Saturday, March 20, 2010

Raised Garden Beds

 As I mentioned yesterday, we spent most of Thursday and Friday working on raised garden beds.
Now, I don't mean from sunup to sundown or anything like that.
I'm more of a work a little while, rest a little while, work on something else a little while kind of gal.

Three years ago I had a garden that I adored.
I woke up every morning and went outside in my pajamas to see what had grown overnight.
I knew I wanted another garden but just wasn't sure how best to go about it after our extensive backyard work last summer
Not to mention the work we still have left to do.

I also have just about the worst soil in America in my yard.
The fellas who built our pool had to cart off load after load of clay and bring in load after load of good dirt before they could actually complete the foundation work on our pool.
We spent a fortune on dirt alone.
Lesson learned.  Bad dirt.
One day when I'm over the trauma of paying a fortune for dirt, I'll post about the experience.

Anyhoo, I read PW's post about raised garden beds and thought, "Aha!"
I can do that!
Of course, "I" is a relative term.
I figured I could talk my dad, the retired horticulturist, the Head of Our Household, and the free labor I gave birth to into helping me build these.
I was right.
I love saying that.

My dad was the first volunteer.
I sent him the link to PW's post and asked him how much trouble it would be to build the raised garden beds in my yard.
He said no trouble. 
(He loves it when my baby brother and I get interested in growing stuff :)
He called a few days later asking if I would like for him to come by with lumber and tools on his way to a meeting.
I, of course, said, "YES!"
I had also mentioned wanting the raised garden beds to the Head of My Household, who had gathered some scrap lumber from our yard and put together the first bed.

My dad arrived on Thursday.
After some preliminary discussion about the dimensions of the beds, what exactly I wanted to grow and where would be best to place the beds, we set to work.

Disclaimer: This post in no way shape or form is a step by step post about how to build a raised garden bed.  You need to follow PW's instruction for that.   You will find no specific dimensions or instructions in this posting and I am absolutely NOT an expert in this kind of task...I simply gained a tremendous amount of joy just experiencing this process and spending time with my family.

My dad is on the left.
The young man in the long sleeved t-shirt and khakis is the young man who broke my firstborn's heart.
Yes, he's back.
You better believe I put him to work.

My dad is preparing the sides of the beds with posts to actually "raise" them. 
It is important with raised beds to make sure that they are level.
Not with the ground (because the ground is not actually level)
Level. (period)
Does that make sense?

Beneigt, who is completely healed after his experience with the Wolf even showed up to help.
Well, sort of.
He and the young man who broke my daughter's heart, who I will from now on refer to as Soccer Boy, are fast friends.
I suspect Beneigt showed up more for the attention rather than the garden beds.

My youngest wanted to be in on every step as well. 
Here my dad gets ready to screw the sides of the bed.
My youngest is practicing her hammer swing.
We kept our eyes on the youngest.
Especially when she was practicing her hammer swing.

Work, Soccer Boy, work!
Do NOT break my daughter's heart again!

Beneigt checks the dimensions of the bed built by the Head of Our Household and indicates that there are some issues that must be dealt with.
More on that later.

My dad prepares the sides.

My youngest felt as if every screw that had been drilled into the wood needed to be secured with several hammer strikes as well.
Not sure what we would have done without her expertise.

Get busy, Soccer Boy!

My middle child, the future engineer, eagerly stepped in to take a turn with the power tools.

The youngest making sure that my middle child is following the appropriate directions.

More hammer strikes to solidify the screws.

Uh-Oh was not in the least bit interested in power tools.
Beneigt decided his work was done for the day as well and they both headed for the woods behind our house.

My firstborn, the princess, shows up to give her "expert" opinion on the process.
We (they) spent a lot of time getting all the screws measured, holes drilled, etc.)

The sides are raised on the beds to determine where the holes should be dug.

It is obviously important that before you dig holes in clay, you know precisely where those holes need to go. 
Digging in clay is no piece of cake.
Or so they told me.

Here's my youngest helping my dad hold the sides while they measure and make sure all is right.

Measure that width, Soccer Boy!
And, get it right!
I really love this young man.
Anything I say on this blog I would say to his precious face.
That's just the kind of mom I am.

My dad and Soccer Boy took turns digging the holes.

After the holes were dug, my dad, my middle child and Soccer Boy put the sides in the holes.

At this point the process became a little tedious.
In order for the beds to be level, the holes have to be dug at the appropriate depth.
The holes are not necessarily the same.
It depends on the slope of the ground.

An important part of the leveling is making sure the beds are square.
Here Soccer Boy makes sure the corners are square.

In order to make sure the ends were level, they measured, dug out more dirt, remeasured, added in more dirt, remeasured, scraped off dirt, remeasured, and on and on...

My dad probably could have built these beds in half the time it took us.
But, he walked the kids through the process.
Dimensions, why's, whereabouts, wherefore are't though's and everything.
My dad gave these kids the opportunity to use their book smarts in the real world.
Something they don't get to do very often in the land of standardized tests.
This is not an academic blog; this is not an academic blog

Is it level yet?

Once level and square, the sides could be screwed together.

Here's my youngest learning how to use the level.
She learned to watch for the bubble.

Here's my dad showing my youngest how to place the level and to watch for the bubble in the middle.

Like grandfather like granddaughter.
Have you ever seen a pink shovel??

We had a small pile of dirt left over from the pool building and that dirt was perfect for providing the foundation for the finished bed.
Now, my dad put me to work!
Hey, wait a minute.
How'd that happen?

My youngest was thrilled!
Later in the afternoon she and Soccer Boy even found Mr. Frog again!
Excuse me while I go take my medication now.

While this is pretty good soil, we knew that we would need the best quality dirt possible to raise the beds to the desired 6 inch height. 

My youngest found more wildlife.
She has an affinity for crickets for some reason.
She says they're her friends.

As we prepared the 2nd bed, my dad and the Head of Our Household had a conversation about where exactly the pool drainage system is located.

A little while later we found it on our own.
Thankfully, we realized it before we chopped into it!

I'm still laying the foundation dirt in the 1st bed as they frame the 2nd bed.

I don't have a traditional hoe, so my dad used the youngest's mini-rake to spread out the foundation dirt.
My firstborn, the princess, is taking pictures at this point :)

Here are the three beds with the layer of foundation dirt.
Tomorrow I'm going to take you with us to buy dirt and finish the beds :):)
I love my raised garden beds!!!!!!!


  1. My yard is all clay too. That worries me because I bought cheap plastic kits to put together for garden beds considering that I have no help. I'm afraid I'll break them just trying to get the stakes in the ground. I wondered if I should have top soil delivered and spread it out to make a foundation for the beds. That seems excessive somehow for $30 kits from Sam's.

  2. According to my dad, the quality of your soil is directly related to the quality of what you grow. I won't lie to you; it isn't cheap. That's why we used a 1/2 and 1/2 mix...I'll explain all that in the post I'm putting together for today.