Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Entry: Building Easy Garden Beds

Contained within this blog are instructions for installing in-ground garden beds, written by Lawson, Manda’s hubby.  Nice to meet you.

There are two main advantages to in-ground beds.  They are more cost-efficient than raised beds, and allow for greater freedom of total area.  While raised beds usually come as store bought kits, they are often expensive.  Additionally, the dimensions for these beds are pre-determined, which restricts the scope of one’s gardening endeavors.  So, for larger-scale gardening applications, in-ground beds are the better choice.
[You may remember our garden last year]
Soil quality is always a consideration for in-ground beds.  Usually, darker the soils are more fertile.  Also, the type of soil must be considered.  Clay soils impede upon root growth, whereas sandy soils lack nutrients and dry out quickly.  These problems can be remediated with store-bought topsoil or compost, depending on the needs of individual soil profiles.  When in doubt, ask a county extension agent.  They even offer soil samples to help determine each bed’s individual needs.

Again, cost effectiveness is an advantage.  The tools necessary are common and cheap, if one is willing to put forth the work.  Of course, gas-powered yard machines do lighten the workload.   The beds for this blog were installed with these tools:

Straight tooth rake
Gas-powered Tiller
Garden Hoe (if no tiller is used)
Stakes (or other markers)

Planning is important.  Select a site for the bed, considering soil quality, hours of sunlight (full sun is most desired), and aesthetic value.  Then stake out the corners of where the garden bed is desired.

Begin digging around the perimeter of the bed, loosening the sod (grassy root system).  Once the entire perimeter has been loosened, start digging up the sod.  The grass roots may go as deep as six inches, so care must be taken to ensure the root system is completely removed.  It helps to shake off the soil from the sod, both to conserve precious topsoil and to reduce the weight of the sod (It’s heavy!).  The sod is also a valuable resource, so use the wheelbarrow to transport the grass roots to wherever fill is needed.

Some with powered tillers are inclined to just till the grass into the soil.  This should be avoided, because the tiller can actually serve to bury the grass roots further, only adding to the difficulty of removing the root system from the soil.

With the sod is removed, the general area of the garden can now be seen.  With either the powered tiller, or a standard garden hoe, begin loosening the soil.  Any roots from nearby trees should be removed with a shovel or perhaps a hatchet.  Usually the tree is older and strong enough to withstand the loss of these outer roots.  Once the soil is tilled, the border is ready to be installed.

The beds for this blog were bordered with 2x6 lumber.  They were built separately then placed on the bed.  If done in this fashion, care must be taken to dig out around the border to ensure a snug in-ground fit.  Paver stones are also a sturdier (yet more expensive) option.  With the border installed, any additional topsoil can then be added and mixed with the straight-tooth rake.

As it can be seen, the most demanding step in this process is the removal of the sod.  This is also the most crucial step.  Grass is a very invasive plant, and can easily out-compete any vegetable root.  As with any project, work initially invested will lead to less work later.

Easy planting and good harvests to you.

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