Garden boxes, aka “raised beds” are my A-1 choice for growing annuals & veggies. The list of reasons is long, but it starts & ends with Dirt is HARD.
- Small yard = not much dirt to work with.
- Midwest yard = prairie clay soil, exposed, abused & compacted during home construction, which laughs at the idea of root penetration.
- City/suburban yard = questionably safe dirt due to the American dedication to Better Lawns Through Death Chemistry, plus who-knows what kind of other contamination.
- But. I. Digress.
So, the subsoil on my current property is clay. C L A Y, as in “let’s make plates n shit outta this” clay. When we moved in 4 years ago, the organic layer where plants root was barely an inch deep under sad turfgrass. The one garden bed area was solid, lifeless, hardpan (under landscape cloth, in many places. Atop the cloth? Hostas & weeds, mainly.)
I’ve spent 3 years nurturing new soil by ceasing the pesticide & herbicde treatment, composting & mulching heavily around the existing flora and adding lots of drought-resistant & clay-tolerant scrappy fighters like clover & hardy native prairie perennials.
But there’s only so much remediation I can do. That’s not enough for tender vegetables & annual flowers that crave a nice, loamy, crumbly soil full of nutrients. Garden beds full of potting soil are the easy way to give them a place.
I slapped together some low beds the first year, but they were always temporary. Year 2 was the “fix the drainage first” year, and the planting took until the end of that growing season. Last year, compost, mulch, and letting the massie number of new plantings settle in.
This year, I did my first big experimental bed. It was successful enough by June that I knew I wanted more boxes. But where to put them?
Funny thing, I knew exactly where I wanted them.
I wanted more SHADE, too.
The patio pergola installed last year is lovely, and with a sail over the top, it’s shady, but the shade isn’t usually where I want it. Sun slants in from the south all day, and the shadow from the house doesn’t join the fun until late afternoon.
(Why a pergola and not a gazebo? That’s a whole ‘nother story. TL;DR version, I hate the pests who shelter under solid, peaked roofs outdoors.)
You know what makes nice shade? Wood privacy lattice. Lattices also make great trellises for climby vegetables like tomatoes, beans & even cucumbers.
So Garcen boxes with trellises to complete the pergola! Easy peasy, right? Only no one makes raised beds the size or style I wanted. Commercial ones are flimsy and expensive. If Imma pay a ton, I want quality.
Handmade all the way.
I took a bunch of measurements and talked to a friend who’s taken up carpentry as a hobby. CarpenterFriend had built some some raised beds for his spouse, and he agreed to take on My Project. (YAY!) He has a computer-aided design program, plenty of power tools, the patience to work out lumber lengths to purchase etc, AND a pickup truck.
I offered to help him with assembly onsite, because I like to play at carpentry but have a lot to learn. So of course two days before Project Day, I torqued my shoulder so badly I could barely lift a pillow even while taking the Fancy Advils.
So. My role was limited to paying for materials, providing snacks & hydration, and general Learning Of The Process. Spouseman helped with the heavy lifting. And I rehung the shade blinds when the project was done.
Behold, the Process pictures!
I’m looking forward to collecting sticks & brush to fill up the bottoms. No doubt I’ll spend all winter making plans and changing my plans of what to plant in them next spring. Lettuce for sure, though.
And for now, that’s a wrap.
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