First Rasied Bed

The first of three raised beds

Raised beds make a gardener’s life easier in a variety of ways.  In addition to making your fruits and vegetables much more accessible (especially for a tall guy like me), they help your soil reach warmer temperatures faster.  Furthermore, as someone with gopher problems and clay soil, it affords me the opportunity to create an area of rich soil that won’t get annihilated by pesky creatures seeking to devour my crops before I’ve had a chance to sample them.  Well, hopefully…

First step in building the beds was finding a plan.  After a few rounds of debate with my wife, who assumes that despite my lack of tools I am a master carpenter, we settled on a slightly modified version of the Sunset plans found here.  A few notes in case you’re considering these plans yourself:

  1. No one that I found sells 6 ft 4x4s, just buy an 8 ft and divide it up.
  2. I went with 3/4″ PVC tubing instead of 1″ — a much tighter fit with the 1/2″ tubing used for the cold frame.
  3. The 1/4″ garden mesh they call for must be made of gold.  Everywhere I went wanted a fortune for it.  Lowes had a suitable replacement for it on the same aisle for $7 per galvanized mesh for a 3 ft by 8 ft sheet.  Fourteen bucks instead of over forty = win.

I ended up going to the Tualatin Home Depot for everything but the mesh noted above.  The employees at both the Tualatin and Tigard locations are incredibly helpful, and most importantly, you can actually find someone to help out if you have a question.  Not sure what it is about Lowe’s, but it’s almost impossible to find anyone to help in that store.

It is a lot more expensive, but it’s worth it to spring for the cedar instead of some of the cheaper woods like fir.  It will last a lot longer in the ground and cost you less in the long run. For the first bed, I chose a decking cedar. It’s not as high of quality on the finish, but it was much cheaper.  For the second and third beds, Home Depot was running a sale on the 12 ft 2x6s, so I ended up grabbing those and splitting them into an 8ft and 4ft piece. If you don’t have any power tools, another benefit of going to Home Depot is that they’ll give you 10 cuts for free. The only tool that I used in the construction of the beds was a power drill.

The second set of beds
Beds two and three are complete!

As you can see from the pics, I decided to modify the Sunset plans slightly and go with three boards instead of two.  I did this because I’m a) tall and b) we have crappy soil below, so I wanted to make sure that there was a deep bed of rich soil for everything to grow in.  Overkill?  Probably, but they look damn sexy!

After the beds were complete, the next step was installing them.  Good lord, this is way more difficult than building them.  It took about as much time to install and level the beds as it did to build them.  I did this all by myself, but you can probably save yourself some headache by getting a friend to help you out while putting the beds in.  Getting things perfectly level is the hardest part — you might be surprised to find how much incline there is in a surface that appears to be nearly level. Based on what I have read online, it is best to orient beds along a north-south meridian. Fortunately, that’s what worked out best for our yard, so I went with it.

With the beds complete, it was time to grab some soil and fill the suckers up.  Do NOT go to your local garden store and buy a bunch of soil by the bag.  This will cost you way more than buying a load of dirt from one of your local landscaping materials companies.  I ended up going with a 4-way mix from Boring Bark for all of the beds, a recommendation from some local gardeners at a class we took at the Urban Farm Store in Portland.  As it happened, even with the more expensive delivery charge, it was still cheaper than some of the in-town options.

You can see the final product below.  Still have some weeding to do!  That’s on deck for today if I don’t get rained out.

Stay tuned for the next installment when I tell you all about my experiences starting vegetables from seed indoors!

Completed Raised Bed

The first raised bed in the ground!