If you haven’t started your own raised-bed garden, you still have time. It’s only the beginning of May! Of course, I built my raised beds last October because I told myself “I still have time” last spring…and the spring before that. After reading about raised bed gardening, I decided to build three 4’x8′ (four feet by eight feet) beds, which were 12″ (twelve inches) deep. This gave me almost 100 square feet of garden space. By limiting the beds to 4′ wide, I am able to reach the entire bed without stepping in it. This leaves the soil nice and loose, which makes it easier for the plants to grow, and to pull weeds. I used pressure treated lumber to prevent decay, and coated deck screws to prevent rusting. I used 12′ long 2″x6″ planks, which were the most economical, and cut them to length. I cut 2′ long sections from 4″x4″ posts, secured the planks to the top half, and buried the bottom half of the posts in my back yard with the beds spaced about 2′ apart.
To build the green houses (which I’ve recently learned are more appropriately called “hoop houses”), I attached 1′ long sections of 1″ PVC pipes to the inside of the garden beds with pipe straps. I then bent 10′ long pieces of 1/2″ PVC pipe over the beds and slid the ends of the 1/2″ pipe into the 1″ pipe sections. I then used large pieces of 6mm plastic tarps (~10’x15′), and used clamps to secure the sides of the plastic to the pipes. You can find the tarps in the paint section of a hardware store, near the other drop-cloths. To close the ends of the tarps, take the sections hanging off the ends and simply roll them together until the tarp is tight, and clamp the roll in a few places.
Once the beds were built, I ordered 3 cubic yards of garden soil from a local supplier and filled the beds. This supplier provided a mixture of dirt, compost, and mulch. If you aren’t sure, call and ask, because you want a mixture of those things, not just dirt. I also ordered a couple hundred red worms and distributed them between the three gardens. Covered with the homemade hoop house, the garden lasted the winter without any significant mishaps (two pipes blew loose, but thanks to the clamps, they didn’t go anywhere). The snowfall this past winter was light, but any snow we did get simply slid off the top of the beds, leaving the soil unburdened by the weight. Once it was time to start planting, I mixed in some organic fertilizer, buried a soaker hose in each bed, and covered the planted seeds with cedar mulch.
If you are still considering starting your own garden, I highly suggest it. You can start with one bed, or collect various containers and fill them with good soil (just make sure they have drainage holes).