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Saturday, April 17, 2010

"New" Raised Planting Bed

It's time to plant my tomatoes!  So I looked around the garden for a place I hadn't planted them in for a few years.  No luck!  Part of the problem is the tool shed I had a contractor build 5 years ago (concrete pad, cinder block foundation, standard pitched roof - I wasn't going to try that on my own) is that it shades 2 of the framed beds.  I haven't been able to use them for 5 years.  But that means they haven't had any crops in them either!

Here's the general picture of the garden.  It doesn't show the whole garden well.  There are six of the 8x3 frames, two 3x3 frames, and a 30x2 trellised bed.  The mailbox is a very convenient place to store small hand tools (try it, you'll love it).

Two of my framed raised beds were put in shadows because of that shed, so It was time to take action!  Rather than build new beds, I decided to simply move the two.  It didn't seem like a big deal.  Just lift off the frame, move it, and transfer the soil...

Yeah, right...  I tried just lifting the old frame off the bed, but it wouldn't move.  I pried under it with a crowbar, and that didn't help.

So, I decided to remove the braces holding the frame together and move each level of the framed bed one by one to a sunny spot.  The frames are 8' by 3' of 2x4s, so the whole bed is about 10" deep.  I had 1" by 4" vertical boards holding the 3 levels together.  The boards are all pressure-treated pine.  I wouldn't have used that had I known about the dangers 20 years ago but I figure that after that many years, there isn't much chemical to leach out.

The next generation of raised beds will be made of plastic or composite material, but that's a project for a few years from now when I rebuild ALL the framed beds.

So here is the progress so far:

I removed the frame layer by layer...

I covered the bottom with several overlapping layers of newspaper...
Started adding soil from the old location (see the unframed soil above the new location?)

Then I went to my "free compost" pile.  The county provides free shredded mulch (you come, they load, you haul), and I make it a point to get an extra load each year to cover and let break down for a year or 2.  This season's pile was barely recognizable are "mulch".  It is more like rough compost.  The outside is still "mulchy", but the inside is composted.

I added 2 inches of that...

Then more of the old bed soil, and leveled it...  You can see the old bed soil disappearing.  I added the vertical braces back to the the frame (before the soil got too high).

And that's where I stopped for the day.   I only spent a couple hours at it, but it was a good start.  Sometimes, the hardest part of any project is just beginning it.  After, that, momentum takes over (you do feel compelled to finish it).  LOL!


Alasandra said...

We are going to try growing tomatoes in buckets upside down this year. I'll have to take a picture of the project.

Cavebear said...

Alasandra - I have done that with my cherry tomatoes for a decade. It works really well! And it is so nice to step off the patio and pick a couple warm ripe cherry tomatoes as I go out for some yard work.

I am contemplating setting up 4x4 posts with a cross post to hang 4 main season tomatoes that way next year.

Jacqueline said...

It's a lot of work, but you're off to a great start...I look forward to seeing photos of the thriving tomato plants!