Posts Tagged “spring”
We’re finally finished building our custom raised garden bed, and today we’re sharing our design and construction process.
Let’s get right to the specifics! We built the base of the raised bed from 2 x 10 untreated cedar boards. Cedar is a great choice for raised garden bed construction. It’s both food-safe (since we’ll be eating things from this garden) and very weather/rot-resistant.
Our local Menards had a great selection of cedar lumber, and we were able to get a lot of the boards cut down to the lengths we needed (and to fit in our car for the ride home).
We designed the box base to be 4 feet wide by 6 feet long by 10 inches deep. It’s just wide enough to let us reach the plants in the center from the long sides, and the 10-inch depth will allow us to grow root crops like carrots, radishes and turnips.
John built the box outside on the site we’d chosen, and made sure it was level before attaching the sides together.
We also attached a layer of galvanized wire mesh and landscape fabric to the underside of the box. This will help keep out weeds, any existing plants or bulbs we might have missed, and even potential tunneling rodents. We poked small holes in the fabric for drainage, and John drove stakes into the ground at the corners and screwed them into the base once it was in place for stability.
So far, so good! But ultimately we needed our raised bed to be more protected from the neighborhood wildlife (which includes squirrels, rabbits, birds, and even the occasional raccoon). We love having visitors in our backyard, but not when they eat our homegrown produce.
So we designed a custom “roof” to sit permanently on top of the box base to keep out critters. The roof is basically a frame of thin cedar boards, with galvanized wire mesh covering the open spaces.
The idea is to maximize sunlight, rainfall, air circulation, and beneficial insect access (like pollinating bees), while minimizing intrusion from anything larger (like pesky rabbits). John built the roof to be 3 feet high at the “peak” to accommodate plants that can grow that tall, like bush peas, beans and broccoli.
To give us easy access to the inside of the garden bed for planting, watering and harvesting, John created doors for the long sides of the roof that hinge open from the top. These are also made from thin cedar boards, to minimize shadows from incoming sunlight.
Once the raised bed and roof were constructed (and before we permanently attached the doors), I created a custom soil mixture to fill the box base, following the formula for Mel’s Mix. As outlined in Square Foot Gardening, Mel’s Mix is a combination of equal parts blended compost, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss.
First, I got several bags of compost from different sources (such as mushroom compost, humus, manure, leaf, etc.) and mixed those together. Then I raked together equal amounts of the compost, perlite, and peat moss on a large tarp in our backyard until it was well combined.
As I mixed the soil and added it in batches to the raised bed, John stapled the wire mesh to the frame and doors.
To minimize the metallic glare of the wire mesh, we spray-painted it matte black (except for the north side against the fence, which we left as bare metal to function as a trellis for pea vines). The black color helps the mesh visually disappear and absorb sunlight. After attaching the mesh, John attached the doors to the frame with galvanized hinges.
I also picked up a couple of basic 5-gallon buckets from the home improvement store to use as deep planting containers, for growing additional edibles that are too tall for the raised bed (like tomatoes). I painted them deep green to cover up their utilitarian appearance and help them blend into the garden, put some styrofoam pieces in the bottoms for drainage, and filled them with my soil mix.
I also refreshed some old metal tomato cages from our garage with a quick coat of spray paint. Since we’re trying to keep costs low with this project, this was an easy (and inexpensive) way to give a new look to existing containers and materials.
To get the most from our available space in the raised garden bed, I marked out specific planting areas with jute twine and garden staples. Since I’m not following a strict square-foot gardening layout, these are mostly temporary guidelines just to help me organize and plant seeds and starts.
And with that, our custom covered raised garden bed is finished!
Now that spring is officially upon us, it’s time to actually start planting. In our next post, we’ll share what we’re doing with our indoor seedlings and how we’re direct-sowing outside as well.
Like for most of the U.S. this year, our Midwest spring season arrived later than usual. But after a long long long winter, we’re doing some spring landscaping, and our backyard and all its garden loveliness has finally sprung back to life.
I’ve talked before about the very beautiful ornamental garden that came with our house… and how John and I are pretty much novices when it comes to maintaining it. We don’t have black thumbs or anything, but we’re more well versed in the art of vegetable and herb gardening than in flower and shrub upkeep. I took some notes during a quick “garden orientation” meeting with the previous owner (who spent a lot of time and attention on these plants) so we do have some information like plant names and a few care instructions. But I was writing so fast and so much that my notes are kind of jumbled.
We’ve done some online research into specific individual plants when we think they need immediate attention. Last summer, John trimmed our boxwood and yew shrubs.
Spring came late this year (our brave daffodils bloomed despite an April snowfall), so one relatively mild weekend last month, we went out into the garden to assess its post-winter condition. It didn’t look too bad, but we wanted to clean and trim around the plants while they were still mostly dormant. There were a lot of leftover fallen autumn leaves, broken branches, and dead growth to clear out, so we did a bit of spring landscaping.
Last summer we had a ton of healthy sage, but I also noticed at the time that several areas of this sprawling plant looked dead. So this spring I cut everything back to the main stem. Sage stems are pretty woody, so I used small hand pruners for this. Hopefully some new growth will emerge from the remaining plant as it gets warmer.
The previous owner had told us to “vigorously” prune the smoke tree that grows up next to our dining nook window. So John took that literally and cut quite a bit off before winter set in last year. You can see in the photos below how he pruned everything to the bottom of the window. We waited several months to see if we’d been too vigorous and killed this tree – but luckily, it seems to be growing back nicely. Not as full as before, but hopefully it will fill in again as time goes on.
John also cut back this other small tree (called a burning bush, because it turns red in the fall) on the other end of the garden next to the garage. It too has been rejuvenating as the weather’s gotten warmer.
And of course, I’ve been monitoring our four Annabelle hydrangea bushes after I pruned them last fall. I posted an update recently when I noticed tiny leaf buds appearing. It’s been a month since then, and these bushes have gotten really leafy! It’s a great sign, but it remains to be seen if we’ll see any actual flowers appear. Fingers crossed…
There are way too many other plants and flowers to mention, but overall things seem to be growing very well. In fact, the garden seems to be on autopilot – most if not all of what the previous owner planted are perennials (meaning they grow back year after year), so they’ve just come back on their own without much help from us. So far we’ve seen lots of pretty colors and leafy growth, such as tulips, daffodils, brunnera (“false forget-me-nots”), lilacs, hostas, chives, ferns, alliums, rhododendrons, and more. Here are some recent snapshots from the last few weeks:
We were able to clear out the debris around plants and trim off any dead wood in a couple of afternoons. Not too bad, and we even had a little helper to fill up our yard bags. She took her spring landscaping assistant job very seriously and collected every discarded twig, leaf or clipping in sight.
But we do have one much larger landscaping project we are planning to tackle before summer sets in. It concerns the giant yew shrubs in our front yard that form a thick impenetrable border around our sunroom. Remember these?
They pretty much take up the entire front yard, stopping about two feet from the sidewalk (and we’ve got a few hostas and roses currently in this narrow strip of yew-free yard). John had a hard time trimming the yews last year, and they are really overgrown and out of control. So we’ve got some significant changes we want to make to this part of our yard. We’ll talk more details about this in an upcoming post (UPDATE: take a look at our yew renovation!), but here’s a sneak preview of our plans:
So, how does your garden grow this spring?
(linked on Remodelaholic)
Look what I found budding on our hydrangeas this morning!
(photo originally published on Instagram)
You may remember that I drastically pruned back our Annabelle hydrangeas last fall, based on some research I did on how to keep them growing big and beautiful for years to come. Not being well-versed in ornamental gardening (vegetables and herbs are more my thing), I worried that this pruning technique might harm or kill the plants entirely. Which would be a travesty – they’re so pretty in full bloom!
Last autumn, I pruned the branches down to about 24 inches or so. It was a little scary, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
So imagine my relief and delight when I saw some buds on these branches today! Annabelle lives!
Does this mean it’s finally spring? (I vote yes!)