RaisedBeds

In both 2011 and 2012 we had such a wet summer that my garden was not much more than a soggy mess. I couldn’t get in to weed it in the spring without losing a boot in the muck. By mid-summer, the weeds had crowded out any hope of carrots or beets. And I just gave up on potatoes. Whatever spuds managed to emerge from the swamp, rotted before August was out.

So. Plan B.

In the July 2011 edition of National Geographic, there was a wonderful article called Food Ark. The caption on one of the photos stuck in my mind:

“Andean potato farmers have long known how to hedge against climate fluctuations and the sudden plagues that can afflict fields that have just one variety: Plant hundreds of varieties over many fields in different locations.”

My garden was fine in dry years. It was great at holding moisture (obviously). So if that garden was good when the year was dry, I needed another garden that would be good if the year was wet.

Ta-da! The answer for me was raised beds. And since I was already having trouble with deer, I would build them, not just in a dry place, but in a protected one as well: inside the fenced yard that belonged to our dogs.

I more-or-less followed the design from EarthEasy for building a raised bed on uneven ground, with one major exception. I did not rip my bottom 2x6s with a chainsaw, which I considered dangerous. In fact, I didn’t rip them at all. (If you don’t knowing, ripping a board means to cutting it lengthwise.) I merely dug out the ground a bit deeper so I could use a whole board. After all, a modern 2×6 is only 5.5″ – so the most I had to dig down was 3″ or 4″.

Wanting the most bed for my money, I used 8′ 2x6s and built the boxes 4’x8′. The biggest building challenge was levelling, as my ground had quite a slope on it. But the most strenuous work was bringing the soil from a heap about 500 yards away. I put them together using 3″ coated deck screws and to stop bowing in the middle, I built cross-braces at the 4′ point, one for each level of board.

The garden has been such a success this year, I want to built three more next year. Here’s what I planted: carrots, beets, turnip, brussel sprouts, basil, and lots of spinach. The spinach and carrots are mostly going into the freezer.

Why freeze carrots, you ask? Well, I did it as an experiment last year and found the flavor of my frozen carrots was about 60 times better than those wooden sticks they call carrots in the store. When I had a cold room I would store them in 5 gallon pails of wet sand, which worked pretty well. But I don’t have access to a proper room quite yet.

So my raised beds are the bomb. Everything is growing ridiculously well. We’re on our second planting of spinach and there will likely be a third. I still haven’t figured out why my raised beds are so weed-free. I suspect it’s half, how quickly they dry out and that I’m only watering the planted rows, and half, that they’re higher off the ground and beg to be played with.