Gardening in Raised Beds

Monday, May 12, 2008

I am a huge fan of gardening in raised beds, and was happy enough to install the final three to my North Natomas backyard earlier this spring. These beds are constructed from 12-foot, two-inch thick, Redwood boards purchased from either Home Depot or Lowe's (depending on where the sale is!

I use standard 2/4's cut in one foot sections for the edges and the middle -- and the beds are held together with a variety of two and one-and-a-half inch gold screws.

The "trimming" effect around each box is actually standard Redwood fence boards, and each box is sanded and stained upon completion. Each box is hooked up to drip irrigation and each contains a ball shut off valve to shut off the water during the winter if the box is not in use. Each box contains a little over one cubic yard of special planter mix, purchased from Redmond's Supply in North Highlands. It contains a mixture of wood chips, steer manure, top soil and rock (yes, rock, which provides vegetables with needed minerals as does the wood chips).

I've discovered, from experience, that gardening in North Natomas MUST be done in raised beds. The naural clay soil grows little else, except weeds. Fruit and citrus trees, however, adapt well to this soil. Peaches, plums, cherries, oranges and lemons do quite well here, if given proper care, attention and fertilizer.

And finally, the beds are in honor of my wife, Venus. Notice the "V" at the center of each box. That "V" is for Venus, my garden inspiration. I never would have discovered heirloom tomatoes if she had not insisted upon buying this strange green tomato starter plant many moons ago....
Each bed is hooked up directly to drip irrgation, and I've also installed a ball shutoff value to turn off the water to each individual bed when not in use.

I've come to discover that raised beds must also be maintained and recharged each year. The six beds allow my wife and I to rotate crops, but it's also true that most vegetables literally suck all the good stuff out of good soil. That's why amending with compost each and every spring and fall is still a good idea, even if you are gardening in a raised bed.

The pictures you see are that of the main garden. There are smaller beds around this yard, backed up to the fence line, holding crops such as cucumbers, herbs, corn, sunflowers, artihockes (yes, artichokes do well in Sacramento) and a variety of tasty produce.

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