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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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