Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
April, 2010
Regional Report

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Raised boxes for gardening can be made of 2-inch x12- inch boards as well.

Raised Beds and Garden Cloches

If you've decided not to expand your garden because it seems like too much work, raised beds may be for you. It only takes a little shovel work and simple strategies to gain new planting space. Raised bed gardens with semi-permanent or permanent sides have several advantages besides less digging. You gain control over sunlight, soil and water conditions. By adding a cloche to the raised bed, you can create a custom growing space that is nearly pest free.

For the frames of permanent raised beds, use either rot-resistant woods like cedar, or those treated to meet or exceed current standards. If you are recycling wood or do not know its origin, paint the boards before building the raised bed. 2"x 6"x 8" boards are ideal for this project. These dimensions offer stability and can be arranged 1 or 2 boards tall, depending on your preference. Any width raised bed is possible, but 4 feet wide puts the center within reach of either side.

First draw the outline of the new box on the ground with spray paint or string and turn the native soil first. Toss each shovelful toward the center of the space.

Next, install the corners. 4"x 4" posts work very well as corners for the raised bed or box. Sink them 4"-5" into the ground at the corners with enough above ground to reach the top of the box you are building to enclose the raised bed.

Attach one long side board to the corner post, then turn the soil back towards it and turn the soil in the middle. Bolt the sides to the posts, or use wood glue and screws or any other method that will secure them against the weight of soil and water to be added. Put the two shorter ends onto their corner posts to form a U with the long side already attached. It will be easier to put in the soil components and then add the final side to the box.

Soil Mix
Rake the native soil across the bottom of the space. Add organic matter like compost or old leaves, along with commercial planting mix (a bark based mix, sometimes sold as "garden soil") to fill the box. Do not use potting soil! Add a sprinkling of garden lime and garden fertilizer (5-10-5 or similar) to the other components and mix well. Rake the bed and let it "rest" for a week before planting if you possibly can. Keep your feet out of the bed once the soil is added, or add a stepping stone if you must stand in the bed to plant or weed. Make access easier by firming up the path around the box and between boxes. One good method is to put weed barrier cloth on the ground, then cover it with a layer of mulch, gravel, or oyster shell.

Cloches are gaining wide use to exclude insects and provide shade, in addition to their more traditional use as a means of holding in heat at the beginning and end of the growing season. The definition of a cloche (say "klosh" with o as in oat) is an open-bottomed shelter that sits on the ground. They are not expensive to build, can be made from any material you choose, and have the advantage of portability. Hoops of plastic pipe or wire can be used to build a frame over the entire bed, then covered by clear plastic, insect barrier cloth or shade cloth. Large plastic clamps are useful to attach the covers to the frame so they can easily be removed to plant, work the bed, harvest vegetables or cut flowers.

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