Veggie garden makeover, part 2

Yesterday was spent pulling down the vines, removing weeds and all other old vegetation from my vegetable garden, and taking down the trellises. Although it was a lot of work, seeing the veggie garden cleared and ready for whatever comes next was quite rewarding.

Today we see what comes next, and it's raised beds! I'm eager to get started on the first building project of the year, so let's get started!


I knew that I wanted the beds to be on the shallow side, as the soil in this area has been improved for several years with compost. The raised beds would be to give a bit more nice, loose soil (since the stuff underneath still contains quite a bit of clay) and to help define the planting areas. I've gotten pretty loose with the plant layout over the years and it's no longer working for me or for the plants.

After some debate, I decided to use decking boards (technically 5/4, 6" decking boards), and went with the most expensive but long-lived option available: composite material.

Since my fenced area is about 13' x 13', I decided upon a layout consisting of three 4' x 6' beds and one 4' x 4' bed -- you'll see how this works later.

Constructing these boxes wasn't too difficult. I pre-drilled the screw holes:

Then used these square-head stainless steel screws which I had left over from when our deck was rebuilt in 2006:

Even though I pre-drilled, I had a lot of trouble with the heads stripping on these screws. Here's one that just started stripping as soon as I got it most of the way in:

Some of them stripped while sticking out 1/4" or more, and I had to drill another hole and drive another screw. I'll have to cut those protruding screws off, or I'm pretty sure I'll injure myself (or rip up some shoes) sometime this year.

One down, three to go.

So here's the final layout that gives me 88 square feet of planting area:

I left a wide path even with the gate so I can get a wheelbarrow in, and just have some room to work. Between the beds and around the edge is just about one foot, so it's a tight fit but there's still space to stand.

I haven't yet started working on the fence, so it still looks pretty dilapidated.

Next, I started filling the beds:

I used a "garden mix" from my local material supply company, which is 60% compost and 40% topsoil. It should do quite nicely, especially if I keep adding compost to it.

You'll notice that I didn't use any stakes to secure the beds to the ground, nor did I bother with leveling the beds. I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible, and since those steps aren't critical with these shallow beds, I skipped them.

I didn't have enough soil to finish filling the beds, but I did get the small 4' x 4' bed filled, so it's ready to plant with some starts I bought -- I'm not growing everything from seed:

I'm planting some "Chinese cabbage" (but I can't remember exactly the species or variety, and I'm not going all the way back out there to check), broccoli ('Packman'), and cauliflower ('Snow Crown' I believe):

I'm using the "square foot gardening" techniques, so I divided the bed into 1' squares:

All of these plants should be spaces one per square foot according to the "square foot gardening" information:

The remaining 1' x 4' area will be filled with beets, which can be planted 16 per square foot. I love beet seeds -- they look like something I should put into a cereal bowl and drown with milk:

Delicious granola? No, beet seeds!
I also love beets (both the roots and the greens), and I've collected several different varieties of seeds over the years since I never use a whole packet in a year. I'll be planting a different variety in each square:

I may even tell you what the varieties are sometime, but right now I'm too tired to get up and look at the seed packets. It's been a long day. It's good to see some plants in the ground though.

Long days are not a problem as long as progress was made, and I definitely feel like I'm making progress on my goal of being attentive to my edibles this year!


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anne  – (March 14, 2011 at 9:31 AM)  

Your new plants are tempting me to enlarge my vegetable garden....

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 14, 2011 at 9:39 AM)  

Alan, when we built our raised beds from composite materials, we used special composite decking screws. They required NO pre-drilling and went in like a hot knife into butter.

Alan  – (March 14, 2011 at 9:55 AM)  

I was trying to avoid buying another box of screws. I like buying hardware as much as the next guy, but I have a lot of 1/2 full boxes in the workshop already.

Christine  – (March 14, 2011 at 4:25 PM)  

I love your veggie garden. How beautifully organised. I'm getting lots of tips from you before I start mine which is still a bare patch waiting for a tree to be moved from it.

Your cauliflower "Snow Crown" is the same as mine I planted 2 or 3 weeks ago. Will be interesting to see how they compare in the different climate zones planted at almost the same time.

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