"Anyone that doesn't agree with leggings as pants can physically fight me.
And I'm going to win because I have a full range of motion due to the fact that I am wearing leggings as pants."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Raised Beds- A Long Time Coming

Now that it is well into autumn, I have finally put the finishing touches on the raised beds that were supposed to hold our 2010 vegetable garden.


My efforts to sheet compost and garden directly over the lawn have been less than stunning, probably because I attempted to convert such a large area and didn't build it up high enough.

DSC_2580.jpg DSC_3958.jpg
(Feb 2008, April 2008)

(Oct 2010)

Late this past winter I started planning for raised beds. I researched, drew up plans and figured out how much wood I'd need. And somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I wanted the beds to be adjustable for height. That way, when I rotate crops, I can make the tomato bed, where ever it is, three sections high and leave something like the lettuce only one high. So I designed interlocking pieces, with the posts offset to fit down into the section below it, holding it in place. I'm not sure that this is actually necessary, but I like it anyway. Cause I'm a nerd like that.


Then this spring, I ordered the wood to be delivered, thinking I was so clever and had saved myself the bother of borrowing my dad's pickup and schlepping the boards home myself.


The smugness of watching the company dump all that wood at the side of my house wore off quickly, just as soon as I realized how much wood there really was in the minimum deliverable order and the fact that we needed to move all of it to the back porch to keep it out of the elements.

Then there was the second problem of less than perfect wood. I somehow imagined that the guy I spoke to on the phone would go out back and lovingly pick out the straightest, most uniform and undamaged pieces of wood he had. He did not. I feel sure he looked at my purchase as an opportunity to unload some of the more warped and ragged of his stock.


So, these are the most recent DDWDDD. Don't buy wood sight unseen. My advice is to find a friend with a pickup and trade them for beers (or the promise of fresh grown produce) and buy only as much wood as you need. If you must have it delivered, though, go and pick out your boards yourself first. Trust me on this one.


I won't lie to you. These were a lot of work. But that's only because we made so damned many of them. Really, I probably could have reduced the scope of the project by about 2/3rds and actually gotten around to growing some vegetables this year.


Not that it took us the entire summer to make these. What took us the entire summer to do was work on them for a day, get discouraged because it wasn't going as smoothly as we'd envisioned (thank you warped boards) and then wait several weeks before attempting it again. That pace tends to stretch out the time line a bit. Jeff and I finished about half of them and then just couldn't find the motivation to tackle the second half.


Eventually though, I felt the time crunch and got a move on (it was also easier once I'd decided to put them together with bolts and nuts instead of deck screws). I even sat out in the rain one afternoon, putting one together. Then Jenny and Kam spent several days at my house and we developed an assembly line process that really moved things along.


Kam, despite the obvious handicap of being 4 years old, was surprisingly helpful.

And also adorable.


After they were all put together, we dug them into the ground. Then Joey and I attached a bunch of pipes that will hopefully make it super easy to set up trellises as well as hoops for frost and bug protection. Looking at the finished beds, I realized that this might be the perfect example of me making things much harder on myself than strictly necessary, but I am so very pleased with it.


And I also realized that when it takes me this long to finally finish a project, the actual moment of completion is less "Woo hoo!" and more "How could it have possibly taken so long to finish this?"

I'm also trying not to dwell on the fact that they aren't, technically speaking, finished, as they now need to be filled with many truckloads of sheet composting material.


Angeleen said...

So. Very. AWESOME, Wendy!!

Good job.

They are stunning and I am completely envious.


Laura S. said...

I love them! I will be making some hopefully next summer when we move. Did you bury them very deep into the ground? Do you have posts just at the corners or along the long side for support? Thanks!

Joanne said...

Tutorial please! This has been on our agenda for several years now and we're thinking of tackling it in the next couple of weeks before it gets too cold - only problem is we've no idea where to start! :)

missy said...

these look great. It will be so worth it and not matter by next year how long it took to get them made!

I am attempting my first trial of sheet composting but did not build raised beds seeing as my history with gardening is less than stellar....so I didn't feel I could justify the expense for wood until I can actually grow something. I'll be posting a series on my own little blog once I get it organized.

So you are going to try sheet composting again - just within the beds this time?

Wendy said...

missy, I felt pretty much the same way at first, but finally decided that I actually needed the raised beds to have a decent shot at growing something. And yep, I am doing the sheet composting in the beds this time, with a layer or two of actual soil so it isn't just compost. I have them about halfway filled up and am hoping to finish them off this next week. (It's been a ton of work) Good luck with your garden! Let me know how it goes.

Wander to the Wayside said...

Good grief, Wendy, what next?!? Can you come to our house and get David to do this, which I've been begging for for several years? Though I'm thinking after this summer's disastrous container garden results he will be more inclined next year! But then again, I'm still waiting for help with the 'patio wannabe' for the flagstones we schlepped up here from Eatonton almost six years ago!

Good job, and I can't wait to see what happens with it next summer! Well, I guess first I can't wait to see how much all that dirt and sheet composting (though I have no idea what that actually is) is going to cost and how much work it's gonna be! (By the way, how much did all that wood cost?)

Jenna Gayle said...

Nice! I worked on my first raised be this weekend (didn't get quite finished though!). Mine isn't nearly as nice as yours are... we have a whole bunch of old fence posts stored and I'm using those as my borders :) May not be pretty, but they were free! Good luck on your gardening!!

FinnyKnits said...


You have 6 beds.

Do you know how much produce you can grow in 6 beds?


I love this and they look beautiful and the hoops will work super well for throwing sheets over the beds for frost and OH THIS IS GREAT!

I am super stoked to get all seed nerd with you this winter.

Nice work, lady.

Amber said...

Wendy, those look fantastic!

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

This. Is. Freaking. Amazing. :) I can't believe you guys did all that work! I saw some of the photos before this post, and was really wondering what in the heck was going on, and now I know!! So cool! I am really super proud of you for seeing this project through. Keep going (or definitely put your feet up if you are finished by now!). And thank you for sharing your amazing hard work here, in a long, and undoubtedly time-consuming post. I know how those things go, lol.

You rock.

June said...

I would love to have one or two of these beds! What a great idea.
Your blog post on sheet composting was my inspiration last fall and it worked out great! I doubled the size of my garden without having to remove grass and had great veggies.
Now if I could just build the raised sides...my brain is ticking away!

Kim said...

I would love to see a tutorial too! I just moved so I have to start my garden all over again. I'm hoping the ground is workable at least a little bit out here this winter. :)

Anonymous said...

You are a woman after my own heart.

Laura Koniver said...

Thank you so much for sharing this link on my blog... it is AMAZING. You rock!!! Simply inspirational. oxoxoxo

Laura Koniver said...

Oh, and I love love love your pictures! Love that this project was a family affair! xoxo

Anonymous said...

We must have read the same book ( Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman) about the same time and decided to do raised beds about the same time. I love your version and am wondering if you tried gardening through the winter months? I built the cold frames on labor day last year and harvested lettuce for a salad on Thanksgiving day and again on Christmas and New Years.

I just found your blog this evening and am really enjoying your projects and plan on coming back for more.

check out my cold frames and other hobbies at www.laughingorange.com

I also love the luminaries. I think we are somehow related as you seem to have the same amount of energy as myself.....No, I think you have more to also have all those kids to deal with too.....LOL!

Thanks for sharing and I enjoyed your blog.
Susie Wilburn

Wendy said...

Susie, no I didn't try gardening last winter. I filled up the beds with sheet composting materials in October and they weren't anywhere near being composted enough. I might try this fall and winter, though. And so glad you like my space here. Thanks!