Monday, May 30, 2011

Raised beds, part 1

We really started the garden work a little more than a month ago.  A friend of ours does a bit of veggie gardening, and talks about it in a way that makes gardening sound accessible and fun.  And - clearly not knowing what he was in for - he agreed to bring over some tools on a late April Saturday to help us build some raised beds.  He offered know-how and equipment, we offered elbow grease and dinner on the grill. 

First came demo.  We designated a spot at the back of the yard that got pretty consistent sun as garden land.  Unfortunately it was currently inhabited by weeds, the start of something invasive and prickly (we think it was blackberries), and half of a car-sized rosemary bush.  As yard work goes, this kind of demo is pretty fun - indiscriminately ripping things out of the ground has a therapeutic aspect to it.  The weeds went into our yard waste bin that gets hauled away, but the rosemary, being not a weed, I reckoned could go into our backyard compost bin.  Let's call this lesson #1:  As it turns out, one should not throw an entire plant into the compost whole.

[Truly, the compost bin is a topic for another day.  The previous homeowners started it, and we just sort of throw things in and turn it every so often.  I have since learned that this will eventually result in usable compost, but not for many years.  Good efficient composting involves a ratio of "greens" and "browns," which sounds suspiciously like math and therefore will be dealt with at a later date.  For now, we throw in corn cobs and apple cores and the squirrels dig them back out.  The end.]

Now for construction.  Our materials, for three beds:
- Nine cedar boards: two for each  long side and one to cut in half to make the short sides.  Our boards were 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and about two inches thick.  Although the person at the home improvement store tried to convince us to get the super nice grade of cedar, we remembered that our end product would be boxes of dirt, and got the cheaper utility grade cedar for this.
- Four 12-foot 2x4s of the fancy cedar, to make a nice rim around the top of the boxes and for anchor posts.
- Eleventy-jillion no-split decking screws.  Enough to cover what we needed plus an allowance for all the screws we'd end up stripping or losing.  As I understand it, decking screws are less likely to unscrew themselves under pressure.

To make the boxes we used a basic butt joint.  Our friend said that you can just stop here, but we also added anchor posts in the corners to add stability and help when it came to placement.  To do this we cut 1-foot lengths from one of the 2x4s and screwed them into the corners of the bed, but offset so that about 6 inches of the post stuck out beyond the bottom edge of the bed.  We used the rest of the 2x4 cedar to make a rim around the top edge of the bed.  This was a little more complicated, involving miter joints, but it made the beds look more finished and complete.

This has already turned into a long post, so we'll save the placement and filling steps for another day.  I'm sorry to say we didn't take any pictures during all of this, as it was before I had any plan of blogging about anything.  I'll make sure to take some pictures from here on out.


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