Doubling the height of our raised beds

Our first raised beds were great.  We overbuilt them out of 4x12s and lag screws, and they’re strong.  Really strong.  Over the last few years, we have added on a few several more raised beds for growing vegetables.  They have not been built quite so well.  2 years ago, I built 2 new beds out of 2x12s that were 2 feet tall, 2 feet deep, and 6 feet long.  Then the wood warped.  One of them totally ripped itself apart, and had to be torn down, cut down, and rebuilt within a year.  Last year, I added 3 new beds, each 2 feet tall and 3×3 feet wide, plus rebuilt the aforementioned destroyed bed in a 3×3 configuration.  I’ve pretty much decided that 2x12s are not a great option for raised beds if you’re expecting any level of longetivity.

Raised bed vegetable garden
You can see the 2’x6′ bed in the background, and the first of the 3’x3′ beds just filled with dirt… I tore out the dahlia bed to make room for raised beds.

The reason that all of the subsequent beds have been 2 feet tall is a) it’s easier to tend to beds that are higher off the ground, b) you can let vining veggies hang down over the sides without sitting in the dirt, and most importantly c) it deters the dogs from getting into/peeing in them.  Nobody wants to eat freshly harvested organic vegetables that are soaked in urine.  So we had a discussion about adding another layer to the original 4×12-constructed beds (their dimensions are 4 feet wide by 10 feet long).  Luckily, Craig does IT at a local lumber yard, so gets smoking deals on lumber.  Even with his considerable discount, the cost was going to be around $150.  Luckily, the company has something called “fall down” lumber on occasion, which is basically wood that has fallen off the racks, gotten banged up, etc and is sold at a discounted rate as a result.  He was able to scrounge up enough of that to build our beds, so we ended up only being into the second layer about $75, so half.

Anywhoodle, we had some nice weather this weekend, so I coerced Craig and his friend to cut the lumber for them (it’s a pain with the circular saw so we decided to try the chainsaw, and I’m terrified of it!) a couple days ago, and last night, I got to working on them.  First, I had to tear off the totally awesome trellis attachment that I made for them.  By the way… SO AWESOME.  I cannot describe enough just how cool and useful that thing is.  Without a doubt, I will be using the same design when I reattach them. I couldn’t be more pleased.  Anyway, tore off the trellis, removed the eyelets on the bottom bed, and got to building the new bed on top of the old one.  This is where I laugh at my previously OCD self.  When I built the bases, I had them pre-cut, then I stained them painstakingly, in the garage to keep it perfect, then drilled them out on a perfectly level surface and labelled each piece before carefully bolting them together.  This time, we used destroyed lumber, cut it with a chainsaw, and I drilled and assembled them in place.  The second layer looks just as good as the first, and chances are, they’ll both be getting  a coat of stain when the weather warms up a bit.

Raised bed construction
Bed #1 completed.  Now to reattach (or rebuild) the trellis and get it filled.

So you may be asking yourself “Self, how is she going to come up with the yard and a half of soil she’ll be needing to fill those beds?”  Well, that’s a mighty good question.  I read about this technique that will greatly reduce water usage in gardens.  You basically get a bunch of old wood (dead christmas trees, scrap (untreated) lumber, logs, etc) and fill the bottom of your bed with it.  Top it with a bunch soil with a high nitrogen content, and let it rain all over the bed.  This will thoroughly saturate the wood and apparently help keep you from needing to water.  I’m gonna try it, as the root systems of most annual veggies don’t go down more than the top 12″, so a combination of scrap wood that I have laying around for fires and whatnot, plus yard waste I’ve been stockpiling, plus everything from my compost piles, and I should be close to where I need to be.  Then I can just buy a few bags of good organic compost, and go from there.

More updates later, as I have photos to share.

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