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Apr 30 2009

Posted By: Paul 08/05/2009 07:24:00

What Thursday again? Already? What happened to the the week?

I blame these new metric weeks, they're much shorter than the ones I remember. This week has been a quiet one in the garden for me. The salad crops are doing nicely and the allotment is merrily growing away. I visit the allotment everyday to check on the weeds, and maybe pick a hand full at most.

The raised bed in the garden is turning out to be quite a conversation piece amongst friends, as they have to walk past it to get to the back garden. What with all the straight lines neatly growing away in different stages, and the unusual height of the thing it's prompted a lot of comments like, 'If I had one like that we'd grow loads of veg too', or 'Why can't we have a bed like that?'.

I originally created the bed as part of my future greenhouse. It's going to be the main growing area inside the greenhouse while the back wall will be up against the house. The height was useful as you don't need to bend down to work on it. And it seems for exactly the same reason it makes a great raised bed outside. Every time I walk past the bed, I glance in and pick any of the weeds which appear between the rows. Where as the normal beds on the ground get no more than the merest glance and a mental note to weed them at the weekend. It's definitely a psychological thing about the height. If you don't have to bend down, then you're not embarking on some gardening task which could take you longer than expected, it's just a quick 'let's-see-how-the-plants-are-doing' followed by a 'and-what's-that-thing-growing-there?-I didn't sow-that!' and before you know it you've weeded the bed and you back on your way.

To give you an idea of the construction of my bed, it's made using 15 railway sleepers. 3 sleepers high, 2 sleepers long and half a sleeper wide. There are 4 x six foot high fence posts sunk 3 feet into the ground to provide support from the inside of the bed. The first layer of the sleepers is placed in the rectangle and then the four sleeper forming the long sides are bolted to the fence posts. Then the half sleepers are bolted into place between the long sleepers. (The bolts I use are available from a farm supplier and range from 12" to 18" long, with a hexagonal head for use with a spanner or socket. Most DIY shops won't have the right size or quality of bolts, even the decking bolts wont be up to the job I'm afraid.) Now add the second row of sleepers and bolt into place. This time use the 18" bolts to fix this row to the one below. Repeat this step for the third row. To prevent the possible seeping of toxic chemicals from the sleepers, line the inside of the sleepers with polythene and fix in place with staples or pins (just do the sides). Finally you're ready to fill the bed with soil and compost. Treat it just like a very large pot, so maybe some course rubble at the bottom to help drain excess water and then your preferred soil and compost mix. Mine is all homegrown and therefore it's free, and I think it would cost a fortune to fill it with shop bought compost.

The total cost for the bed to date is about 250. The sleepers are about 15 each, less if you buy in bulk. The rest of the cost covers the bolts, liner, fence posts, and would include the mini-poly tunnel which can be made from a long sheet of polythene and small gauge polyurethane water pipe from a building supplier. I have been contemplating replacing the poly tunnel with a glass and timber frame then it will keep more heat in, in winter when it's being used as a hotbed for lettuce and radish.

Righty ho, better get on.

Happy Mayday for tomorrow (Beltane and all that!)

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