Raised Beds

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That’s quite the expanse of garden. We’re so lucky to have it, but boy is it turning out to be a lot of work. I’d romanticized the “setup” phase of our first garden so much in my head, and, in the process, had completely forgotten I have a fussy lower back. Gardening is all about the lower back. Well, the lower back and the knees. My knees aren’t too bad, happily. Fortunately for me, Mike Neir is a strong guy with a good back who is willing to help me with my enormous garden vision.

It’s been a week since we finished round one of rototilling, and many of the grassy bits have died off (thankfully.) It’s much less disheartening to gaze at the garden now, knowing the grass isn’t winning. I still need to go over it again a few more times before planting, but luckily, there is time for that. Now that I have the two raised beds in, I think a few more are in order, too, for the smaller and root veggies. I’ll talk about “why raised beds” in another post. The plus side is, after doing all the setup for these this year, future years will be much, much easier, with just a bit of maintenance and soil remediation involved.

We built them last weekend using 2 x 6″ boards and some wooden stakes. We roughly followed Ree’s guide for building them, and they turned out very well.

It took us probably two hours to put them all together, and it was definitely much easier with two people to wrangle and hold the 8′ boards. We decided we didn’t care if they were perfectly square or perfectly level, because heck – they’re way back in the garden.

Yesterday, Mike filled them up about 2/3 of the way with dirt – that’s a lot of dirt! 8′ x 4′ x 12″. It’s basic math, but I can’t do it in my head. It’s a lot to dig by hand into a wheel barrow, haul to the beds and then shovel and sift into the beds. He spent several hours on it while I was busily doing stuff in the house. He isn’t even hugely interested in the whole garden project, but he did it anyhow. He’s good guy, that Mike Neir.

This morning, I added several bags of compost to Bed One and decided to give The Giant Sifter a try.

Oh yes, the sifter. That was fully Mike’s idea, and it was a really good one. We needed a way to easily sort the chunks and clods and roots and rocks out of the dirt, so he put together this enormous sifter thingie using hardware cloth and wood he found stashed back at the edge of the property. I was a bit skeptical at first, but having used it today, it’s a really handy thing and a big time-saver. Here’s what it looks like:

All one needs do it fill a wheel barrow with dirt from another area of the garden, haul it over and dump it onto the hardware cloth. The sifter is at the perfect height for dumping the barrow, too.

Then, take a rake (tines up) and work the dirt through the wire, watching for worms to rescue before they get cheese-grated. Anything larger than a 1/2″ is left on top of the screen. Nice!

It’s much easier to pluck these babies off the screen than it is to pull them out by hand.

Finally leaving us with really nice raised beds like this:

The small bits of organic matter that got through the sifter will die off and become green manure/compost, the dirt is really loose and well-aerated, and a bunch of worms have been transplanted into the bed to keep things happy. Thus far, I’m calling this a success. We’ll see what the veggies think in a bit less than a month!

Just as I was finishing that up, a fairly powerful wind kicked up and the clouds started rolling in from the West. I don’t have enough compost to finish the second bed and my back wanted to be done for the day, so I packed things up and called it good. I bet a nice long bath is in my future this evening – and I only worked for just over an hour. I bet Mike could benefit from a bath, too. 😉

I still need to figure out how to keep the lawn grass from encroaching into the garden. I’ve contemplated options such as installing those plastic landscaping edge fences (ugly, expensive and they eventually break down) and heaping mulch along the fenceline. I’d planned to have peas and beans along the fence, but that may not be feasible if the grass keeps up its aggressive advances. Do any of you have gardens you manage to keep the grass out of?

Now, for some deep space adventures in New Eden via EVE Online. We can’t have two completely productive days in a row, right? Getting up at almost 10:30 has me all discombobulated and I’m not feeling nearly as productive as I was yesterday. I think I’m ok with a downtime day.

Although I’m having a very hard time not sampling the kombucha yet. 🙂

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