This summer we had an extended visit from my wife’s parents all the way from NZ. As always I’ve loved having them stay (yes I do mean that). For a start, my father-in-law is a very keen gardener and he has spent almost everyday of their stay in the garden, weeding, planting, maintaining and building. He’s even built a wooden play house for the girls (more on this in another post). My mother-in-law has been a super useful “extra pair of hands”, either taking the kids off my hands or just doing all the little jobs around the place that you don’t realise take up a lot of time.
This has meant that I’ve had a chance to get into the garden and attack a project that my wife has been keen for me to do for a long while now. Raised beds, turning this:
I did a lot of research online and noticed that you can buy raised beds “kits” from a number of suppliers however these can be quite expensive. So I decided to go my own way. Some kits use garden sleepers, but again these are a bit pricey and difficult to work with. I decided to go with decking boards. They are used for people to walk all over, why not use them to build a raised bed? I measured the space of our veggie patch and worked out how many 2.4m boards and fence posts I needed to make three beds.
Three 2.4m x 1m raised beds require the following items:
18 of 28mm x 140mm x 2.4m pine decking boards
5 of 75mm x 75mm x2.4m timber fence posts
Assorted screws and/or galvanised nails (we already had these in the shed so didn’t buy any more).
I ordered mine from Wickes and the cost came to £135, which came to half of the cost of a “kit”. Not bad really.
I cut each fence post into three, laid these out and attached two full length decking boards to the posts. Note that I also left space for another decking board at the top. Therefore in the future if I want to raise the bed any further (old age or bad back for example) I can just attach another board all round and fill with soil.
Digging a groove in the soil with deeper holes for the posts I put one side in then attached two decking boards cut to 1m length to make an end. Then add another side and attach two further 1m boards to complete the bed. I left a gap of 45cm between the beds so in the future I can add 45cm square paving slabs. And so on until I had 3 beds constructed. It took me a few days (with many interruptions for children) to complete but I reckon you could do this in a day without interruption.
Treated or untreated?
Most articles you read on building raised beds discuss whether or not you should use treated wood. It is recommended where you are growing vegetables for consumption to not use treated wood. However the caveat is that treated wood is made to be in contact with the ground and therefore lasts longer. I got over this conundrum by lining the beds with polyethylene. I also used old compost bags to line the beds. If you are unsure which type of plastic to use then I found the following article very useful.
I was very pleased to be able to finally use our own compost we’ve been adding to over the past year or so. This provided a good base layer in the beds then we finished off with numerous bags of general purpose compost from the garden centre.
Now I hadn’t thought much on this but my father-in-law suggested that it was a good idea to irrigate each bed individually and I have to agree. It’s a better use of water and selfishly, I actually really enjoyed the “engineering” of cutting all the hoses and connecting them all up. We used black hose that is made specifically for the purpose of supplying a micro spray system. It’s easy to make holes in to attach various micro nozzles. Our system is made by Gardena, we did end up spending a bit of money getting it right but I think it was definitely worth it.
I’m not an expert DIYer or garden constructor but I found this little project immensely satisfying and simple. My wife is very happy that we can now grow veggies that will at least stand a chance of growing properly without being eaten by pests.
Have you completed similar projects, let me know how you got on.