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Archive for Monday, March 21, 2011

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Fix-It Chick: Raised garden beds easier to maintain

March 21, 2011

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Building raised beds is an easy and efficient way to create a garden. Raised beds are typically easier to maintain than standard garden plots and can extend the growing season by allowing the sun to heat the soil thoroughly.

Step 1: Pick a spot for the garden bed that has an accessible water supply, receives at least eight hours of sun each day and has good drainage.

Step 2: Determine the size and depth of the bed. Vegetables typically need 6-12 inches of tilled soil to grow in. If the raised bed is at least 12 inches deep, it is not necessary to loosen the dirt below it. If the bed is less than 12 inches deep, use a garden fork or shovel to break up and turn the soil before proceeding.

Step 3: Limit pest access to garden vegetables by covering the bottom of the raised bed with hardware cloth. Cut the mesh to lengths 8 inches larger than the garden bed and lay it on the ground. Build the raised bed atop the mesh and then fold up the mesh edges and secure them to the sides of the frame.

Step 4: Construct the raised bed out of used building materials such as lumber, stone, cinder blocks or metal. Do not use old pressure treated lumber, as it may contain harmful chemicals that could leach into the soil and be absorbed by the growing vegetables. Instead use rot resistant lumber such as redwood, cedar or even composite lumber.

Step 5: Use excess lumber or angle brackets inside each corner for additional support. Using short 4-by-4 posts as corner braces is an easy way to build a secure wooden frame. Beds can be made by simply piling dirt and compost atop the existing ground. If the bed is much higher than four inches it is best to build some sort of frame work to contain the soil.

Step 6: Fill the raised bed with a 3:1 mixture of fresh top soil and compost. When using excess ground dirt for the raised bed, have it properly tested and amend it as suggested before sowing any seeds.

Step 7: Once plants have been established, spread a thick layer of mulch atop the soil to help retain moisture and discourage weed growth. Consider covering the bed with floating row cover to reduce pest infestation and encourage early and late growing activity.

— Linda Cottin can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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