Garden Projects: Expanding the Raised Beds

Several years ago, my husband and two sons built 4 raised beds for me for my birthday. It was the absolute sweetest gift and I cherish the memories of spending a spring weekend out in the yard together on the project.

At some point, though, the guys decided they’d been too ambitious. Time was getting short. We were calculating the cost of filling these 2′ tall beds with garden soil (not a small expense!). We justified for ourselves that 2 tall beds and 2 short beds might give me more flexibility. That is what I ended up with and the extra lumber has been sitting next to the garage ever since.

Until this year. I had a few garden problems to contend with here:

  1. While the 4 beds were lovely, they never seem to be enough space for everything I need to grow.
  2. The area around the garden beds is really hard to mow. Really hard. The mower needs to go around not just 4 raised beds, but 3 trees and 2 birdfeeder poles. It is very slow going and may be one of the reasons my teenager balks at mowing the lawn, even when we offer to pay him twice as much an hour as he makes bussing tables at a local restaurant.
  3. I’ve spent the winter reading books on medicinal herbs and have no space in my current garden beds left to tuck them in.
  4. I had extra wood and garden edging burning a proverbial hole in my pocket.

So here’s what I’ve done:

  1. Created 2 garden beds from the leftover wood. Because of the existing trees, they could not be placed on a grid like the earlier beds. I tucked them in between the trees in a way that looked, to my eye at least, planned and pleasing.
  2. Used the leftover garden edging from an earlier project to encircle not just the garden beds, but also the trees, being careful to think about how the lawn mower will move around the edges and make it as easy as possible to get around this space when it is time to cut the grass.
  3. Planned out how to use the new garden space around the trees. The larger space will be a mix of medicinal herbs, carefully chosen to grow well under the trees and are safe to use in a home setting by someone who is not a trained herbalist. The smaller space will give me extra room for culinary herbs. While I have many tucked about in the flower gardens around the house (sage, thyme, oregano, chives, 3 types of mint, lemon balm, Vietnamese purple basil, etc.), I struggle to find room for basil, parsely, dill and cilantro, all of which we use heavily.

And here is what I still need to do:

  1. Collect a lot of cardboard to line the bottoms of all of the new gardens and smoother the grass. A lot. I will also be able to use paper bags from the grocery store, as we have a lot of these from during the pandemic when reusable bags were not allowed.
  2. Pick up pea gravel from the local hardware store to create the paths between the beds. The pea gravel keeps the paths nice and clean in our rainy summers and is actually quite nice to step on, even barefoot.
  3. Order a delivery of garden soil to fill the raised beds (2 cubic foot minimum, which should be just the right amount for 2 beds, and cedar mulch to fill the remaining garden space (5 cubic feet, becuase I can always find room for fresh mulch).

The entire project so far took me an afternoon. Moving the soil and mulch will take a bit longer – probably a full day with a wheelbarrow assuming I can’t rope the teenagers in to help. With any luck, though, the beds will last for years and mean that I will have fewer veggies on the did not grow;no space list this year.

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