Raised Beds 101

Ayn Whytemare from Found Well Farm in Pembroke, NH came to talk with us at our April meeting. She taught us how to create  4′ x 8′ raised beds using the  principles of sheet composting. Her method promises that you can build garden bed and plant selected crops that very same day!

MATERIALS NEEDED…

• LOTS of newspaper (no shiny advertisements) and/or corrugated cardboard
• A good source of leaves, either raked up in the spring, or leftover from the fall. Chop them up a bit. An easy way to do this is to run over them with your lawnmower.
• A local source of manure or compost. A few wheelbarrows full.
• A few wheelbarrows of good loam, either take from somewhere on your site, or brought in by the bags (or truckload).
• A 20 lb. bag of pelletized organic fertilizer. (Ratios similar to 4-2-3 ) Make sure that any fertilizer you use is OMRI certified (Organic Materials Review Institute) to make sure it is truly organic.

OPTION A: WOODEN SIDES
• You will need 3 Solid Wood Boards (NOT plywood or chipboard or MDF)  that are 2″x 8″ deep and 8′ long. Have one of the boards cut in half to 4′ lengths. This will give you two boards that are 8′ long and two boards that are 4′ long. DO NOT USE PRESSURE TREATED LUMBER! Regular wood is fairly inexpensive and will last you many years.
• You will also need 8 corner brackets and screws to attach the boards to one another.

OPTION B: NO WOODEN SIDES
• No materials needed! Just mark out a 4′ x 8′ space where you want to locate your garden.

LET’S GET STARTED…

A. Mark out your space.
B. Lay down thick layers of newspaper or corrugated cardboard right over the space you are building your bed. You can even go right on top of grass!
C. If you are using wooden sides, build your sides and put frame in place.
D. On top of paper/cardboard, layer the following, making sure you water well in between each layer:
1. Leaves (about 8″). Save some for mulching later.
2. Fertilizer, spread liberally.
3. Manure or Compost (about 3-6″).
4. Fertilizer, spread liberally.
5. Good Loam (about 2-3″).
E. PLANT!  You can plant shallow rooted vegetable right away like lettuces and greens of any kind.  You may want to wait until it composts down the following year before planting larger vegetables like tomatoes.
F. Mulch: Use your leftover chopped leaves as a mulch around your plants. It will conserve water and your layers will compost faster.
You can also do this method in the Fall for a great garden in the spring. The layers will compost down over the winter and the following year, you can plant any vegetable you wish, you won’t be limited to more shallow rooted veggies.

At the end of each year, you can add on thinner layers of manure/compost and leaves to  keep building the fertility of your beds. It’s an easy way to keep your soil healthy and your organic fruits and vegetable will love it!

Raised Beds 101: PDF

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