Raised Garden BedAfter years of apartment living, my wife and I were thrilled to move into a house with a backyard. We dreamt of growing fruits and veggies and planting flowers, but shortly after moving in, we had our soil tested by a local agriculture school. It was an easy process, we mailed in several scoops of dirt taken from 6 spots in our yard and had them analyzed. The results showed our soil was highly acidic and contained lead, which made it unsuitable for fruits and vegetables. We learned this is a common problem, which means it's a good idea to test your soil, especially in urban areas. We thought all was lost, until someone suggested we use raised beds with fresh soil for crops we'd be eating. The design can be extremely simple and it doesn't require any special tools, which makes it a perfect DIY project.
Design: Make your life easy by choosing a design that's either a square or rectangle. When it comes to materials, regular lumber won't hold up to rain and moisture. Opt for vinyl or pressure treated lumber, which is specifically designed to be moisture and weather resistant. Most home stores including Lowe's and The Home Depot will cut the lumber down to the exact size you need. If you're placing your garden bed directly on the ground, you don't need to build a bottom. Just make sure the sides are high and that you use at least 6 inches of soil so the roots of your plants don't reach the earth beneath the bed.
Construction: Attach the sides to each other using a hammer and nails. Since we decided to build a portable bed, we also built a bottom, which allowed us to attach casters. If you do add a bottom, drill 1-inch diameter holes in the base of the planter, every 12 inches to allow excess water to escape.
Related: 3 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid
Planting: Fill your bed about ¾ full with soil, then spray down the dirt with water to help it settle. Plant your crops as you normally would and cover with a final, thin layer of soil. Wait 1 to 2 weeks after planting to use any fertilizer as your plants are adjusting to the change. As you can see, we started early this Spring with decorative plants, but we're in the process of building a brand new box for fruits and veggies!
If you're still on the fence about growing your own veggies, check out tips blogs on CSA signups and great Farmer's Market Finds. What sorts of backyard improvements have you tried? Let me know about your projects in the comments!
-by Paul Hope
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