How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

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Three years ago when we bought our house, one of the things that sold us was the garden in the back yard. When we moved in the previous home owners had left us strawberries that were ready to be harvested, beautiful flowers, and some young lettuce. We ate the strawberries throughout the first couple months, but never tried the lettuce. It didn’t seem so appealing after our dogs started using the garden for other things.

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The next summer we more or less ignored the garden and it more or less ignored us. For one of its last hurrahs we planted a bunch of orange and yellow flowers as finishing touches prior to hosting our wedding rehearsal dinner.

Last summer we decided to break down our circular garden which involved 4 trips in my Hyundai Elantra to donate cement blocks to a local Montessori school for use in their garden. In place of our garden we planned a beautiful deck that we could lounge on and entertain guests for dinner. However, when we found out how much even a moderate sized deck would set us back, we decided to bide our time and the soil did the same.

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In the meantime a seed had been planted in my head a couple of years ago. It started growing slowly and imperceptibly from various diets I tried out after learning about them from my gym. Later that seed germinated when Lolo’s Mom and I watched Food, Inc and then discussed it. She’d already read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer before we’d even met. Now I knew why she cared about these things. Finally the roots took hold with the birth of Lolo and the discussions we had about eating healthy so we could pass this gift on to our daughter.

Recently after watching Ron Finley’s “Guerilla Gardner” TED video and reading Farm CityI was glad that we’d never started that deck. My new project was to build three raised garden beds and move the soil from the previous garden into them.

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Since one of the main themes of our blog is to try and be local, it was fun when my Google search for ‘how to build a raised garden bed’ came back with “Your Guide to Making a Raised Garden Bed” from Sunset magazine. I only found out this year that the magazine my mom has read off and on for years is headquartered in Menlo Park. Though no longer independent (Sunset Publishing Corporation is a subsidiary of a subsidiary to Time Inc.), it’s still nice to know they started out right in the Bay Area and still have their offices their.

At any rate for the past 3 weeks I’ve worked on the raised garden bed project, which you can see from the transformation photos you see in this post. One thing I forgot to do was take pictures of the assembly of the bed itself, so you’ll just have to rely on the Sunset article for that. Looking back at the total effort required this project could likely be done in a single weekend, but we no longer seem to get uninterrupted periods of time anymore; I don’t recall why.

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One thing that was great for my project was that I could tap into the existing irrigation system. After some digging, PVC sawing, and PVC priming/gluing, I’d managed to add 1/2 inch drip line tubing for my beds. I’d never worked with PVC before, but it was surprisingly easy.

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If you don’t have existing irrigation you can hack into, you can always add a y valve to your hose faucet and run a drip system off a battery based timer from one of the ports. Meanwhile your hose remains connected to the other side. This might not look as nice but it will get an automated drip system up and running for you in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of effort.

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The only minor issue I had with the Sunset directions was that I found myself returning to the store to buy 1 and 1/4 inch brackets to hold the 1 inch PVC. The 1 inch brackets the article recommends were too small. I also decided not to cut the 1/2 inch PVC pipes down to 6 foot lengths. I just left them as 10 foot pipes so my “bird” aka dog netting hangs a bit higher. Finally definitely use gloves when you layout the 1/4 inch mesh hardware cloth.

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As you can see I now have one raised garden bed installed and ready for planting. I’ll be building two more to go on either side in the next few weeks. In the meantime the final photo here gives you all an update on the seeds I started last week for bed one. The Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, okra and peas seemed to have started no problem. So far I have no signs of life on my Japanese eggplants or my onions. I’ll wait another week and see if anything happens. If not I’ll transplant the seeds that took and buy some established plants for the varieties that didn’t.

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Anyone have your own spring planting projects in the works? If so tell us about them.

Lolo’s Dad

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5 thoughts on “How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

  1. Nice job on building your own raised beds! We ordered cedar ready made ones and using the lasagna method to convert grass into garden a year ago. This year, we’re doing lots of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and pole beans.

  2. I’m tying to learn how to grow grains. This year I’m planting dry corn that hopefully I can grind into cornmeal and then next year hopefully I can give wheat a try. This Youtube video (part 1 of 2, be sure to watch part 2 as well) inspired me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uTGilR95T44. How amazing would that be to grow it, thresh it, winnow it, grind it, bake it, and then eat it! I also really like the crop rotation aspect of his garden; trying to incorporate that into my garden. Territorial Seed Company has a cool garden planner program on their website that you can try for free and then pay $25 or something like that for a year’s subscription.

    • We will check it out. Growing grains brings “farm to fork” to a whole other level. I don’t even know what thresh and winnow mean! We thought about corn this year because we tend to eat a lot of it when its in season. Maybe next year.

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