Raised Bed Gardening

by Lisa on June 2, 2011

Ok, ok I know – it’s been like a month since DP updated.  We’re very sorry, but now that the weather is sunny and warm up here in our neck of the woods, we’ve been focusing more on outdoor adventures – enter the raised bed garden.  I have always had an unconventional garden – previously I grew all my veggies in containers on my stoop in Philadelphia.  This was more or less successful, depending on what I was growing – herbs did great, and small tomatoes also flourished.  I also had a giant harvest of 2 inch tall peppers a few years ago.  Man I wish I had photos of those – they were very small but still tasty!  We made a nice saute with about 10 of them.

Now, however, I have moved to suburbia.  Fancy restaurants and nightlife have been traded for a lawn and open yard space.  And I must say, I’ve never been happier.  My husband and I decided that the best way to start a veggie garden this year was to build ourselves a raised bed garden in some unused space in back of our garage, right up against the house.   First we tilled the soil there to de-weed the space and aerate the dirt.

We chose this site because a) it didn’t require us ripping up half our lawn, b) we weren’t using this space anyway, and c) it gets about the best sun in our whole yard.  Also, it was already level which saved us lots of work.

To build the garden – first, we opted to construct our raised beds out of cedar which is moisture and rot resistant, and unlike pressure-treated pine does not contain toxic chemicals.  Basically, we measured our chosen garden space, and cut 1×6 cedar boards roughly to fit along the edge of the garden.  We then put the boards in place.  On the long side of the garden, rather than spend a lot of time approximating edges perfectly, we just overlapped the boards by about 2 feet which added stability and was much much easier.

We bought an additional 1×3 cedar board which we cut into 18 inch pieces to serve as stakes for the corners.  We secured the 1×6 boards to stakes at the corners of the garden, and also placed a stake in the center of the long side of the garden too for additional support.

At this point, we then filled in our garden.  Most raised bed garden sites advocate for a mixture of multiple ingredients (compost, peat, etc) but we opted to just go with primarily compost, admittedly for convenience.  Our garden is about 2 feet x 16 feet, and we were able to fill it with 1/2 cubic yard of compost from our local garden center.  We mixed this in with the tilled soil.

At this point, I sat down to figure out what exactly I felt like growing.  I personally love fresh tomatoes and peppers, so they were a definite.  I also happen to enjoy root veggies such as parsnips and turnips, so I thought I would give those a try.  And who doesn’t love some fresh cucumber and zucchini?  I came up with this garden plan – and yes, I am very nerdy, and graphed it out.

I consulted with online resources such as this one to figure out exactly how many plants I could place per square foot in my garden, and then in went the plants!

A quick word about this whole planting process.  I started the bulk of my plants from seeds indoors using a seed starting kit such as this one from Jiffy.  I started planting in early-mid May in New England.  Turns out, I was still on Philly time – this was rather too early, as I found out later when my cucumber and tomato seedlings withered up from the cold and died.  Also, I found out quite early that it was important to put up a fence to keep out the vermin, as something promptly ate all of my basil seedlings.  The point of this discussion is that gardening is a trial-and-error process.  So don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out perfectly the first time!  I replaced my basil, cucumber, and tomato seedlings with ones I bought at a local garden center and started over with these.

Here is my garden post-fence-construction and with the replacement plants.

And here is my garden today!

As you can see, despite some early setbacks, my garden is taking off!  In fact, I am having turnip greens fresh from the garden with dinner tonight.  If the recipe comes out good, I will blog about it too.  Promise.

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