Creating a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

| June 16, 2016

A few years ago I documented my attempts, failures and successes with container gardening. The one challenge I had with container gardening was that I wanted to grow many more vegetables than my containers could hold. The containers worked wonderfully, but my deck provided limited space. I always said that one day I would put on my big girl pants and actually create a garden in the yard. Well that day has finally come. I put on my big girl pants and have created a yard garden.

Garden Inspired by Tree Removal

We had a rather large tree on the side of the house that had to come down. It was a lovely tree, but it was showing signs of rot and the mere size and location of it created a safety hazard. After removing the tree I realized that area was perfect for a garden.

Perfect Garden Spot

That’s my hubby walking by the remaining tree stump. Just beyond the stump is where I planned to put the garden. Man, it wasn’t until I looked at these photos that I realized just how bad our grass looks. Fortunately, it’s a temporary condition. Once things warm up, it won’t look so bad.

After deciding to make a garden in the yard, I had a few decisions to make. I had to come up with answers to the following questions:

  1. How large of a garden did I want (or could I maintain)?
  2. Should I dig up the ground or make raised garden beds?
  3. How to keep the deer from using my garden as their buffet?

After much thought I decided to make raised garden beds. That decision helped me to determine how large the garden would be. My research lead me to make two different sized garden beds. I made two 4’ x 4’ beds and two 8’ by 4’ beds. I think four garden beds is a good enough start for a beginner.

Question #3 regarding how to keep the deer out of the vegetable garden was something I would decide later. Right now I had to create the appropriate garden boxes.

Having determined the location and size of the garden, the next step was to figure out how to get enough dirt to fill the raised beds.  We decided to have 5 yards of dirt delivered. They dumped the dirt right on top of the stump.5 yard dirt

Making the Raised Garden Beds

I used a slightly different technique on each garden box. With each box I learned a little something and used that knowledge to improve upon the next garden bed.

I went to my local Home Depot and purchased 1” x 6” x 12’ cedar boards. I couldn’t fit 12’ boards into my mini-van so I had Home Depot cut them into 8’ and 4’ pieces. I chose cedar boards for two reasons, 1) they’re durable and will last longer than pressure treated lumber and 2) I didn’t want the chemicals used in the pressure treated lumber to leach into my garden. Not only that, cedar smells and looks so much nicer.

There was some question as to whether or not to create a 6” or 12” inch deep garden bed. After a little research I decided to go for the 12”. This way I could plant root vegetables without the worry of having enough depth in the garden bed.

I started with the 4′ x 4′ raised bed.  If I screwed it up, at least it’s the smaller of the bunch.

Using my table saw I cut the 8’ board in half. I then screwed/nailed the four pieces together to make a square (actually 2 squares). I placed one square on top of the other and used about a foot long piece of 1”x 1” reclaimed wood to affix them one on top of the other.

Here’s a photo of the first one. It’s 4’ by 4’.4x4 Raised Garden Bed

As I created more boxes, instead of the 1”x 1” I used larger pieces of leftover cedar wood to affix the boxes to each other. I then used the 1″ x 1″ as ground spikes to keep the garden beds in place while filling them with dirt.

I also applied a coat of tung oil to the inside and outside of each garden bed. Tung oil helps to condition the wood. It also brings out the beautiful characteristics of the cedar. You can see the difference of how tung oil enhances the wood. The one on the left received the tung oil. The box on the right is waiting for its application.Tung Oil

After allowing the tung oil to dry for 24 hours, I put the boxes outside and arranged them approximately two feet apart. I wanted enough space between the boxes to fit a push mower. I also needed enough space to walk, sit, kneel for weeding, planting and such.

Filling the Garden Boxes

I’ve read that it’s not necessary to loosen the ground dirt when using raised garden beds, but because our dirt was so compacted and filled with tree roots, I chose to loosen the dirt and pull up as many roots as possible before filling the beds with dirt. It was a pretty labor intensive process.

Roots and Compacted DirtOnce the ground was dug and tree roots removed, I tossed a layer of wood chips as a base layer for my garden. We removed several trees so we have an abundance of wood chips.

On top of the wood chips we placed a layer of dirt. On top of the dirt I emptied several 5-gallon buckets of bokashi. The 8’ boxes got three buckets of bokashi and the 4’ boxes received two. To the bokashi we added a layer of dirt and worked the bokashi into the dirt. Once it was sufficiently worked in, we filled the remaining space with dirt.

Layer of Wood Chips

Wood Chips

Adding bokashi

Adding Bokashi

I’ve learned from container gardening that the trick to good healthy vegetables is the soil. My goal was to make the soil as nutrient rich as possible. I don’t use commercial fertilizers, nor do I need them because the bokashi does the trick.

Unfortunately, I only had enough bokashi to fill three of the garden beds. The fourth one (8’ x 4’) has to wait until more bokashi is ready. That may take another month or so, but it’s worth the wait. Even if I don’t plant in that last bed this season, I’d rather the soil be right before I start planting. In the meanwhile it has a layer of wood chips and a single layer of dirt.3 of 4

Keeping the Deer Out of the Garden

Now that I’ve got most of the boxes filled with dirt, it’s time to think about the fencing. As you can see from the photo above, I opted to go with the metal stakes and Easy Gardener 7’ x 100’ Deer Barrier.

The deer barrier wasn’t difficult to set up. My biggest problem was driving the stakes into the ground. In some areas there were either large rocks or impenetrable barriers that prevented me from driving the stake in exactly the spot I wanted. I had to move the stake either forward, backward or to the side by a few inches or as much as a foot. Doing so prevented me from making the even rectangular fence that I wanted. Nevertheless, the deer barrier is up.Fenced In

Deer Fence

This post is getting rather long so I’ll end it here. In the next post I’ll discuss the two-foot space between the garden boxes and my attempt to keep small animals out of the garden.

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Category: Bokashi, Gardening, Raised Garden Beds

About the Author ()

Felicia is a bit of a tree hugger and likes to share ways to lighten the toxic burden on the environment.

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