A few weeks back, I mentioned how my husband Bill and I had built some new raised beds. I promised I'd tell you more about the process so here we go:
Up until this spring, we had 23 raised beds because we absolutely love growing our veggies in them. Now we have 3 more and they are the largest ones we've ever built. They are 4' wide by 16' long.
The beds are constructed with 2x8's that we purchased from Ziggy's Lumber. They are just standard lumber (fir/larch) because treated lumber contains nasty chemicals that can leach into the soil. Since we're growing edible crops in them, I didn't want chemicals anywhere near those beds.
Once we had leveled the ground where the beds were going, we cut two 16'-long boards and two 4'-long boards for each raised bed. We assembled them in place using 4"-long decking screws. Screws work much better than nails which have a tendency to pop out of the wood they're nailed into.
Each bed was set directly onto bare ground, which I was a little nervous about since quack grass has been growing in that previously undeveloped area for years. We could have put some weedblock fabric underneath but decided to just line the bottom of the beds with sheets of newspaper (photo #1). Since newspapers are printed with soy-based ink, the sheets are safe to use. We watered them down to keep them in place.
Next, we put a thick layer of decomposing leaves on top of the newspaper (photo 2). Then we used a combination of compost and some soil from our preexisting raised beds that had a bit too much soil in them. I really liked the idea of doing it this way because I was concerned that if we had purchased some topsoil or a 3-way mix from a landscaping company, the soil might be a little on the sterile side.
Using some of the soil from our older beds was kind of like getting sourdough starter from someone: I knew the soil in the older section of our veggie garden was very fertile because we do a good job of building it up every year. So once we had filled the beds with the compost and soil mix, I was feeling pretty confident the veggies we'd be planting in the new beds would grow well.
And I was right! The growth of the winter squash, corn and tomatoes in those new beds is nothing short of phenomenal.
We also put down landscaping fabric (a.k.a., "weed-block") in the pathways (photo 3) and covered it with a few inches of bark mulch. That way, we only have to weed the tops of the raised beds which is a real time-saver. The rolls of landscaping fabric came from Costco. The rolls are 4' wide by about 250' long, if I remember correctly, and cost about $26 each.
The last thing we did was to cover the soil in the tomato and winter squash beds with some red plastic mulch to raise the soil temperature. I also added vertical supports for the tomato plants, using metal fence posts and 4'x8' sheets of concrete-reinforcing wire, which you can find at places like Lowe's and Home Depot.
So there you have it! I will write about our new drip-irrigation system next to give you the full picture of how we expanded our vegetable garden.