We are testing a wide variety of raised beds in the Dirt to Dinner garden. Just this week I added two new No Dig beds with tall trellising for cantaloupe and spaghetti squash. They are made of “found” lumber (it was Clean-Up Week in our neighborhood, so the finding part was easy) that 50 years ago was a backyard fence. I figure anything potentially unhealthy has surely leached out of it in all this time. Right?
The first bed we added to the front garden we took up the turf and dug the soil underneath, so it’s somewhere between 18″ and 24″ of new ammended soil mixed with the existing clay and topped with an inch of turkey farm compost. This bed holds potatoes and tomatoes, so I’m sure we’ll learn a lot about the quality of both the drainage and the new soil from the way the plants develop. It’s also in a windy corner, which the bush beans we tucked in there while the potatoes and tomatoes are getting started don’t seem too happy about. This also means the bed dries out more quickly than I would like and needs a thick mulching as soon as the plants are better established.
The shallowest of the raised beds is a No Dig 5″ deep bed with as close to Mel’s Mix as I could make with the materials at hand. And I do mean, No Dig with this one. It’s made out of found redwood timbers tacked together and laid straight onto the lawn. I am very curious to see how this bed does through the summer. I planted my spaghetti squash in this one, so I really hope it does well.
The idea is that the grass will die underneath the soil, turn into a natural compost and eventually become one with the dirt in the planting box. I imagine adding a lot of compost to this one through the Summer to keep the moisture content up. But will the grass grow up through 5″ of soil?
We also have a variety of Square Foot style beds in the Dirt to Dinner garden. My favorite ones, surprisingly, are the bi-levels. I thought I would want everything as deep as possible to hold all the soil and plants I could imagine, but I like the way this one looks in the garden and so far the occupants seem happy with their digs.
By far the largest raised bed in the Dirt to Dinner garden is the kids’ growing area which is over 18″ deep. The kids removed the turf and turned the soil underneath before the bed was constructed. At 112 square feet framed in traditional English willow hurdles, it is unique and also seems to be holding up well. I have no doubt that the bed will provide ideal growing conditions and can’t wait to see what the kids do with it.
The original raised beds in this growing space are large plank board planters that stand 3′ high and are 4′ wide. They are great for keeping the dogs out and not having to bend over very far, and they are sturdy enough that you can even stand on the edge to adjust your cages or add to the trellis systems. But they are so deep that the soil compacts in them by a foot down and they are very ungainly to try to turn the soil in them because of their size. It’s tough to get a shovel into them and you end up breaking your back digging them out by hand every year or two to lighten the soil.