Breaking Ground

Remember how I said we’re starting to plan for this year’s garden? Last Sunday, Robert and I rebuilt one of the garden beds!

Building the original walls in 2013. We brought them out a little further from the wall, after this shot.

Building the original walls in 2013. We brought them out a little further from the wall, after this shot.

We made the original beds back in 2013. (2013!) The stone walls were still holding up – they are stone, after all – but some of the wood we had used was starting to break down. Plus, as I mentioned before, the walls aren’t as high as I’d like them to be.

While Robert got to work sawing up the lumber and screwing the walls together, I cleared the weeds out of the furthest bed. Even though we were going to be turning the beds up anyway, it’s always a good idea to remove as much of the ground cover (and weeds) as possible. That way, you don’t have to worry about the root systems still being there and finding their way to the top when you’ve planted your new garden.

I was originally going to keep the kale that was growing, re-potting it to a container in the front, but closer inspection revealed a TON of little egg pods just waiting to hatch and decimate my poor kale. So it’s curtains for the kale, and I’ll just have to start from scratch.

The original beds measured 4×7 but the wood we had wasn’t long enough to make a

One of the original side walls, made from a repurposed footboard.

One of the original side walls, made from a repurposed footboard.

bed with the same dimensions. I pointed out that I had a hard time tending a 4×7 bed anyway, so a smaller bed wouldn’t be the dream killer he thought it would be. It does mean I need to rethink my garden plan a little, but I’ve found that tends to happen anyway. The smaller beds also meant we didn’t have to change the front of the garden bed footprints, either. We knew we wanted to pull the beds out a little further from the side of the house (I have a sizable rear end, and a foot of space between the garden bed and the wall meant there wasn’t much room too allow for bending over to weed along the back wall). Since the original beds were 4′ wide, and the new beds were 3′, we ended up gaining an extra foot of work space behind the bed without having to move the bed itself.

After weeding the bed, I began the work of pulling up the stone walls. Robert had already pulled out the wooden front wall, which freed up some space to leverage the buried stone out of the ground. Robert brought over the new front wall and we marked where the posts would go. I pulled out an old bulb planter Mom and I had last used over 20 years ago, to plant some daffodils and tulips around the front of the house (that were subsequently eaten by the dang squirrels). The bulb planter is definitely showing its age, and wasn’t really meant to dig holes for garden posts, but it did the job admirably.

The first side wall brought a few challenges with it – we had to get the angle right, we had some trouble getting the two sides to match up, etc. – and I think setting up the first two walls took the longest of any aspect of the project (There was a lot of digging and filling and redigging).

As Robert scrounged in the workroom for more screws, I excavated some of the dirt along the remaining two sides of the original garden bed. Though we weren’t burying the garden walls as deep as the original beds, we still needed to make a bit of a trench for the very bottom to go into. Plus, it gave me a chance to engage in my ongoing battle against the massive root system on the side yard.

[Seriously…I don’t know what half of these roots go to, but they are ridiculous!]

The new bed, sans new dirt.

The new bed, sans new dirt.

Soon, the final walls were up, and Robert and I worked some of the ground around the walls, filling in the trench along the outside of the back wall and leveling the ground. Over the years, much of the dirt in that bed had settled and it was just barely above the level of the surrounding ground. Really, the only thing defining those “raised” beds anymore were the walls. So leveling the ground really only meant scooping about an inch or so of dirt from a space of ground that measured 1’x7′.

We had originally worried about the tremendous amount of dirt we were going to need for the new, taller garden beds. We needn’t have worried. Since most of the dirt from the “leveling” process was tossed back into the new bed, the soil level came up a pretty good amount. Plus, Robert had brought over two bags of dirt/mulch from his house. We smoothed the original garden soil out in the new beds, added the two bags, and reassessed. We still need to add about four of the larger bags of top soil, to bring the beds up to the right level, but that’s not bad, all things considered.

The sun was starting to go down at that point, so we didn’t get a chance to start on the second bed (which will prove to be a little more difficult, as we’ll need to build a staggered bed, to allow for the ground slope), but I felt pretty good about the new bed. The higher walls will keep the grass clippings out of the garden when we mow the side yard, and it should make it a little harder for some of the garden pests to get into the plants. The added height (and reduced width) will make it easier for me to actually garden – no more straining across a wide span, to get to the weeds! – and the deeper soil should be better for the carrots we’ll plant this year.

I am so excited to get started on the final bed, but that will have to wait…image_2

The forecast for this Saturday says “snow.”

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