Last year I received a raised bed gardening kit as a birthday present, but I never had time to put it out and plant it. I made up a bunch of garden bed ideas for it over the winter and finally decided to add a couple more beds to an unused area of lawn by purchasing another raised bed kit, and by moving the bed that the corn was in the last few years alongside them.
The plan extends further with refinishing the shed, and adding some grape vines and a flower garden, but that will all come in the next few years. For right now all I am planning is adding the rhubarb and blueberries close to the edge of the mulch and moving the remaining raspberries from behind the house to the bed with the rest of them. I will also need to build a trellis, as I am planting beans and peas in the middle bed of the three.
Bland, boring and weed filled. Something had to be done…
As you can see, there wasn’t much to the space before I started with the new garden area. The lawn here has a lot of dandelions that you can’t really see in the picture because it was just mowed the day before, but trust me, they’re plentiful. Along with the dandelions the dandelions there was a bit of clover and a bunch of quack grass mixed in with the lawn.
This is just after the step one described, but you get the idea.
I thought about putting down some cardboard with some landscape fabric on top to hold it down, and cedar mulch on top of that. This works for broad leaf weeds, and for stopping new weeds from germinating in the area, but eventually the quack grass always seems to make its way up through once the cardboard is gone. This makes it almost impossible to remove, as when it you pull up the grass, it pulls up the cloth as well, and this was not ideal for the area I was working in since there is so much quack grass there.
I decided on using tarps because they covered a large area and were cheap when compared to the other options I looked into, and they are thick enough not to allow the quack grass through. The downside is that over time they can end up ruining the soil underneath them, which I am fine with, since this is going to be a permanent fixture in the yard. I wouldn’t recommend tarps for covering any area which might be changed around after a season or two.
Tarps will work for preparing a garden area a season in advance much like many people do by setting out garbage bags to cover an area to get rid of any vegetation before removing them the next season and planting in the spot where they were. Tarps can catch wind under them easily, and rip out landscape staples though, so you should also set something on them along the edges to keep them in place.
The centers have been cut out of two of the three beds.
I set out the raised beds on the tarps where they needed to go, and cut the tarp out of the middle of the beds. I made sure to leave a small overhang of tarp (about an inch) on the inside of each bed to help hold the tarp down leaving a little extra would compensate for the tarp settling into its final position as the vegetation underneath dies.
The sod has been removed, and the cardboard is in place.
Once the tarp was cut away, I dug out all of the sod in the left hand bed with my garden fork, removed any quack grass rhizomes and weed roots, and returned the soil to the bed. To get the soil back I just removed it from the old sod by shaking it, and pulling away at any big chunks. I then tossed the sod aside and it will be used to fill in a dip in the yard later on.
With the other two beds I thought it would be safe just to put cardboard over the entirety of the openings to keep the weeds down. I figure that this should work, for them, since by the time the cardboard degrades, the weeds will be gone, and there should be enough tarp in between the beds and the edge that the quack grass can’t find its way through. I have decided to plant some shallow rooted vegetables and flowers in those beds this season as well, so there was no need to dig down like I did in the corn bed.
Just lift the ends of the tarp to roll and mix the compost.
I mixed three kinds of compost with some peat moss and vermiculite to make some “Mels Mix” to start filling the beds, and I used the soil from the old corn bed to finish filling them. I put all of the ingredients on yet another tarp, and roll them into each other to mix the pile easier.
All of the compost and soil is in place.
It took a few days but in the end I could not be happier with the results.
It took eight bags of cedar mulch, but a good thick layer was needed to add weight to the tarps in case of a big wind storm (which we are actually having as I write this) so that they don’t fly away, or tear and let the weeds through. It also makes the whole area look really nice, and though the area wasn’t leveled, it looks more like it was now as well thanks to the mulch.
With the beds in place, and filled with the compost mix, I can get out there and plant them. The left hand bed will get corn in it once again, but instead of the four to six inches of compost mix it was growing in before, it now has about a foot of room for the roots. The middle one will have a trellis and some assorted vegetables, and I haven’t decided yet on the last one, though I think this year I might just put some flowers in it and collect the seeds for next year.
As always, I will keep you all updated on how they come along.