Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ideas for raised beds and accessible gardening plots

Here on the farm we’re working on our handicap accessibility this Spring. Regular fields are impossible for Her Majesty to get into, and I’m certainly not getting any younger. While we do plan to spend the next year bringing the ‘good’ field up to speed we’re also looking at ways to transfer quite a bit of our growing power into raised beds and smaller, more accessible gardening plots.

I spent the morning out planting parsnips and tomatoes into a small bed I put in several days ago. This is the second bed of this kind that we’ve put in so far. They are small enough to reach across, or at least to the center of without much effort, and are surrounded by blocks of broken concrete that was salvaged from an old building several years ago. The blocks not only frame off the area, but add a stable place to sit or brace ourselves when working the plot.

These particular beds are in-ground, meaning we dug up the ground, and back-filled it with real garden soil and appropriate augmentations like peat moss and fertilizer. In-ground beds are good for plants that will end up getting big, like these Burpee Big Boy tomatoes. But, we also plan to do some raised beds as well. These will also be framed in broken concrete, though we plan to re-mill the blocks a bit to make them fit together better when stacked.

Side Note: You can see the Cane Forest in the background of this picture, and that we've used some of the cane as the initial stakes for the baby tomato plants. This cane is another thing we have an abundance of that we plan to utilize. Ever time Hippylady and I go a garden center and see the bamboo shafts for sale for up to $5 each we laugh our tooshes off!  

There are a lot of other ideas for building these kinds of beds. My friend, Jaipi, a sister writer, recently pushed a great article on what she’s doing in her own garden called Cheap alternatives for raised bed gardens. I really like her table garden idea, especially for smaller plants that don’t need as much soil depth, like salad greens and herbs.

Another idea, that Hippylady came up with, is to use old refrigerators by taking the doors off, and gutting the interiors, then putting them on their backs. The outside can be painted or framed in for decoration, and the refrigerator boxes offer insulation to keep the soil a stable temperature. That last is important here in the desert where temperatures can fluctuate between -10 in the Winter and +110 in the Summer.

Other cheap ideas for raised and/or accessible garden beds are:

  • Old tires, stacked or by themselves
  • Wooden milk crates
  • Pallets
  • Dresser drawers
  • Opaque storage tubs
  • Old hats (I’ve seen it!)
  • Reclaimed bricks
  • Salvage lumber
  • Small boat hulls (we plan to do this)

Basically, if it holds soil, can have drainage installed, protects the roots against sunlight, and can be made safe from toxins that might have been used in it’s construction  it can be used. Some things works better than others, obviously. A cardboard box, for instance, can be used, but it wouldn’t last for very long. On the other hand, it will break down and became compost relatively quickly, enabling you to transfer it to a bed, container and all, at a later date.

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