Veggie garden makeover, once again

Remember last year when I made over my veggie beds so that I'd get a good harvest for once? Well, it didn't work, and in hindsight I didn't make enough of a change. I went from my heavy clay soil (that I've been amending for years with compost, but still is way too heavy for nice edibles) to small raised beds that contained better soil. They just weren't deep enough though.

My veggie beds immediately after last year's makeover.

Encouraged by the success I saw at Gardenworks, I decided to make another attempt.


First step was to dismantle the existing beds, then reassemble and stack onto the one bed:

Three times as deep as before -- that should be plenty for those veggie roots, right?

I'm not sure why I didn't leave them intact, pry them out of the ground, then stack them up. It would have saved me a lot of work. I didn't think of that until just now. D'oh!

Probably because the boxes were all slightly different sizes. I did make a few adjustments when reassembling, but it still ended up less than perfect:

Nobody will notice this misalignment,
as they'll be too wowed by the veggies!

So now the area for the other bed is clear, except for the tools.

First I decided to fill the first box though, as I had a big pile of garden mix on the driveway. (Incidentally, I paid for 1/2 yard of soil, as I knew my little truck couldn't easily handle more. They gave me about 1-1/4 yards instead, and my truck was completely bottomed out. Saved me a trip or two back there, but the sound of those mudflaps scraping the ground was a bit distressing.)

Before adding more soil I decided to loosen the existing stuff:

Good thing I did, because I found a gnarly mess of evil-looking roots:

I never did take photos of the plants that belong to them, but there were two grassy weeds growing in this bed last summer (I told you I neglected the beds). They were kind of attractive after they produced seed, so I left them alone. Had I known they were producing rhizomes faster than my bamboos were, I would have pulled them right out!

I found several broken pieces, so had to spend extra time looking for more. I'm pretty sure I got every bit of it out.

So now, on to the new soil:

I first added quite a bit of the free aged manure I recently got from Gardenworks, and an ample sprinkling of the coffee grounds too. Then a layer of new soil went in, with some Garden-Tone sprinkled on top:

I then repeated the process -- manure, coffee grounds, Garden-Tone, soil, manure, etc. -- until the box was full.

So now I can build the other box. I already decided to replace the two boxes with one large one. Notice any plants in the way? Yep, my kale (which is apparently able to take any amount of neglect and still produce). So I dug those three plants up and moved them out of the way.

The new bed is going to be 10' x 4' or so, and I'm moving it about 1' closer to the other box, reducing the size of the walkway. I really only need 2' between the boxes to get the wheelbarrow in there, and when I redo the fence I want to move it about a foot in, so that works out perfectly.

I had to remove some of the soil left from the old low boxes, and had to get rid of one of the mulch "aisles" because of the layout change:

But I got it finished as the light started failing:

That's the last photo I had from that evening, as it was getting much too dark.

At one point I stayed in a crouch for 5 minutes or so as over a dozen deer came into my neighbor's yard, and spent the next few minutes running back and forth, trying to figure out if I was a threat or not. (I took video with my phone but need to review it to see if it's worth sharing -- I fully expected them to stampede past me but it never happened.)

In any case, I can report that wheeling a full barrow down the hill in the dark is a bit tricky. The moon peeked through the clouds for a moment and that helped, but it didn't last long enough to let me finish. So on to day two...

The last bed needed to be dismantled, more kale needed to be dug up, and my extra-large beets too:

I reduced that third box from 4x4 to 4x3, just to give a little more space. I have a few bronze fennel plants between that box and the fence, and it gets pretty crowded. (When I planted the fennel I did not realize it was perennial, and I haven't yet found a better place for it.)

Here are the finished beds, complete with replanted kale (looks fine) and beets (look droopy):

We'll see how these do -- I got as much of the roots as I could. I want delicious beet greens as soon as possible!

I mentioned that the garden soil had been heavily amended over the years. Here's the evidence:

The soil that I removed from the beds is in the foreground, and unamended soil from my yard is in back. I'm planning on using the amended stuff to plant some bamboo behind the veggie bed (the reason for moving the fence), but the unamended stuff will probably just be used to fill some depressions in the yard.

So my latest veggie bed makeover is finished (except for fixing the fence). Honestly, this is probably the last time I'll do this. If I still have little success with edibles this year, I'm not sure what I'll do.

(Note to myself: I planted some seeds tonight: Two kinds of spinach, three different lettuces, Swiss chard, radishes, two types of carrots, cilantro/coriander, and some peas. Rain is on the way, so I'm hoping for some nice rows of green in these boxes soon!)


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 8, 2012 at 12:12 PM)  

These look fantastic! We need to get going on our veggie beds, too!

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (March 8, 2012 at 12:21 PM)  

Such great looking beds! If I look at the size of Barbie's veggies whose beds look similar to this, then you are in for a bumper harvest in a very short time!

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