So you have successfully mastered starting your plants from seeds this year…so successful they are crazy huge and your seedlings are flowering too early! It is still too cold to put them in the ground so what should you do?!
I received this question from one of my students from Seattle Farm School. It is a great one that no one has asked me before!
Untreated wood is recommended for vegetables beds as it will not leach chemicals into the soil. Many people fear that arsenic will leach into garden beds if you use treated wood…but arsenic hasn’t been used since 2003 in pressure treated wood! The process that gave treated wood a super bad reputation CCA (chromated copper arsenate) was replaced with a new process called Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ). Click HERE for a good read on treated lumber and garden beds by The Survivalist Blog. Now I am not saying treated wood is as safe as untreated…the decision of what type of wood to use is up to you.
Now facts….untreated wood will decompose quicker and need to be replaced sooner. Which is what led to question I received…how can you extend the life of a untreated bed, are there safe stains out there? Yes, there are! We actually just used one on our cedar fencing called Penofin Verde. We also used cedar since it is naturally water resistant. Redwood is another good option. Although both options are on the pricey side. Penofin Verde is just one of many stains that could be used on a garden bed. Gardenista has a nice blog post on 5 other stains recommended for raised garden beds HERE.
While my fence was made with untreated lumber and stained with an eco-friendly stain my garden beds were not. I know some of you may be gasping! We made the choice to use treated wood so they would last a long time, our beds are two feet high and on top of that they are located where the yard is 6 feet higher than the street level. In other words it was a major pain to get them in place & filled…we don’t want to ever do it again! 🙂 I did line my beds with plastic though to reduce the chances of any type of leaching.
No need to run out and buy graph paper or pull out a ruler to create your own grid for garden planning this year. I have taken the time to create some garden planning templates for you! You can print them at home and print as many as you need!
The other week I was talking to a friend about gardening (big surprise right?!). My friend shared that she wanted to start a garden this year but was not sure what vegetables do well in yards without full sun. Well, there are A LOT of veggies that not only tolerant shade but some even LIKE SHADE!! I think a lot of people struggle with finding full sun in their yard so I thought planting vegetables in the shade would be a good topic to cover! First of all let us start with the basics…
Finally let’s get started planning our 2015 gardens! Edible garden planning can become overwhelming for newbies or even experienced gardeners so I am going to break it down to make it easy for you.
- Make a list of all the vegetables andnon- tree fruit that youbuy and eat from the store. If it is something you buy with the intention of eating but it always rots in the fridge first… I probably wouldn’t recommend you plant it.
- Non-GMO Corn
- Onions (more…)
Raised beds look really nice in a yard and are quiet popular in the NW but they can be pricey! Here are some tips on determining if a raised bed is for you and what your options are for building one while not breaking the bank.
- Good drainage, soil takes longer to compact making growing root veggies a little easier
- If the soil in your yard is poor or contaminated you can bring in soil and segregate it w/ plastic at the bottom of the bed from the bad soil (your local county or city may offer testing for free! King County offers up to 5 samples for residents for nutrient testing (not testing for lead, etc) http://www.kingcd.org/pro_far_soi.htm
- Easier on the back (less bending)
- They are nice to look at
- Easy to build a green house top onto a raised bed.
Downsides of beds:
- Can be pricey if you want wood ones and have to buy materials, though there are different options I will share
- They will eventually weather and look not so nice (dependent on material used)
- You have to get dirt to fill them vs use the dirt currently in your yard ($$$)
- It is harder to use mulching methods which cut down on watering costs in a raised bed.
So do I need a raised bed? My opinion:
- If your soil in your soil in the yard is contaminated then yes a raised bed is for you. You will want to line the bottom of your bed with plastic so the good soil in the bed doesn’t blend with the bad soil.
- If you have drainage problems in your yard then yes again.
- If you have back problems it would benefit you to have a raised bed and probably a higher one like 24″ high
- If you have healthy soil or soil poor in nutrients, you can just amend the soil with compost and fertilizers to get it where it needs to be instead of making a raised bed.
Options for a raised bed from free to pricey:
Recommended bed size 4ft by 8ft or 4 ft by 12ft. If you have small kids 3 feet wide is best so they can reach everything.
- Free: Brick or cinder block raised bed: You can probably score some bricks or cylinder blocks off Craigslist/Freecycle/Buy Nothing for free. I’d recommend cinder blocks because they are bigger and it will be quicker to build the bed
- Free to low range: Use reclaimed wood. Or use straw wattles- see HERE.
- Mid-range: Regular 12″X8ft boards untreated wood. Untreated wood won’t last as long but then you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your beds. You can make the bed 12″ high to minimize costs
- Pricey: 12″x8ft boards of treated wood, this wood will last longer but you will want to line your bed with plastic so the chemicals in it don’t leach. Once again you can make beds 12″ high to minimize costs.
- High roller: 24″ inch beds of treated wood!
Options for those that want to minimize costs:
- Check Craiglist frequently, I have seen on multiple occasions people giving away raised beds (they have given up on gardening or are selling their house)
- Check Craigslist/Freecycle/Buy Nothing for scrap wood, bricks or blocks. Post a ISO (In Search of) ad…it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Go to a local salvage yard and buy used wood or your material of choice. We have multiple places around here such as Habitat for Humanity, Second Use, Restore and Earthwise. Google the terms “used building materials” or”recycled building materials” with your county or city’s name.
What ideas do you have for saving money while gardening?