I have a brown thumb, its slowly turning green, and it’s a nicer shade than it was back when I killed every single thing I planted. Growing plants is something that I want to be skilled at. Therefore, I spend a lot of money in seeds, seedlings, and books but get very little in the way of results. Mostly I think it comes from my impatience. Which is good because its something I am working on. The rest of my serial seed killing spree comes from the fact that over the past few years I tend to move right when my plants get good and big and the back of a truck is no place for a container garden. My wife assures me that this will not be a problem this year as she said she’s not moving.
This year I am going with a raised bed garden. Most people are aware of the strengths of raised beds, little weeding, no tilling, less bending and stooping, and the makeup of the bed is easier to control if your growing plants with special needs like special soil makeup. I have been a big fan of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening for some time and have read it several times.
Why a Raised Bed Garden
For our purposes I also am growing in raised beds because of our land layout (we have a couple concrete tanks in our front yard due to our septic situation, so tilling would be difficult – even if we were not on a hill). But mostly we are using raised beds as a means to protect our fence from Bear. I did not know it when we got out little monster (Genny did, but the kept the information to herself) that Great Pyrenees love to dig, and every time I filled a hole in he dug two more. By planting raised beds, he cannot get under the fence. The fence also is able to be used as a trellis because we are growing lots of pole beans, peppers, and tomatoes.
Our raised beds are quite different than many other’s gardens. Ours are built out of 2 inch thick slab oak heartwood. I bought it from a man named Paul that runs a small sawmill in Nashville. Paul Campanis is also the owner of Permavations a company that provides consulting in sustainable agriculture and is president of the Nashville Area Bee keeping Association (NABA) He sells these slabs specifically for raised beds as they don’t rot for many years.
I also like them because they are so heavy the dog cannot move them or dig under them. A tertiary consideration is that once filled with soil they make great barricades and as a fellow youtuber southerprepper1 said in a video about raised bed strawberries they are COVER and not just concealment.
Building the Raised Bed Using Large Wood Slabs
So we bought several of these boards. They are all about 8 ft long and 12 to 18 inches wide. We cut them all down to 8 ft, and then cut 2 foot end pieces. I predrilled the ends and used a small sledge hammer to pound in foot long galvanized spikes to hold them together. We did all the cutting and drilling in one location, but due to the weight we assembled them in place.
I then put newspaper in the bottoms of each bed, and bought a cubic yard of screened topsoil. We loaded up each bed with 3 wheelbarrow loads of soil, leveled it and then put in a layer of rabbit manure. After that was leveled (I did that by myself – the wife fake gags when we have to shovel manure) I then put in another couple loads of topsoil to fill them up. I ended up having to get 2 truckloads of soil to fill all the beds.
Unfortunately for us, Bear can smell the manure, so right after I planted my heirloom tomatoes he decided to wallow in the nearest bed (once again the wife said she new pyrs do this but she decided not to tell me). I put him back on the runner, and used some wire clamps to block the pulley just enough so he cannot get to the beds.
Adding An Electric Fence and Plants
We then bought an electric fence charger and ran wire along the top of the fence and the inner most edge of the bed. Hopefully that lower wire will keep him out of the beds.
I planted several types of peppers and tomatoes in the boxes, along with one bed of peas, one of garlic, and one of flowers and some lettuce.
We took the extra soil and made two more container gardens (in case I have to move… LOL). One contains a type of rice that doesn’t have to be flooded (Blue Bonnet) and the other with loofa sponge gourds.
It is now September of 2018 and I made this raised bed garden in 2011. They are still solid and are holding up well. I planted Ginseng in them, and would be getting ready to think about harvest, but my backyard goats ate all of my plants.