Sunday, February 8, 2009

Raised Bed Garden Idea

One of our on again, off again topics here has been whether or not we will be able to plant a garden this spring. With the new building project that will be taking place, we just haven't been certain that we will have the time to spend on a large garden. There is also the fact that the truck with building materials would be driving right through the area where the garden is always located. So, it was beginning to look like we may not be able to have a large garden. If we have to wait until the garden area is no longer being used as an access to the build site, I would miss the window of opportunity to plant many of the cooler weather crops such as leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard, and swiss chard. I also would not be able to put out cabbage, iceberg lettuce, and my tomatoes. The vegetables that I could plant would be the faster growing ones like zucchini that are relatively no-maintenance and can be planted in early summer. The other issue has been the time spent tending the garden. With us focusing on getting the house closed in and made ready enough to move in by fall, Beloved won't have time to help me with the garden. Nor will I have as much time to tend it as I will be doing other tasks to prepare for the new house also.

Today, an idea came to me that may just work. For some time now, I have been thinking about gardening in raised beds. Raised beds are easier on your back and knees. You also have much less weeding to do since you are not having to weed the paths in between the garden rows. Typically with a raised bed garden, it is faster, easier, and cheaper to prepare the garden beds from one season to the next. You only have to ammend the soil in the raised bed whereas in a traditional garden you are ammending all the garden area including the paths in between your plantings. If you need a cold frame, you can easily set one up by building a little dome-type structure to place over the raised bed. This can be as simple as using old fencing and forming an arch to support clear tarp plastic. Poking the ends of the fencing into the sides of the raised bed is often enough to hold it in place. You can also do the same along one side of the raised bed to form a trellis for your vining plants.

So, where is this all going? Out in our yard we have several large wooden shipping crates. Beloved is using some of them for storing scrap wood and also the smaller lengths of firewood that we use in the cookstove. He has access to more of these crates and could bring some home. The crates stand anywhere from 3-4 feet tall and are about 5 feet square. The wood slats have just enough room to allow for drainage in some of the crates while others have wood slats that are a bit further apart. I am thinking that if we fill the crates about 3/4 full of old hay, topped with a layer of some type of material that would prevent the hay from sprouting, then finish filling with a good planting mix we could use the crates for raised bed gardening. The crates with the wider gaps in between the side slats would also have some weed barrier plastic or other material lining the inside of the box to prevent planting mix from spilling through.

If we use a good soil mixture, we can avoid the problems of having lots of weeds to tend to. Adding mulch around the plants would also limit the weeding and help to hold moisture in the soil. Because the raised beds are not completely filled with soil, it will be much easier to scoop the soil out into a wheelbarrow and move the crate to a more permanent location should we decide to do so. As the hay and soil settle into the crate over the season, we will be able to add to the crate the following season when we prepare the crates for the next planting.

For a gardening plan, I am referencing the Square Foot Gardening website. I have gardened by this method before with good results. If we are unable to do the garden this way in the spring, it will be something that I will want to pursue as soon as we are able to do so. If nothing else, I could plant a few things in late summer for a fall harvest.