Planting early with a raised bed

The weather is unseasonably warm this spring. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone moved my home from Zone 4b to 5a. My daffodils and forsythia are almost done. The bluebells, tulips and magnolia are reaching their zenith. So of course I’ve been pulling out all those “must have’s” and “really want to have’s” I’ve been tucking away all winter.

First on my list is a raised bed. Why do I want a raised bed?

  • You don’t have to lean over so far. You may sit on a garden stool or tipped over bucket.
  • The soil quality can be controlled – more control over weeds and fertilizer plus little soil compaction.
  • You can extend your growing seasons as they tend to warm up a little sooner in the spring and remain productive later in the fall.
  • Once constructed they are supposed to take less maintenance than a traditional garden bed.

For the better part of the cold months I’ve been researching pre-builts, kits and diy projects. There are so many options and variables. I decided since this is my first attempt that I don’t want anything too large or too complicated.

The super-raised beds (waist height) seem like glorified window boxes and not what I’m looking for. And while the treated wood gives a more natural look, it doesn’t really coordinate with the cottage-look of my home and typically is more expensive. I’d pretty much decided on this 3-foot by 3-foot by 12-inch deep raised bed because it was self-watering – when Costco offered me a deal I couldn’t pass up. For just $100 I could have two 4-foot by 4-foot by 12 inch deep bed or a one nice tall 2-foot deep bed. The whole kit snaps together without tools and comes with a plastic greenhouse cover for the early months.

That’s the good news. The less than exciting news is that the color was boring dark putty, but I fixed that with a can of spray plastic paint. The bad news is that it arrived with a torn greenhouse cover. Costco Customer Service was fantastic; replacing the torn cover quickly and without fuss. However, the cover didn’t make it through one night on hour hill. The wind tore the cover again. So when all I really wanted was the raised bed I need to decide if it is worth going back to Costco again for another cover.

To prepare the bed for plants you need to:

  • Find the perfect sunny spot that has “kneeling” room all the way around and access to the hose for watering.
  • Kill the grass below where you will set the bed.
  • Roll out and yard tack a weed barrier cloth.
  • Assemble the raised bed (make sure the corners are square) on top of the barrier.
  • Fill the bed with soil that is clean and heavily laced with peat moss and vermiculite. Several of the big companies swell “moisture enhanced” potting soils but they are pricy so I went for a knock-off brand and will augment with my own mixture. Remember this is basically a big container so drying out is an issue.

I’m thinking about possibly incorporating a soaker hose into the bed too. It will help me organize where plants are located and make it easier to water without kicking soil out of the bed.

Some of the online DIYers recommended netting and/or fences to deal with birds, rodents and other pests. I have had limited problems with this in the past so I’m going to try without guards at this point and pray my dogs are enough of a deterrent.

So I’ve spent about $160 on raised bed, paint and dirt. I don’t have my seeds or plants yet so that expense is still around the corner. When I was fussing and worrying at the cost at hardware store (where I got the soil), the guy in line in front of me said it isn’t how much the vegetables would have cost at the grocery, it’s how much you enjoyed growing, cooking and eating fresh from the yard veggies. Like his theory.


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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