Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Preparing My First Raised Bed Site

There are many choices to make when deciding where to place the raised bed vegetable gardens - Sunlight, physical access, access to water, visual appeal, amount of labor needed. 

The first step in preparing the sites was choosing the locations. One site was the double dug location I prepared a few years ago. There are a few reasons I chose that site. The first reason was sunlight. This location gets at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day. The second reason was access. It is just off the concrete pad behind and in full view from the family room. Second reason was it was close enough to the house and has easy access to a water supply.  Third reason was that a great deal of labor has already been expended to create it. If I chose a different spot I would need to do a that work again.

The next step was to level the site. First I removed the weeds and any excess soil. 

The area needed for the raised bed was 4' x 4' /1.2m x 1.2m. Above you see a board 4'/1.2m in length placed at the edge of the concrete patio. I extended the leveled area to include a 1'/30cm wood chip or mulch border around the plot to suppress weed growth.

The next step was to cover the leveled plot with landscape cloth to resist weed growth under the raised bed. I laid out the cloth allowing it to cover the border and cut it to length.

I then folded the length in half and creased the fold. This crease gave me a straight line on which to cut.

The roll of landscape cloth is 4' wide. Cutting in half length-wise produced two 2'/60cm wide pieces.

Those two pieces covered the border areas, overlapping in the corner.

I rolled out some more cloth, covering the cloth on the end border and part of the side cloth. I didn't cut the cloth off the roll because I will be continuing the cloth under a path and under the second raised bed. The fewer breaks in the cloth the less likely something will grow from under the cloth.

I made a few staples to hold down the cloth before I put the beds over them. The wind might have blown them around if I didn't. (You can see my instructions for making the staples in an earlier post.)

Then it was time to place the frame over the cloth.

With the frame in place, the next step was to level the frame. Why? Because water seeks its own level. I didn't want any puddles or low, wet spots.

Here you can see the frame is way out of level with the bubble on the right side of the vial. When the frame is level the bubble will be within the two black lines. Perfectly level the bubble will be evenly spaced within the black lines.

The air in the vial is lighter than the liquid. So if the bubble is on the right side of the vial that is the high side. To get an idea of how much the left side must be raised to level the frame I raised the left side of the level. When the bubble moved to a position within the black lines on the vial, the left side of the level was a good 1/2"/12mm higher than the frame. That meant I had to raise the left side by at least 1/2"/12mm or lower the right side by as much.

I opted to lower the right side. I initially tried to do that by whacking it with an engineer's maul. I placed a board between the maul and the bed frame to minimize damaging the frame and started to pounding.

You can see the damage to the sacrificial board from the maul. The frame just wasn't going down and I was hitting it hard. Maybe, I needed to remove some soil from under the frame?

I moved the frame and saw there was some older landscape cloth under the frame. That old cloth was spreading out the force of the maul blows and not allowing the bed frame from compressing the soil. So I pulled up the old cloth, removed some soil, replaced the bed frame and went back to whaling on the board.

The frame still wasn't going down, so I sat on the frame to keep it from bouncing as I beat the board. After a few minutes of continued bludgeoning I had it to where the bubble was almost within the lines. I settled for that.

With the bed frame back in place and almost level, I noticed some light coming in under the far side of the frame. Not good. This might allow weeds to grow under or soil to escape.

I decided to tamp some excess soil under the frame to keep both of those events from happening in the future. Using one of the 3'/.9m lengths of 2x12/50mm x 30cm, I pushed the soil under the landscape cloth that was under the frame. 

All ready for the soil.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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