Friday, March 25, 2011

Bed Making 101

It's time for another raised bed in my yard.  Currently I have 9 raised beds but I've been looking for a spot in my tiny yard for bed number 10.  One of the few spots left to put a raised bed is an area on the south side of our property.  It has a bit more shade than the rest of my yard, but I'm hoping to use that to my advantage when the summer heat is turned up and I still want leafy greens.
My goal with this project is to produce a raised bed, ready for planting, without purchasing anything new, and using as many recyclable/compostable materials as possible.  This is not an easy task.  It takes a lot to fill even the smallest raised bed.  Thats ok.  I'm up for the challenge.  Especially since I plan on doing a "Lasagna Garden".  What's that you ask?   Well, for starters, it's a great book of the same name by Patricia Lanza.   Ms. Lanza is a wonderful writer and her book containes a wealth of information on how to "Lasagna Garden" as well as a number of usful gardening tips written in a fun and informative fashion.  Basically, Lasagna gardening is a method of raised bed gardening that layers brown and green organic materials into "lasagna" type layers that can be directly planted.  All of my 9 beds have been started this way and the results have been so successful that now I wouldn't dream of doing my garden beds any other way.  The borders of my raised bed will be some great concrete blocks that I received from my dad.  The blocks look like something from the 70's and have some interesting "cut outs" that I might be able to use for growing herbs or other small plants.
I placed the blocks on the grass in the general area where I plan to put the bed.  It's a good idea to live with something for a few days to see how it works out. 

In the meantime, I start gatheingr materials for the bed, aka, browns and greens.  First off I hit the street to pick up some pine needles at the curb.
                                                         I can't pass up a freebie!
I wonder what the passing motorists thought. 
I will be gathering "free" materials for the next few days. I have my work cut out for me.  It's not like compostable materials walk up, ring the door bell and exclain "I home".  I have to go looking for them.  Kitchen scraps from the restaurant where I work,  old cardboard boxes, shredded paper, paratially finished compost,  magnolia pods, etc.  Wow.  I need a lot!  It's going to be tough but I'm up for it.  I will be topping the raised bed with a few items I have on hand: 1 1/2 bags of potting soil, a bit of vermiculite, some organic fertilizer and a bit of  "Marilyn's Own" soil amendment, but thats it for the purchased stuff, and I could get away without some of that if I didn't already have it on hand.  See you in a few days when I get my freebies together and build another bed. 
It ended up taking 3 days of hunting and gathering but I have a lot of great "stuff".  It took a little work but it didn't cost anything, which is always right by me. 
I piled everything up for a photo opp (and to have it all within easy reach).
Wow.  I gathered more than I thought.  No problem, the more the merrier I say.  Anything left over goes in the compost bin. 
I layed the cardboard out on the grass.  I don't bother to remove the lawn.  If it's long, I'll mow it, but otherwise just put the cardboard on top and start bulding.
Heres my new bed, ready to be filled.  I started with the magnolia pods and alternated the browns and greens until I reached the top of the blocks.

I topped the bed with some partially composted materials from one of my compost bins, and finished it off with fertilizer and potting soil.
For only a few hours of work, and $12.00 in soil and soil amendments, I now have an additional 10 1/2 square feet of growing space which is just about all the room I need to plant a quick growing spring crop of radishes and leafy greens.  The cut out's will have to wait to be planted due to a lack of potting soil, but thats ok.  It's a project for another day.

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