If you are getting into vegetable gardening, I encourage you to build yourself a raised bed. It’s a bit of front end labour but once it’s done it will extend your growing season — a serious necessity if you live in Canada — and save much wear and tear from your back as you pull yet another blasted weed. Or harvest another beautiful tomato.
Here are a few things to consider before you get out your shovel to break ground:
Fruit and vegetables need full sun, the technical definition of full sun is 6 hours a day. If you want your garden to be super duper more is better. Choose to go with early sun and late shade, rather than the other way around if you can. Late shade in the hot summer will be a welcome rest for your plants and direct sun first thing in the morning dries the dew. Wet plants are more susceptible to fungus and disease.
Check for trees around your chosen location. Will they grow and shade out your garden in a few years? Do you have a Black Walnut or other trees that will compete for resources with your garden?
Shape and Size:
Here’s where it gets fun. You can go all out, like we did, and build a huge garden right away or you can start small and add to it every year.
When you are planning the size and shape remember you’ll want to reach the centre of your garden easily. Once you’ve planted it becomes nearly impossible to walk on the soil. Arm distance times two is a good garden width. And if you are building multiple beds consider a comfortable pathway. You might want a wheelbarrow to fit in there and a harvest basket.
If you are building your garden on bare soil, you are home free. If you are building your garden on grass, there’s some work to be done. You can use elbow grease and dig up all your sod, you can rent a tiller of sorts and have at it or you can take the easy way out. Cover the grass with black plastic. You can simply cut up garbage bags and weigh them done or use black landscape fabric. Leave it covered for a good long time. If, say, you have the most evil weed in the history of weeds, cover the soil in black for an entire growing season. Like bindweed it’s so awful it’ll turn a happy organic gardener into a crazed herbicide spraying lunatic.
As an added barrier to weeds and persistent grass you can lay down newspaper or cardboard, which will decompose as time goes on. Landscape fabric is also a good choice, it doesn’t decompose though and I find it always ends up sticking out somewhere.
The first two gardens above are built using recycled patio slabs and a Lee Valley raised garden kit. It makes a deeper garden requiring a lot more soil but it’s lovely to work in. If you opt for a wood sided garden use untreated lumber, pressure treated wood will leach into your soil. Your best bets are cedar or pine.
No need to get fancy with construction techniques. Find yourself some long coated decking screws, a screw gun and go to town. A simple way to start is to build a 4×4 raised bed using some 2 x 6 x 8 inch boards cut in half. Put a 4 x 4 in each corner and screw the 2 x 6 boards into the post.
Do you have a raised garden?