Spring is here and we are about to start planting up the garden beds again. Someone asked about building the beds so now seems like a good time to document how we did it.
We started in January with a bare patch of gravel behind the house that faced North, ensuring all day sun. Luckily it was just gravel over clay so it it made the decision to go with raised beds easy (and we had no turf or weeds to clear).
We got a local sawmill to rip us up some 200x50mm boards from Old Man Pine – you know the big old knarly pines you see on farms. The wood is full of resin so will last as long as macrocarpa or other hardwoods outside. The important thing is to avoid using treated timber if you can help it. The CCA process for tanalising stands for Copper, Chrome and Arsenic – not things I want around my veges. I’ve heard of people lining treated timber with polythene, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble.
We got a couple of loads of soil delivered as we did’t have the time to create compost from scratch. Our local tip takes in green waste and for a very reasonable fee will deliver truckloads of lovely rich soil.
The beds themselves are really simple – 2.5m long by 1.4m wide. You want to maximise the width of your beds, but make sure you can reach the centre from either side. My arms can reach, but some of our visitors/helpers had trouble so I might go with 1.2m wide on future beds.
I used two 5 inch nails in each end to hold the sides together. If you use a larger nail you’ll have to pre-drill the holes to prevent splitting.
Here are the beds with soil going in. I ripped up a few spare pieces of timber into battens for the corners. Once they were nailed in, we stretched shade cloth around the beds. This gave the veges good shelter for an exposed site and kept most of the pests off the beds (rabbits and cats). More of the same timber went into trellises for the beans and peas.
That’s all there is to it really. The gravel provides great drainage and because we got fertile soil brought in, we didn’t have to do too much in the way of mulching or composting. We have been composting horse manure, chicken poo and stable straw this year so there will be lots of fertility going back into the gardens this month. If you are rotating crops you only have to do a serious compost application every third year, but that’s for another post.
Finally, here’s the garden today – coming out of a productive winter. We’re still picking celery, carrots, leeks, spring onions, spinach, silverbeet, lettuce and herbs. The rabbits have eaten my broccoli and bok choy, but you can’t win them all.