Building a Home – Raised Bed Gardens
I grew up on a farm in a small town north of Cincinnati in Ohio called Sidney. Besides having cash crops like corn and soybeans, we had a garden for our own use. We used to eat sweet corn in the summer until we’d bust. When I moved to the city, I realized how I’d come to take fresh produce for granted. When Sara started coming home with me, we’d forage through my mom and dad’s garden looking for anything salvageable that they’d left behind. Now that we’d have our own place and enough space, we wanted to plan a garden. We decided to build several raised bed gardens because of the following advantages:
- No soil compaction: all gardening work can be done from areas adjacent to the raised beds.
- Plants can be more closely spaced because there’s no need for walking paths.
- Excess water tends to drain better than normal gardens, especially in wet climates like Florida.
Our builder brought up the idea of installing the beds before we finished the house because once the sod and concrete sidewalks went down, there wouldn’t be a way to get a dump truck full of garden mix soil to the backyard without doing significant damage. We could have had the compost dumped in the front yard, but that would involve a LOT of trips with a wheelbarrow. So our planning started with the question of how much garden mix soil we would need. We had a little patch in our back yard that would serve as a good location and it measured about 30’x20′. A resource we had been using from the University of Florida extension in Miami Dade county (click here for the publication) recommended a planting depth of at least 8″. Using those three measurements, we figured we’d need about 400 cubic feet of garden mix, or about 15 cubic yards (“yards”). I decided to go with a little less and I’m glad I did: I failed to realize that raised beds can accommodate roughly twice the plant density of a regular garden because there are no walking paths. I ended up ordering 12 yards.*
Next came the question of what material to build the beds from. At $3 per piece, landscape timbers made the most sense. We were worried about the chemical treatment the timbers contained leaching into the soil and our food, so we lined the inside with a durable plastic. The first bed we made was 28’x4’x0.75″, which required about 24 landscape timbers. To prevent weeds from sprouting from under the newly laid garden beds, we put enough cardboard down to cover the entire 28’x4′ area. We then started to back fill the bed with the garden mix. The next two beds were 28’x4’x1′, requiring 32 timbers each (because we had ordered about 2 yards of garden mix too much, we decided to make the next two a little higher)**. We left about two feet between each of the beds as a walking space, hopefully enough space to fit crates of fresh vegetables!
We’re pretty happy with the final product. Sara is a little worried we’ll need to put out a bunch of plants to make full use of the space. I figure whatever we don’t use we can seed with flowers, but I’d rather have too much garden space than not enough.
*We got 12 yards of the garden mix delivered from Roberts Sand and Gravel for $450.
**There was a lot of additional work done to level the beds, way to much detail for the intention of this post. For more information on how to level your raised bed garden, send me an email or call me.