3.27.2012

Project: Raised Beds Experiment, 4x4

Getting any projects done around the property since January has been a tough slog, due to the torqued shoulder. For the raised beds that have been sitting, partially completed, for almost (over?) a year now, I employed a mind-hack almost guaranteed to kick things into gear: started a couple flats of tomato seedlings. In our area of Texas, you need to have your plants in the ground by the first of April, else it will be too late for the early Summer tomato season. And I wouldn't want all those lovely seedlings grown from seed and tended carefully in the house to go to waste, now would I? No, I would not. 

Pic: an empty reworked raised bed.
We had a couple of 8'x4' raised beds in the lower part of the property a few years ago, but the location wasn't ideal for tending. Too easy to forget or overlook, and a pain to haul down the hose for watering. Spouse & I finally dragged the emptied forms from the old spot up to a bare spot on the hillside next to the house. I grew container strawberries and potatoes in that same spot last year, and the location worked well. I also decided to cut the raised beds in half in order to remake them into 4'x4' containers, ala "Square Foot Gardening". The reason for cutting up perfectly good raised beds: ease of maintenance. You wouldn't think that walking the few extra feet to get around a bed would make much difference, but I'm already finding it does.

Pic: a soil-filled bed with tomato seedlings, and covered
with rotted hay for moisture retention. Green plastic
"chicken wire" attached to bed sides for protection
against chickens. Chickens are wily.
The painful part: reworking the beds to be level on the hillside, and having to angle-cut boards to follow the hillside contour. Not the easiest thing in the world. Spouse got the process started, and I finished two more forms on my own. The wood is 1'x8' cedar fencing planks, with 2"x2" support boards to support the corners.  The cedar fence planks may seem thin, but are much more affordable than smooth-milled regular cedar boards, and have worked well in our earlier beds. Another experiment: rather than using wood screws, we're using extra-long staples delivered via a pneumatic staple gun. The attachments feel really sturdy, but we'll see how the staples hold up over the season. No big deal if we have to go back & put in screws later.

Pic: log filler for bottom level of bed. 
Together we made a custom soil mix for the beds, again inspired by "Square Foot Gardening". I made our mix a little heavier than recommended in the book, due to temperature & moisture needs. We filled the lower part of the beds with logs & branches to take up space, then a combination of old potting soil and compost to fill the spaces between. The next level of soil was the mix: topsoil, vermiculite, peat moss, and more compost.

I've got two beds filled with seedlings already - one with paste tomatoes, and one with slicing tomatoes. More on the tomato varieties we're trying out in another post :-).

2 comments:

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  2. Great build. Like the layering of the beds and the reworking to make maintenance easier. Hopefully these beds will produce for years to come.

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