Raised Beds, New Life to Old Fence

Before diving into the fence project, well, before even thinking about it, I was anticipating the current growing season.  I kept scratching my head, “where am I going to get the wood for some planter boxes?”  To be honest, I started out a hole in the ground kinda guy.  First there was the community garden plot(s).  Then there was the squatter’s plot behind our apartment that I developed two springs ago.  This year, amid so many things to do, where was digging up the whole yard going to fit in?  Well, it really didn’t, despite my efforts at laying out the dig by placing sticks in the ground.  I think attacking the perimeter of the yard has been a fortunate tact given that so much construction has been going on in the interior.  So when I started tearing the fence down, somewhere along the line I had the notion, ah ha, that old cedar fence meant free and appropriate wood for raised beds.

So I tore this old guy down.  It came down smoothly, even the posts (though I had to work out a cantilever system to get some of the beasts and the concrete bases free of the earth).  It all went in a pile.  Quickly I worked out that by sitting on a bucket I could be comfortable and proficient at pulling nails.

Turns out, all I needed was some 2.5-3” exterior screws, a circular saw, a drill, and a tape measure to build the raised beds (oh yeah, and my friends Shovel and Wheelbarrow!).  This was my kind of project.  Get the general dimensions worked out (approx. 2’ 10” x 5’), take some measurements, and mass produce (a la cutting up the slats into short and long lengths; and the 2x4s to the height of two slats stacked on top of each other).  No worries about getting things perfect.

I quickly appreciated how much character some of the boards had: old moss and lichens; green algal growth (precursor to the former?); and that slate gray weathered look.  Time will tell if my joints will hold up.  I used the 2x4 sections for them.

I had raspberries that I dug up from the garden to plant and asparagus was a new crop that I was excited to get going (especially since it takes a couple of years before you can really harvest them).  The raspberries are problematic for the same reason that I was blessed with too many.  The ones I have, which I was given originally from a fellow community gardener, send up runners prolifically.  I’m hoping this landscaping fabric will keep them contained. 

Some people go a step further and add wire mesh (~1 cm2) to the bottoms of their beds.  I used a staple gun to attach the fabric.  Before doing so, I broke up the ground and tried to level out the box.

Voila, the finished product.  For soil, I combined 1 part silty-sand dirt from my various diggings, 1 part compost, and 1 part composted steer manure.  Midway along the long span, I screwed in a stabilizing 2x4 section so that the long spans would stay rigid.  To build one of these guys probably took me an hour.  To get the cloth attached, break up the ground, and fill with planting mix took me another half hour.  I built four.  

Soon, I’ll cue up a post on the progress of my beds of asparagus, raspberries, and tomato/tangerine & honey melon sage/broccoli bed.  The latter I put in yesterday and after it I’m definitely seeing the light in going above ground.

-Matt