Introduction: Raised Beds
My big problem with gardening involves my bad back. I need a decent sized raised bed to grow stuff in. My garden is also a bit like a swamp. During the winter it's 6" of sloppy clay and during the summer baked hard like brick.
When I made my first raised beds on my allotment I used cheap softwood, stained and nailed. They rotted in three years and even after the first year the pressure of the soil made the nails fall out. You live and learn I guess.
So this time round I went for quality and build strength. My budget I worked out was about £500. This time I spent time thinking about the project to make them as useable as possible.
The project is still carrying on - you can visit my blog on www.waark.com to see where we're at and any other innovations we're developing.
Step 1: Clearing the Space
Pictured is all the junk I'd moved - loads of rocks, bits of wire, general rubbish etc.
We bought a roll of weed suppressant membrane which was about 3 meters wide. Overlapped, it's a pretty impenetrable barrier.
At the end of the allotment area we'd got some IBCs which we're using for watering the plot. 3,000ltrs worth. They used to contain fruit juice from a local supplier and are on a crushed stone base on slabs.
I put down a sprinkling of weed killer as well - this was to kill all the other perennial weeds that can punch through concrete if not treated!
Step 2: Materials
You can get any old sort of wood, but I'd decided to go for a water safe pressure treated timber - this is the sort used in marine environments and guaranteed to last for a few years in wet conditions without poisoning anything. It's still a softwood, but a hardwood would really be too expensive for this sort of thing.
They're actually the same size as scaffold planks - 13.1ft long and 226mm high (to mix a few measurements)
Step 3: Making the Beds
When measuring, make sure anyone who's planting in them can at the very least reach to the center of the bed. We know how lazy we are and made the beds so we could reach almost to the other side without having to move. The length doesn't really matter too much assuming you have space.
We did have to work round one cherry plum tree.
You need to make sure the space between beds will accommodate the longest legged person kneeling and/or any wheel barrow or lawn mower if you're not paving.
To build the beds I used a self taping coach screw which was M10 in size and added M10 large washers to spread the loading. 2"x2" was used for the down posts which I manually sawed at 45' angle. The first box we attached all of the down posts and hammered them in. It took an awful lot of effort to level it and get in the ground.
On the rest, we used flat posts on the corners and put the box in position. I then hammered in the supporting posts at 1/3 intervals along the sides and then screwed them in. This was much easier and quicker and made leveling the boxes much easier. Most were leveled by eye...
Step 4: And Multiply by How Many You Need
We had room for more boxes than the four we installed, but we're putting a green house in the warmest corner so we can grow crops like chillies :)
Step 5: Lining the Boxes
This is an optional step - but to ensure the weeds didn't get in, but also to keep the soil from directly touching the sides we added lining to the boxes. We also pierced holes in the bottom with a knife.
A stapler was used to pin the material to the boxes.
Step 6: Filing
We needed 8m3 of soil and it had to be carted from one end of the house plot to the other down a narrow path.
It was not fun. We started about 8am and finished about 8pm. We had blisters and soil everywhere.
Step 7: Grow!
We put in our beds in September - a bit late for the growing season but ready for the next!
Over the past few months they've been used as giant litter trays and been covered in several inches of snow, but they've held up well.
About three weeks ago I planted out sets of heritage seeds - old style seeds which you can't buy from shops but specialist seed suppliers. I've got white beetroot, rare lettuce mixes and strange sounding salad leaves. All are doing well!
My next project will to be to setup the greenhouse and install a drip irrigation system from my IBCs!