Friday, April 26

Quick and Easy Raised Garden Bed

Years ago my sister, Rebekah, made a raised bed to grow some annual cooking herbs. Although the bed is still looking good, she hasn't kept up with the herb growing. Instead, she has a new found passion - cut flowers that are deer resistant. We have a large family of deer who like to devour everything around the house, herbs included, so I have been helping her figure out which flowers deer will leave alone. I thought of daisies and asters because a species of both grow wild on the farm - so my guess deer don't particularly like them. I chose gaillardia, mainly because they are such a tough plant with tons of blooms. A little deer browsing shouldn't hurt. Rebekah may add some more plants, but those three are the ones we figured out so far and have started them from seed indoors (to get a head start). I am eager to see the flower beds in bloom and will post a photo of the results.

As for the quick and easy raised garden bed. Photos! I wanted to show you how we built it step by step so you can make one yourself.

We made the frame of the raised bed using scrap 2x4s, which we pounded in the ground in an L shape. We took slag wood (lumber yards and mills have piles of leftover pieces from making standard lumber. You can purchase them on the cheep) and screwed them into the 2x4s as shown. Pre-drilling helps and 3" long deck screws are the easiest to use.

We filled the raised bed with a mixture of the following: sand, rich organic soil (often found along the banks of ponds and in a lush woods), and wood chips/leaf mulch from the compost pile. No, there is no scientific measurement for how much of each, but if you follow the three photos below you can see that our soil is loose (because of the sand), but still has some good water retension (the soil does clump a tiny bit when squeezed). Try the same test. If your soil forms a ball, you need to loosen it with sand and wood chips. If your soil falls completely apart, then your soil is probably too sandy for most of the plants you want to grow. You need some more of the rich soil (black dirt we call it). We also amended the soil with potash (in our case, we used wood ash from our stove) and used a couple pounds of 19-19-19 commercial fertilizer.
Test your soil: grab some in your hand.

Squeeze it hard.

Open your hand and check to see if the soil stays in a clump, falls apart completely, or a mixture of both, which is what you want.

Before you fill the bed completely up with your homemade soil mixture, you may want to think about adding a store bought mix. We topped the bed off with two large bags of Sunshine seedling soil. Miracle-Gro, Scott's, and brands like those are just fine - all you have to look for is fluffy soil. We topped the bed off with seedling soil so Rebekah could plant seeds right in the bed and have the best chance for them to germinate.

Here's the finished raised bed. Looks nice doesn't it? Hopefully, we will see it in bloom this year!

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