January 25, 2016

The Garden Expansion


In early autumn I told hubby that I wanted to double the size of the garden.

Building raised beds with salvaged materials

You might wonder (and he probably was too) why I want to enlarge my garden when it was a dismal failure last year. In fact, most years the bermuda grass takes over long before I'm ready to call the season quits. I've often said that the best grass on our place isn't in the pasture or the hayfield, it's in the garden.

My attempt at deep-mulching the garden. It didn't work for long.
My attempt at deep-mulching. It didn't work for long.

I've tried for years to conquer the invasive grass using methods such as deep mulching the entire garden, mulching the paths, all manner of covering up the grass with something so it "can't grow," and many other ideas, but have been completely unsuccessful. One year I gave up and grew everything in containers in the front yard, but I was severely limited in what and how much I could grow - and yet, my tiny container garden was the most successful I'd had since moving to Oklahoma.

How I'm planning to beat the bermuda grass in the garden.
An old photo that shows how bad the grass can get.
It's as tall as the pepper plants.

Since they say that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," I decided to try something different. I'm building raised beds, spaced far enough apart that I can run the lawnmower in between them. It will combine the container gardening method with more planting space. Lots more space, since I'm doubling the garden area.

Another reason for using raised beds is that it will be easier to maintain on my own. I hate to ask hubby to till the garden for me; he has so many projects he's working on and his health is still a concern.

How to build a raised garden bed with salvaged boards.

I'm not spending any money on lumber - until maybe at the end if I come up short. We're tearing down an old building so I've been moving the boards that are still usable to a pile near the garden. We also replaced the old chicken run this fall, so I'm recycling those boards too. Admittedly most of my reclaimed boards will need to be replaced at some point when they rot away, but I'm doing what I can with what I have. I was quite proud of the first bed I built using hubby's cordless drill to drive the screws.

After screwing the boards together I lined the bottom of the bed with a very thick layer of cardboard topped with paper feed sacks. I didn't skimp on this step because I'm hoping the cardboard will help to control the bermuda grass. I've been saving big cardboard boxes for months for this purpose.

Filling a new raised garden bed with cardboard, branches, leaves.

Next I moved some fallen tree branches into the bottom of the bed in a sort-of hugelkultur method. I covered the branches with aged horse manure, and topped that with straw, goat and chicken manure, and lots of fallen leaves. I threw in kitchen waste every day too, although Cracker always jumped the fence afterwards and nosed his way through in search of tidbits that were dog-worthy.

Filling a new raised garden bed with compostables.

The top layer is fine soil, sieved through a wire screen. Unfortunately my computer ate the photo of that step. This bed has been settling and aging all winter.

See those vertical 2x4's that stick up in the corners? I'm not planning to cut them down. I figure they'll keep the hose from being dragged over my plants, or I might add another layer of boards if I have enough of them.

The rest of the beds are in various stages of being built and will be filled as the weather allows. This week is supposed to be warmer so I hope to get more accomplished. I still need to fill the low corner of the garden area where it dips, and then I'll put up new fencing to keep my dogs from digging it all up.

How are your garden plans progressing?


You might also enjoy:
Container Herb Garden
The Fall Garden, What I've Learned This Year
About Those Tomatoes...



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This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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27 comments:

  1. I sat down with my garden plans from the last few years just yesterday. I use them to make sure I'm rotating planting locations for each vegetable. Sometimes they may not be too far away from a previous planting, but as you know, space is limited. Let us know how your beds turn out. Fern

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  2. Yes it is, Fern. Once you take into consideration the perennials, the space is even more limited. I've always kept the garden "map" in my head but this year I'm writing it down. I like that you actually have paper maps - and have kept them from year to year.

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  3. I definitely want to double my garden space, and I had a failure garden last year, too. We are trying the Back to Eden method- a kind of deep mulching. It's a matter of trying until we get it right, but not giving up. I hope you have great success x2!

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  4. Thank you for the good wishes, Amanda. I hope we both have a successful garden this year!

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  5. We do raised beds and love them. We have a lot of ground squirrels so we use wire on the bottom . Works great.

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  6. Michelle, that's a great idea to use wire on the bottom to keep critters out.

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  7. Every year about this time, I say No garden this year, too many bugs, interruptions, too dry, etc.....last year... then the seed catalogs come and my daughter starts planning her garden and I say well , just a few tomato plants, and a maybe a couple of squash plants but that's it...well one row of beans wouldn't hurt................ :)

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    Replies
    1. It's a sickness, isn't it? ;-)

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  8. Raised bed gardening is definitely the way to go. I think you will find you have much better results with raised beds. Good luck.

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    1. Thank you, Deb. I hope so!

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  9. The last 4 years have created a combo of Back to Eden and raised beds. Have learned to make adjstments for SW Missouri. Havent decided if its lack of soil or just an excess of rocks we ve been blessed with. Learn to create dirt-Compost. The ground turns to cement so keeping it covered helps. I know what you mean about that grass. Concentrating on keeping the perimeter clear helps a lot.

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    1. I hope that mowing around each bed will help keep the grass under control, Suzie. I hope your garden grows well this year.

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  10. My son in Missouri used a ground cover I think it was some type of clover or something. He got at an heirloom place. Anyway.
    Good luck with the new beds. My husband laughed when I wanted 10 rows of okra! I had a garden only two years in my entire lifetime.
    I loved it. I'll live through yours!
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Grantham. I hope my garden will be worthy. :-)

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  11. Great job making the raised beds out of reclaimed wood!

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  12. Thank you, Recreational Gardener. It just makes sense, doesn't it? And new lumber is SO expensive.

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  13. It looks great! And how wonderful that you were able to repurpose those boards! I think leaving the boards sticking up is a great idea. Maybe they will help if you want to add a row cover.
    Thanks for joining us on The Maple Hill Hop with your inspiring outdoor post!

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    1. I hadn't thought about that, Daisy, but they might be halpful for that purpose. Thank you for the suggestion!

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  14. You certainly have done a great job here and I really enjoyed your expert advice. I will be moving to Missouri where I know the grass will be more of a problem than in Colorado where I just spent 22 years. I have so much to learn in a different climate. Thanks for the tips.

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  15. That Will be quite a difference to get used to, Bernideen. Wishing you a short learning curve!

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  16. Raised bed gardening is a must for me. Our ground is rocky and filled with clay. Weeds are almost nonexistent. Hope this method gives you a successful gardening season! Thanks for sharing at My Flagstaff Home.

    Jennifer

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  17. Thank you, Jennifer. I'm heartened to hear that this method has worked for so many people. I always appreciate a recommendation for something!

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  18. YOur raised beds look like the perfect solution! We are still in the gribs of winter here in Michigan. Although our weather isn't quite as bad as usual. Today I only worried about my herb plants dying in the window sill!

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  19. Vickie, we moved here from Michigan so I can empathize about your winter weather. I'm glad it hasn't been as rough as usual. Hope your windowsill herbs make it!

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  20. Our garden is pretty tiny so I've not even thought about it yet but I have a friend who is an excellent gardener and she does all her veg growing in raised beds. She's found them brilliant so fingers crossed you have great success with them too.

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  21. Very useful post, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop, pinning and tweeting. I have to start making vegetable bed.

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  22. Thank you for sharing this post, Swathi. I hope you are able to get your garden beds built.

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