Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Raising the Beds

Like most people, every year I feel the need to improve my gardens; to grow more and have better results that I did the previous year.  Last year I extended the backyard garden right to the edge of the yard and  finally ran out of room to expand any further in any direction. But as the space expanded so did all the surrounding trees so I still had issues with not enough sun, and being so close to the alley and not fenced in, I've had a lot of problems with dogs and the occasional human wreaking havoc in my veggies. Building a ladder  up to the flat roof gave me better options for my sun loving favourites so a good portion of the veggie production now happens up high. There's still critters to contend with up there, raccoons and squirrels for the most part but there's less plant damage and lots more sun.

April 17 2:20pm
I wasn't prepared to totally abandon the earthbound garden tho, so when an opportunity for a lot of free lumber came along, I jumped at the chance to build some raised beds. The wood is from a old building that is being renovated near by and it was destined for landfill, so I feel doubly happy at being able to create something useful and repurpose some lovely old boards that have survived close to 100 years!

The Russian helped me build two overlapping boxes and we have enough left for a cold frame. To fill them I'm using a combination of hugelkulture and lasagne bed techniques. The bottom layer is composed of sticks and chunks of rotting wood, followed by a layer of partially composted materials. Then a layer of mixed soil and coir, and a top layer of mulch, likely straw.

For now I'm only filling the larger bed in this manner- the smaller box currently contains the garlic I planted last fall so I don't want to bury them completely. That bed will get filled in slowly over the summer with compost.

 The soaking hose is laid out on top of the bottom layer and will be hooked to the rain barrel as usual. If it works as planned, the water will seep out right at the plant roots where they need it and the rotting wood will retain the excess, making it available as it decomposes. None of the water will be lost to evaporation and this should help the plants stay evenly watered, no matter what the weather.

 The larger bed will be for beans of all kinds- it gets better sun than the small bed so I may even include a tomato or two. I've also earmarked a corner for an asparagus crown. The smaller bed has garlic already up as mentioned and last week I planted 4 rows of onion sets in between the garlic rows. Before the trees begin to fill in with leaves , this bed gets a decent amount of sun but it will be mostly shade during the summer months so I'm not sure how the onions will fare. I plan to tuck some root veggies (turnips, beets, carrots) in between the rows of both beds and see what works. Gardening is always one big experiment!

Having raised beds won't change the lack of available sunlight but I'm hoping they'll allow me to take advantage of the early spring and fall growing when I do have more light. By using plastic sheeting to warm the soil earlier in spring and potentially, hoop houses to extend growing in the fall, I may be able to make this garden a bit more productive than I have previously. To aid in this plan I have taking photos and noting where the sun is at different times of day which I can use to plan better for next year!

April 22 8:45 am Full Sun


  1. Lucky you to get that wood!

    We are far from gardening here because we still have snow. The summer birds are starting to arrive and they must be wondering what all that white stuff is all about...

    Good luck with your garden!

  2. Love it! I wish I have the skills and space to have a raised bed. All my veg are in containers growing on the balcony. I'm hoping they'll still be alive when I come back from Canada, I can only rely on the capillary mat doing its work!

  3. Good luck with the beds, and good luck to all of us contending with the raccoons and squirrels!

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