Aka ~ Raised Beds
If you rummage far enough
down through the strata of socks, shorts and shirts in the bureau
drawers or check out the boxes of forgotten clothes in the spare
room, you are likely to find an article back in fashion.
This cyclical phenomenon
also applies to the trends in horticulture.
Container growing for instance
has become popular in the previous few years because of its simplistic
management and superior product achieved with less growing-related
stress on the plants, or the plantee.
The beneficent method of
containing your plants, whether ornamental, vegetable or even
fruit bearing varieties that include dwarf-stock apples, apricot,
cherry, plum, pear, and blueberries, strawberries and kiwi is
The first recorded use
of containers in which plants were grown, began fifteen thousand
years ago by the old world Neolithics. Clay pots have been found
with soil clinging to the inside of pot chards, indicating their
We recognize the most famous
of containerized planting as the Hanging Gardens Babylon. Reports
of the successful method using rock and timbers to form into
precipitous walls to contain and support varieties of plant life,
soon encouraged the locals to form specialized garden guilds
and issue fact based information complete with stunning graphics
and suitable texts upon stone tablets. The carrier companies
that distributed the message had to very quickly conform to union
demands, and all personnel were issued with handsomely ornamented
kidney belts, which incidentally are still being used by the
staff working in the large box stores.
Not to be outdone by the
Babylonians, two more historic containment enterprises were begun
to isolate soil, trees, shrubs and perennial flowers: one in
214 B.C. during the Hwang-ti Dynasty, The Great Wall of China
was begun and then in the year 117 AD, Hadrian found time on
weekends to piece together a modest prozect.
The interest in contained
phytos continued and benefits us today. Included in the manifest
of Captain James Cook, were lists of temperate, sub-tropical
and tropical plants species that were to be gathered as cuttings,
seed and potted specimens from Australia, rubber trees from India,
spice plants from the Canary Islands. During a lay over in Hawaii,
Captain Cook was treated to a high tea refreshment and was so
impressed, he had his ships bring back to Plymouth, cases of
Dole pineapple juice and potted pineapples, with the hope of
establishing a cash crop in Britain. That did not happen, and
explains the tardy introduction of Pina Colada into the 18 c
Container Gardening today
means many things: whether you are containing individual plants
in earthen-ware pots, visually pleasing flowering plants combined
into bushel baskets, aquatics contained in ponds/pools or even
no-drainage pots, container gardening can also refer to raised
beds for mixed vegetables or strawberry crops.
THE MAKING OF A RAISED
The raised bed being described
and pictured is as easy to build as you will find. Lumber used
is called 'rough cut' and purchased through some lumber companies
or selected and purchased directly from the *mill. Because the
bed or beds will be an integral part of your yard, placement
is important, as well as the visual impact. Beds located in full
sun will provide you with best growing results.
The bed sizes are 'od'
or outside dimensions. One bed is 16' X 4' wide and 18"
deep. The other bed is 22' X 4' X 18" deep. Rough-cut lumber,
as the name indicates, is not planed or dressed as dimensional
lumber would be. Very often, rough-cut will be over-length and
will be the full thickness and width...in other words... a 1"
X 6" X 16' board will be just that. I choose to work with
rough-cut for out door projects because it lends itself to the
rustic look, is more durable and costs less than dressed lumber.
Lets go through the stages
of placement and construction:
Decide where the bed(s) will be. Level ground is easier to work
with, but if your land slopes, that is better, as drainage will
be natural and move to the lower end. Aiming your beds north/south
or east/west is up to you. Ours is north/south. That placement
allows you to grow taller material towards the north end, and
plant or seed to the south with consecutively lower growth plants.
Every plant will have benefit of the full sun. We had an existing
cement sidewalk, so placed a bed on both sides. I used Round-Up
on established lawn to kill the grass. Do not use poly
film as a barrier between the soil and your growing mix, as drainage
will be nil. There should be an ambience between the base and
your planting media.
Measure all your lumber
and cut to length. Use a square for accurate fitting. Use a penetrating
oil base stain of your color choice. Roll or brush, and make
sure the ends are painted. Hint: rolling is best...it
takes less time and coats all the rough finish.
You can see by this stage,
the layout. Work on a solid base for each side. With your square,
make sure the rectangles of the sides are square before attaching
them to the vertical cleats. You will find that if using rough-cut,
allowances will have to be made for differing widths or saw cuts;
not quite water tight when laying the boards side by side to
match up with the edges. (We're not building a piano or music
box) A gap or space left between the edges can easily be an inch
or so. Your planting mix won't run out between the cracks or
knot holes, and the spaces will give better air circulation for
plant roots. I use 2" Robertson head deck screws. Easy to
put in with an electric drill and bit, and easy to take apart
You can see by these photos,
the sides standing up-right with batons holding them in place
while you fit the ends.
Hint: Square the sides into place by
measuring diagonally from corner to corner. Each measurement
should be the same. Now it is square. The end vertical cleats
are also the supports that the pre-cut ends will fit against.
You can either screw in place, or let the planting mix hold them
in place by its own weight.
How are we doing?
The best thing about contained
growing is your choice of media you use to grow the plants.
Hint: For a pest free, weed free mix,
use a soilless mix. Our raised beds are lumber-mill sawdust,
obtained from the same place you buy rough-cut.
To adequately fill a raised
bed measuring 14' long X 4' wide X 18 " deep, is a half-ton
pickup truck slightly heaped with sawdust from the lumber mill.
Hint: A grain shovel will be your best
friend in filling the truck and emptying the sawdust into your
'bin'. Don't buy the plastic shovels, the metal ones are far
better and will last far longer.
When the sawdust in place,
spread a bale of peat moss on top and mix with the sawdust to a depth of your garden fork. Broadcast
a 25lb bag of dolomite-limestone to the total surface, and dig
it in to the same depth as the peat moss. Limestone will aid
in maintaining a neutral Ph while the sawdust slowly releases
acid during the first two seasons of growing.
To utilize your raised
beds for a more productive season, the addition of poly-hoops
to the bed will be the framework for garden cloth or clear poly.
Using these two products
have the ability, when conditions dictate, of increasing and
controlling your seedlings or transplants. Interested?
the how to:
Pick up some half inch
re-bar and cut, or have cut into thirty-six inch lengths. Pound
the stakes into the ground, on the inside face of your container
sides, leaving 12 inches exposed above the top edge and with
36 inch spacing. A roll of 3/4" black poly pipe is cheap
and cut into eight foot lengths. Slide each end over the re-bar
to the top of your soilless mix. Join, to support the hoops,
by anchoring one end of construction grade 'string line' to one
end in the centre of the bed, then loop each hoop with the string
to maintain the vertical and spaced measure of the hoop, and
anchor the string to the end. That's it!
Later, I'll show you the
best and quite unique method of fastening the shade cloth or
poly to the sides for easy on/off control of sun or shade.
The preceding has been
instruction in the construction, along with the incentive to
produce your own plant favorites. There will be information to
come, about the actual procedures and feeding of your plants
to prove containerizing is the way to go!
*Hint: There are two fine lumber mills
in Lamont County.
- Elk Island Wood Products
phone: 1 (780) 895-2593
- Hrycyk's Lumber Sales
phone: 1 (780) 896-3784 or 1 (780) 896-3829
RAISED BED MATERIAL LIST:
For the 22' bed:
Sides: 6 pcs. 1" X 6"
6 pcs. 1" X 6" X 6'
Ends: 6 pcs. 1" X 6"
Cleats 8 pcs. 1" X 6'"X
1 pound 2" Robertson deck screws
For the 16' bed:
Sides: 6 pcs. 1" X 6"
Ends: 6 pcs. 1" X 6"
Cleats 8 pcs. 1" X 6'"X
1 gallon penetrating deck stain