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Building A Raised Bed Garden

Since we purchased our first home several years ago, my wife has had an interest in starting a garden.  However, we don’t have a very large plot of land, and much of it was covered with trees and shrubs.  I had wanted to take out a bunch of the trees and shrubs, but it had been low on our priority list of projects around the house.

So, last year we tried a community garden.  It started out well, but combination of it’s distance from the house, the fact that we are a one car family, and having two very young boys to take care of lead to it’s unseemly demise.

This year, we had to have some work done to the house that resulted in the removal of my targeted trees and shrubs, and we now had someplace reasonable to have a garden, with the convenience of it being at home.  After looking into garden options, my wife settled on a raised bed garden for our yard, and gave me my assignment.

I started with four 4″x1″x16′ cedar boards that I had the lumber yard cut down to 8′ lengths (to fit in my sedan) to build the frame of our foot deep 4’x8′ garden.  The cedar is good for outdoor projects here in Pennsylvania, as it is naturally moisture and rot resistant, and won’t seep anything into the soil.

I then built a simple staggered 4’x8′ box out of them, using stair brackets to secure the corners:

I then leveled the ground where we were going to put the garden (with a little help):

Next, I put down some chicken wire to help keep out the diggers…

…and then to protect from above, I secured 1″ PVC pipe segments on the inside of the garden, which I would be sliding a 1/2″ pipe frame for holding bird netting and other covers.

Next, on top of the chicken wire, I added layers of pea gravel and sand to help with drainage from the garden:

With the base complete, it was time to get filling the garden.  We used Mel’s Mix for Square Foot Gardening, which was equal parts Peat Moss, Vermiculite and Compost.  I ended up mixing it in three batches to fill the garden, and here’s one of them:

After everything was filled in, it was time to build the frame for the netting/covers.  As I mentioned, I just got 1/2″ PVC pipe segments and the connectors, and assembled them.  I did not glue the pipes in case changes were needed down the line, and they didn’t appear to need to be that secured. (Oh, and my son was insistent that we added flamingos to the garden at this point as well.)

Since my wife wanted to try the Square Foot Gardening method, she needed her plots laid out, which I made with hooks and twine.  This worked out well as the hooks could also be used to help secure the netting.

And, finally, the garden was ready for planting, which I let my wife take care of:

All-in-all, it was a fun project that became much more than “build a box for some dirt”, and we added most of the bells and whistles, as we are hoping to use it for many years.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post an update in a few months with some of our bounty!

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  1. Minh Minh

    Hey Greg, I’m currently looking to build some raised vegetable beds for my wife’s new hobby and stumbled upon this blog entry during the “research” phase of the build. Great job on yours, well done. Just wondered how you got on with growing stuff? Any wisdom to share? Thanks.

  2. Greg Nilsen Greg Nilsen

    I left most of the growing to my wife, but things went pretty well and we actually added a second raised bed garden to the mix the next year. We’ve experimented some with the mesh netting, and doing a single “wrap” around it instead of the overhanging netting tied in with hooks appears to work better. This does leave the top open, but it also keeps leaves or other debris from collecting on top later in the season.

    Over three years, we’ve probably done best with tomatoes and green beans, but are still experimenting with what we like to grow best. Not pictured are some of the cages and trellises we’ve added to help these kinds of plants.

    The real key is regularly checking and watering the plants. We added buried soaking hoses last year to help with this, but I’ve also contemplated an automated irrigation system. With two energetic and busy boys, it’s easy for something like watering to slip our minds.

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