Our garden beds are finally in! It's true, the scheming and planning and wishing for something to happen the last couple of years has paid off, along with a ton of really hard work this weekend. We now have six brand-spanking new raised beds in our garden space. They look fantastic and are truly a sense of accomplishment, the first we've experienced in nearly 10 months of trying to find motivation through our grief. They're not perfectly level, and the rough-hewn wood isn't perfect, either, but they're good enough, and that's just fine by me!
The prep work was daunting, but my husband is a hard worker (well, and he had the tractor to help!). It turns out there was a lot of material underneath those old concrete beds, ranging from lots of weed barrier (easily ripped out by the rotovator and picked up in pieces by hand), to asphalt roofing shingles, to metal-covered press board. Awesome.
Each bed is 4'x8' and lined with hardware cloth to keep out tunneling animals. The rough-hewn cedar is cut to a true 2" thick by 12" wide - unlike the 2"x12" boards available through regular suppliers, and while there were some flaws in it (it was cut out of logs from the woods, after all), we think it'll last a good long time, and it looks nice, too. We added three pairs of 1" PVC sleeves to each bed so that we can make hoop houses out of any of them, using shadecloth, bird netting or plastic, whichever is needed. We love this flexibility.
We filled the beds with about 1.5 yards each of Garden Mix blend from Great Western Supply in Tumwater. This dark brown, somewhat pungent soil is 1/3 topsoil mixed with 2/3 mushroom compost. We applied straight mushroom compost to our beds and big garden in 2009 with fantastic results, so we're hoping these beds do well with the mix. (Thank God we have a tractor, too. It made that 10 yard pile much less daunting. I'm trying to remember why I resisted buying a tractor so badly. That thing is so useful!!)
By Sunday evening, we were too wiped out and short of time to really go crazy buying seedlings, so we opted for just six unlabeled heirloom tomatoes from a Burpee seed packet, along with some peas, from a nearby nursery. Yesterday I drove out to Raintree Nursery (in the rain!) and picked up five 'Caroline' raspberry canes and six 'Tristar' strawberries, and then went seedling crazy at Kaija's in Chehalis (the only place I was able to fulfill Paul's wishes for broccoli, cauliflower and a 'Brandywine' tomato).
Last night we got started with planting, adding the peas and strawberries to one bed, tomatoes to another, and filling two more with the broccoli and cauliflower. We still have Brussels sprouts seedlings to plant, along with salad greens, Swiss chard and beet seeds, plus yellow summer squash, green zucchini and two hills of 'Carnival' acorn squash. I'll add dill, petunias and nasturtiums here and there to attract beneficial insects and try out some of the companion planting tips I've read.
We're undecided on path material at this point. Playground wood chips, which are relatively splinter-free, are probably our top choice right now (Paul wants to be comfortable barefoot). We'll put weed barrier beneath whichever material we choose.
We have yet to site our seasonal greenhouse and permanent garden shed in the space, but that will happen soon (along with a much-needed paint job for the shed). We also plan to add blueberry bushes at some point. Paul's already scheming about additional raised beds for squash in the back corner, rather than planting in the ground. Not this year, though...we have other fish to fry on our project never-ending project list! It does feel really good to have this one nearly done, though. I can't wait to taste our garden-fresh produce!