The photograph is of the vegetable garden about a year after buying the farm. It was a field of hip-high grass when we arrived but some careful weed whacking uncovered about 20 blueberry bushes, a row of raspberries, a large tri-colour sage and some other herbs. I built raised beds using recycled lumber from outbuildings we demolished, put down a thick layer of wet newspaper over the grass and topped it with compost. I supplemented it with some purchased mushroom manure and Sea Soil and started planting. Everything flourished. Over the years, I continued to add raised beds from scrap lumber, dug up sections of lawn to create large beds, and planted eight fruit trees and three hazelnut trees.
However, the grass between the raised beds created an awful lot of maintenance, and slugs love to curl up against the damp wood hidden by the grass. The already-old lumber began to rot, the corners of the beds collapsed, the soil had settled considerably and it was looking very random and untidy. Crops didn’t do as well and some things were getting awfully crowded. Time for a renovation.
Although 2″ thick cedar is my dream material for raised beds, it is very expensive. Cedar doesn’t last forever in our climate and there are so many beds that it was simply out of reach. So, spruce 1×8 sides with 2×2 corner blocks was the budget-friendly solution. I purchased 12′ boards, and the new beds will all be 4×4 or 4×8 so there is no waste. The corner blocks are from scrap lumber left over from other projects. Between the beds, the grass will be replaced with chip paths with enough room to drive a wheelbarrow through. The chip is all made on-site from the debris of several trees we had removed.
I’m lining up the raised beds to make it easier to move around the garden. It will also look tidier. As I build and put new boxes in place, I am adding a lot of composted barn muck to the existing soil. Some boxes are being planted immediately, while most of them will sit empty until we have warmer night temperatures. In the greenhouse, pots seeded with artichokes and tomatoes are sitting on a heat mat to encourage germination. There are also seeded trays of leeks, various varieties of lettuce, cilantro, basil, sweet peas and lupins. I’ll direct-sow peas and beans when the soil warms up.
It is a lot of work, but I know the garden will be better for the renovation. The new boxes look good, and the chip paths will cut down on maintenance. Perhaps those pesky slugs will stay away. Supplementing the soil with barn muck will add much-needed organic material and improve fertility and tilth. Uniform spacing between the beds will make maneuvering easier. I’m looking forward to the end of this huge project and my “new” garden. A busy, exciting start to a new growing season.