My friend, Alan Schmadtke, built a garden bed for his wife, Cindy, using the raised garden bed plans my husband Lars used to create me backyard raised beds. Here is Alan’s account:
About the time my wife and I were cutting out and building two new gardens in our back yard last year, Julie and Lars were raising the level of gardening in Central Florida.
And it was all at once magical, impressive and attainable.
Just in time for fall planting, my wife and I attempted to attain it.
Where Lars is the Frank Lloyd Wright, we are merely masons. But we now have an 8-foot by 4-foot raised garden bed, perfect for broccoli, lettuce and a few herbs.
For us, this was a two-weekend project, thanks to the rain and the lack of topsoil. Planning and pre-build preparation takes almost as much time as the actual build. The first weekend was filled with shopping for timbers and spikes, cutting timbers and fitting them together and then putting on a coat of polyurethane to set the stage for a longer life.
The second weekend went much faster and consisted of filling the garden with compost, manure and topsoil.
Christie and I followed the basic tenets that Lars outlined in his builds from 2011:
Design out the garden to the desired dimensions and configuration.
Level out the ground – or at least the borders, on which the timbers will sit.
Before placing the first four timbers, I gave the timbers two coats of the polyurethane. As they dried, I cut the other timbers to fit. Those got painted after they were put in place and anchored.
After three levels of timbers were down, the first set of spikes went in. I drilled eight half-inch holes – one on each side of the four corners. (In hindsight, next time I might put in only six holes – one through the middle of each corner and two in the middle of the long sides. More on this later.) The spikes went through all three timbers and into the earth.
We added two more layers of timbers and then put in the next set of spikes. Those went in at different spots than the first set.
A quick word about the spikes. Lars and Julie advise using silicone spray to help with the drilling. Frankly, we forgot this part, but it’s good advice. I taxed my drill pretty heavily putting these holes in, and I had to remove the bit several times to clear out shavings to keep drilling deeper. (It’s also kind of weird; you wonder if this is what it’s liking working on an oil rig.)
The build was complete. But it wasn’t ready for dirt.
Next came two coats of polyurethane, two each on the inside and outside. Although the timbers are made of pressure-treated wood, the polyurethane will help the wood last longer.
Everything looked about right at this point, except we needed to fill the garden with dirt. Using an online calculator, we figured we needed a little less than 1 cubic yard of topsoil. Because we will probably build a second raised garden, we ordered 1 yard to be delivered. (We spread out a tarp on the driveway, a nice target for our delivery guy.)
How much is 1 cubic yard of dirt, you ask? About 13 wheel-barrels. We lined the bottom of the garden with newspaper and cardboard to help keep the weeds out and then added some compost and bark and then started adding the dirt.
About two-thirds of the way to the top – the top being 4 timbers tall – we added some manure and then come vermiculite (for drainage). A little more dirt and we were done. All totaled, the garden took nine wheel barrels of dirt. (We put the rest of the dirt in our other garden.)
Now that the deed is done, a couple observations.
The spikes aren’t long enough for my taste. They do work. They hold the garden together. No dirt is going escape. But it’s not the snug Lincoln Log fit you might remember from childhood. (We’re all that old, right?)
Next time around, I might aim to drill all the holes in the same place and go through all the timbers. And instead of spikes, I want to consider rebar. Either that or one of two things: apply some liquid nail caulk around the joints or drive some long nails or screws horizontally into the joints to snug everything up a bit more.
So that’s it. Now comes the planting. And the planning for the next garden. I see something in a U-shape, a little longer, something with a walking path, a little more complex. Come to think of it, I might need to look into a Frank Lloyd Wright design.
You might also like:
- Raised bed for small spaces
- Vegetable gardening in March: What to plant
- How to Make DIY Tomato Cage
- How to Keep Birds Away From Your Food
- Tips for Starting an Herb Garden
- How to Compost: 5 Tips for Getting Started