Saturday, November 14, 2015

MOAR raised beds

On the lookout for partial-shade crops
There's a beach on the north side of my house.  Not a peaceful Hawaiian beach relaying the dulcet sounds of an ocean nearby, but a 15x20 sand pit, surrounded by chain link fence, that at one time was a children's playground.

Fifteen years ago, we dumped about 20 tons of sand there to provide a great place for the kids to dig and bury and frolic.  For the last 10 years or so it's served as a huge litter box for the cats the infest that barn on the top left.

So now it's a beach made of sand and cat crap, which means it grows weeds and not starfish. The lovely and gracious Rogue had started to grow sunflowers there, with mixed results. I tried some strawberries, which attempt failed miserably, at least if producing fruit is the goal.  This area as it exists today is worthless for kids and gardening both. Plus the pipe from the well runs just beneath the surface, making wholesale soil replacement problematic. What to do?

It seems that if we're going to plant anything here, we're going to need some raised beds.

I mentioned before that I prefer to make my raised beds from cinder blocks because I like the opportunities for companion planting. And I like the permanent nature of the blocks combined with the temporary nature of the beds.  And I hate that wood rot means that the clock is ticking on your wooden beds, even as they attract every slug in a 10 mile radius to feast on your seedlings.  But once the deck was finished I found that I had enough lumber sitting around to build the 4 2x2 beds in the front of this pic, as well as the 3x3 on the left. That left a big hole in the middle, so I broke down today and bought enough pressure treated 2x12 to build three 4'x8' beds.  So I guess I'm in the wooden raised bed business*.

I don't know how long they'll last, though the fact that they sit atop fast-draining sand may give them a few more years than they would enjoy in the back yard. But for the meantime, I have a brand new place to dump shredded paper: in the boxes. And I have a place to dump cardboard: in the walking areas. And I have a place to dump the hundreds of gallons of wood chips produced by my birthday present: atop the cardboard.

So by spring, the former cat crapping grounds should be transformed into 150 weed-free square feet of walking trail surrounding 150 cubic feet of raised beds.  The fact that it lies on the north side of the house limits what I can plant there. But whatever the area produces will be better than nothing, which is better than a sharp stick in the eye or a bunch of sandy cat crap, all things considered.

* What is in the beds already is a cardboard or shredded paper base to prevent weed growth, topped by a foot or so of compost, topped by leaves.  I have garlic planted in one bed, the rest lie dormant for the winter.  As I gather enough cardboard to cover the areas between beds, I lay it atop the sand and cover it with wood chips. It makes a very pleasurable walking experience. We shall see how well it controls weeds.


  1. Partial shade crops? Try rocket (arugula). I have good luck in shade. Lettuce is also good. Strwberries grow great in shade, but don't make many berries.
    In the sunnier spots, try asparagus. It is a plant that naturally grows on beaches.
    Raspberries do well in shade.

  2. I've got a bunch of ideas for them as well, but I'm getting the distinct feeling that the lovey and gracious Rogue has her own ideas for these beds and so mine will be relegated to the back...

  3. did i mention mints? they do well in shade.

    and due to their invasive nature, putting them in a raised bed is probably a good idea.

    peppermint is a cross between watermint ( which i didn't even know existed until last year ) and spearmint and is usually sterile. however, mints spread asexually via the roots like grass, so peppermint is still considered somewhat invasive.

    1. The area on the near (west) side of that fence is where I put my chocolate mints. Like 30 of them, all cut from a single plant last year.

      It smells wonderful.

    2. plant your lawn with mint ... then mow it.

      [ cackles evilly ]

      catnip is also a mint. which is really weird.