Thursday, April 2, 2009

Raised garden beds

Well, after looking at several types of containers, Art and I decided to revisit something we've done in the past that works great. We built raised garden beds at our old house in central Florida and really liked how simple they were to maintain. Plus they're higher up and easier for Mama to reach down and tend to. Bending over or stooping to weed or plant is something she can't easily do anymore.

Raised beds also help with another problem. My mom is a primitive farmer--she just digs a hole, sticks things in, and they grow--but unfortunately, she doesn't tell anyone that the little 1-2" thing sticking out of the ground shouldn't be mowed. I get into all kinds of trouble without intending to! My dad had the same problem when he did the yard work. :-) So the raised beds keep all the plants in one place and the mowing accidents are a thing of the past. It keeps Art and me out of the dog house!

So we've built some raised beds, and here's how we make ours. You can use 2"x8' boards, or 2"x10' if you want a bit higher garden spot. If you use 2" thick boards they won't bow with the heat and cold. The 1" boards are cheaper but they bow like crazy after awhile.

Build a rectangle of whatever length and width you want. Since the boards come in even lengths of 6' or 8' or 10' (we can't lift the 12 footers, but they're available if you can!), we usually do 8 feet long. You will use 4 boards; 2 long ones for sides and 2 shorter ones for ends. Nail the board ends together in an open rectangle and situate it on the ground in the spot you desire. No bottom is needed, just sides.

Then dump in a package each of composted cow manure, peat, and several of gardening soil or topsoil or whatever planting soil you like best. 'Stir' it with your hoe or shovel and level it. Then plant and water with some Miracle Gro or Peter's Special, whatever you like. If you mulch the top you'll have fewer weeds--they eventually show up because of seeds in the soil and birds dropping presents, but the raised bed is a cinch to weed compared to a regular garden plot.We usually do 2"x8'x8' beds that are 24" wide. Plenty of room for several plants. We use one for a raised asparagus bed and that works great. You can make wider beds if you want. We've done 36" and 48", too. It depends on how much you want to reach to the middle and what you plan to grow there. You could grow sweet pototoes or white potatoes in a 48" wide bed and it would be beautiful and roomy enough for a good crop. Same thing with carrots.

You can build as many of these as you want and place them parallel in a good, sunny spot in your yard. Just make sure you leave plenty of room between them for walking and pushing a wheelbarrow. You can dedicate one bed to tomatoes, one to salad veggies, one to carrots, one to herbs--just use your imagination and enjoy this fun way to de-stress!

We lined our beds up against the patio so that Mama can stay on the level concrete and still reach the plants. Since she has less strength in her arms after her broken bones a couple of years ago, it's just easier for her to be close to the house where she can rest whenever she gets a little weary. We also thought it wise not to position our garden beds out in the yard where the ground is not level, so Mama won't have to worry about her balance. The roof edge is right above the beds and we have gutters to keep the water from washing the plants away. If you don't have gutters that's fine; the dripline from morning dew will fall right into the beds and help you water. I always try to plant wherever the dripline is, but this particular spot gets a LOT of runoff and the plants were deluged in the big Florida thunderstorms we get all summer long.

If you use the dripline to help water it makes a big difference for maintenance, because there's water every day, at least in humid areas.If you try any of this, let me know how it turns out!

Gardening is a great hobby for both caregivers and their loved ones, and the healthy produce is a wonderful bonus.


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