Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Raised bed expectations

Posted by: Martha Buns under Soil prep, Vegetables, Weekend chores Updated: August 22, 2013 - 12:02 PM

 

Have you joined the raised bed craze? Lots of people have this year, if my extended neighborhood is anything to go by. And one significant change: Many more of them are popping up in front yards to take advantage of sunnier spots.

 

On daily walks I chart the progress of several of them. There's a two-tier model using the square-foot gardening technique that seems to be doing well. A twine trellis holds up some tomatoes on the far end, and greens, beets and other smaller veggies seem to be contained nicely. In another front-yard expansion of three large raised beds, some cantaloupe have escaped, further taking over the former lawn.

My next-door neighbors are among those joining the club, deciding to give up trying to grow grass in a difficult spot and putting in a few raised beds surrounded by stepping stones and herbs in pots. They'll gain a spot for microgreens just steps from their kitchen and cut their mowing chores. It's been fun trading notes, and it made me remember how much work it was to put in ours to begin with.

Here's a few tips I was able to share that worked for us, and some lessons learned:

A thick layer of newsprint at the bottom of the raised beds worked better than weed cloth at keeping grass from trying to grow back through.

Put temporary rebar stakes around the outside to keep the beds from moving out of position when you fill them. Dirt is heavy, and there's no shifting them once they're full.

Free fill dirt on Craigslist is often worth about that. Much of it has been dug away from foundation areas and is rocky and filled with concrete shards. You'll get your new garden off to a better start if you spring for some slightly better dirt. I put in a bag of potting soil in each bed, along with lots of dirt and a hearty dressing of compost. You'll need way more dirt than you'd expect.

The level of dirt will drop each season, so you'll need to add more compost/dirt. Luckily, my raised beds are right by the composter, so they get first dibs.

They can be thirsty. We've got ours on a timed watering line to keep the soil from drying out.

They're rabbit magnets. The second phase for every raised bed construction I see is barriers to protect the goodies.

Garden trends have a slightly longer shelf life than most pop culture trends, but I'll be curious to see how long this one lasts. If you're considering putting in raised beds, here are a few links to get you started: www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/how-to-build-a-raised-bed/     www.squarefootgardening.org/     www.sunset.com/garden/perfect-raised-bed-00400000039550/

What's your experience been with raised beds? Did they meet your expectations? Would you do it again? For us it's been great -- except sometimes I think four aren't nearly enough....

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