Robins are making an reluctant appearance and squirrels are active, so it must be Spring. But it’s a slow process in the garden. Spring doesn’t so much begin with warm sunny days; it begins in the dark, deep in the soil as the ground thaws
Gardeners however, have been thawed out for some time and can’t wait to act on their plans and dreams. For many, it will be their first venture into the world of gardening, whether it’s a few containers on a deck, a flower bed, or a raised bed for vegetables.
That concept has taken off, especially among young people eager to grow fresh veggies in the backyard. Depending on soil conditions gardeners have always raised their beds above surrounding soil levels. It’s done to ensure good drainage, or simply because there isn’t sufficient existing soil in the typical backyard. Often there’s only a few inches provided to sustain grass, and not without copious amounts of water and annual fertilizing.
Pressure treated lumber is no longer treated with arsenic as
it used to be, and from what I’ve been able to determine there are no issues
with the copper compounds that are currently used,
however, I’d still be inclined to line the wood with polyethylene film. Cement blocks or old logs, though not as tidy, will also do the trick.
The bed can be any length, but a metre and a half wide (four
feet) allows for easy access without having to step in. This avoids compacting
the soil as everything is within easy reach for planting, weeding, or
harvesting. As for depth, a minimum of 20 centimeters (eight inches) is fine,
although the bed can be built much higher if the old back is getting creaky.
A popular alternative is triple mix. There isn’t a standard composition, but it’s typically a friable blend of regular soil, peat moss, and other organic matter. As the organic matter breaks down, the soil will settle and eventually need topping up.
Contained raised beds do tend to dry out faster than a
regular bed, so watch for that. Adding mulch will save on water and reduce the
need for weeding. One big advantage often touted is that the soil warms up
faster in spring, allowing for an earlier start, however, keep in mind that it
will cool off just as fast in fall.
Meanwhile gardeners, stay cool, real Spring will soon arrive.