Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New raised garden beds

Four years ago, I built the original raised bed in our backyard and was unsure how much we'd use it and how well it might perform. For those reasons, and cost, we built it out of pressure-treated landscaping timbers. It was one giant 18' x 5' bed. We realized quickly we had to step into it to plant, weed, garden and harvest our plants. We also got mushrooms in between the timbers at some point that returned every season after some rain.

So we decided to change things. We picked chilton limestone and wanted two beds with access from at least three sides. We wanted to increase the height to deter bunnies (previously unfazed by the foot high wood bed) and also provide extra seating when we had a lot of company over.

At $360/ton the stone was going to be an investment, but it is stone afterall and will last. So I started the plans and every so often checked craigslist for stone. Bingo bango! I found a landscaping business removing a local city's natural stone retaining walls in order to rebuild with man-made blocks. Their loss, my gain at $100/ton. The catch was that I had to order a dumptruck. I didn't need 15 tons of stone. I only needed around 4 tons. So I negotiated to pay $250 for delivery, rather than $150, for half a dump truck load. They agreed.

The chilton arrived on May 3. The driver dropped 8 tons on the plywood I put down to avoid breaking my concrete driveway. He could just fit the extended load in the city alley confines and narrowly missed the power lines overhead.

I then had to move the whole pile, while sorting out different size rocks, sticks, and mud. A few stones I couldn't move without pushing side over side, using a dollie or help from a friend (thanks Sean and Ian!).

First a before photo:

The old garden was removed one side at a time. First I moved the dirt on the right to the left, started building the right garden bed, then put dirt into new bed as it took shape.
I tried to use the largest stones for the base. As I worked my way up I offset the stones about a 1/4" back. There is hardscaping fabric on the bottom, and lighter landscape fabric that lines the inside of each wall. This will keep the tree roots out of the bed, and plants in the bed from sending roots through the cracks, as I dry laid everything (no mortar), although we used masonry caulk for the capstones.

When I was ready to start the second bed on the left, I moved all the remaining dirt onto the patio.

The stone was all random sizes. I would usually place the stone with the largest flat side facing out. It doesn't matter what the stone looks like on the inside since the dirt is against it. Christina helped me measure on some of the days (and nights), but I mostly worked by trial and error to find stones that would fit, while attempting to keep everything level. When I got to the last row I realized that, although I had a couple tons left still, I didn't have enough square pieces. Square pieces were needed now because we'd see the top next to the dirt in the gardens. I had saved so much with the craigslist stone that I decided to get the top level of Chilton stone at Patiotown at 25 cents/pound. As an example, minus the delivery fee, I paid roughly 5 cents per pound on the craigslist stone.

Finished product freshly planted! Christina and I each "own" one of the beds. Her's is on the left with basil and mostly herbs and mine on the right with peppers and borage.


LAURA HOLT said...

These look amazing! Hopefully your back is A-OK and you haven't needed to add chiropractic costs to your total!

Jennifer said...

Beautiful! Nice work!