Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed (in gopher country)


I have a couple weeks off from work (maxed out my vacation time again!) and I went up to the house for an extra-long Labor Day weekend. While there my dad and I built 2 raised bed gardens for me. I really need them because I want to grow garlic and onions and other "below ground" crops and it is almost impossible with the gophers there. We built 2 each, 8ft x 4ft beds but you could just build one if that is all the room you have. You could also go smaller, 6ft x 3ft would work as well.

Here is what you need for materials:
Redwood Boards (2x8) - 2 each 8 foot pieces and 2 each 4 foot pieces.
Redwood  Post (4x4) - 4 feet long, cut into 4 each 1 foot lengths.
(The lumber yard will cut these for you if you need them too. I find it is helpful for them to do it because 8 foot boards fit in the car or truck better than 12 foot boards.)

- 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch galvanized hardware cloth. I bought a 25 foot roll that was 24 inches wide for each bed.

- 3" exterior or deck screws

- Staple gun and 1/4" staples

- At least 32 bags of filler material such as top soil, compost and manure, if you don't have enough "good dirt" from your yard.

- Shovel and gloves

- Level (optional unless you are working with my dad, then it is required.)

This is really simple! You are building a box and using the post pieces to attach the boards together. But you need to keep everything lined up. We started with laying the long boards on top of 2 of the cut posts and lining them up to the top of the post and the side. Then we used 2 screws to drill through the boards into the posts. When you finish this step you will have one long side with a post at both ends.
The next part is a little tricky because you need to attach the short sides to the post now. Having 2 people makes this easier. One person lines up the short side on the post so that the top is level with the other side, while the other person screws it into place. Do this with the other short piece and you will have a rectangular box with about 4 inches of the post sticking down.
Corner where the sides meet on the post.
 Next dig hole to sink the posts into the dirt and use a level to get the sides level. This can be a challenge on a sloped garden like mine. One side was so much lower than the other that we used a broken cement block under the leg to make up the difference.

Dig holes for the posts and level the sides
Gopher Gaurd - After you have it level, dig out about 6 inches of dirt below the bottom of the pieces for the whole box. You need to do this because you are going to attach the gopher wire to the sides of the box and lay it on top of the dirt. You attach it with a staple gun and 1/4" staples.

Stapling the gopher wire - cut around the corner and fold it up like wrapping a present before stapling.

This is enough dirt for 1 box - 32 bags (1 cubic ft each bag) (8 x 4 x 1 = 32 cf)
Start filling up the box! I used a mixture of top soil, composted planting mix, chicken and steer manure. I also put a layer of newspapers in the bottom of each box to get the worms started.
Starting to fill the box
 Keep filling the box with the mix and then water it down to settle the dirt.
View of the finished boxes from my deck
Box with netting over the top and the bags around the side for weed protection
What do you do with 64 empty plastic bags when you don't have a garbage pickup? I use them as weed block around my garden where I will not be planting anything and it is just a walk way. I put some around the boxes themselves and the rest on the landing area at the bottom of the stairs going to the yard. I did this a bit last year over the winter and the spring and it really helped me out. Not to say they are good looking at all - if you have a flat pathway you can put bark or straw over them to cover them up and hold it down. I have very little flat area so I will just have to live with them.

Landing area into the garden.

My boxes will be uses for garlic, shallots, broccoli, turnips, parsnips and rutabaga for the winter. I will use them next spring for onions and potatoes. Hopefully, this will deter the gophers! I am forever an optimist.


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