Our 2022 garden: starting the first high raised bed

Our glorious weather isn’t going to stick around, and we’ve got garlic ordered, so I wanted to make sure we had at least one prepared bed for them.

This is the empty bed that had yellow onion and shallot sets in it. It was also supposed to have purple kohlrabi, but that never grew. We were planning to rotate our garlic to a different location that did not have alliums in it, but this bed is going to be so drastically changed, it shouldn’t matter.

Also, in the foreground, in the right hand corner, is a single onion that got missed! 😀

The first order of business was to move out the bits and pieces of logs framing the bed.

One of them had mushrooms attached! 😀

These are all the logs that were framing the bed. They will be buried at the bottom of the high raised bed. These are already starting to rot, which will be a good thing for our modified hügelkultur method of filling the bed.

Also, my spell check has hügelkultur in it!

This bed is so overgrown, you can hardly tell all those logs were removed!

Next began the tedious process of loosening the soil and pulling all the crab grass and weeds out by the roots and rhizomes.

Mostly crab grass.

When we built this bed in the spring, we extended what had been a shorter potato bed, using the Ruth Stout method, the previous year. Basically, potatoes were laid out on the ground and buried under straw mulch. After the potatoes were harvested, the straw was worked into the soil a bit. For the added portion, we just laid down more straw over the grass, as well as the previous year’s bed, then topped it with new garden soil.

There’s a reason we did it that way.

This is as deep as I could get the garden fork into the soil. About half the length of the tines. After that, I was hitting rocks. I’d shift the fork a few inches, and hit more rocks. Shift, hit rocks. Shift, hit rocks. It was insane!

Along with the onion that got missed, I found a shallot, too!

They got set aside on the chicken wire cover over the chard to cure. 😀

I pulled as many weeds by the roots as I could, but there’s no way I got all of them. The wheelbarrow is mostly crab grass, so this is not something that will go into our compost pile. I dumped it by the edge of the spruce grove, instead.

The high raised beds will be 9 feet long, and this bed is about 14-15 feet long. Originally, I wanted to keep them long like this, but we also want to be able to cover them, and at that length, the covers are very unwieldy. By going shorter, we can potentially add a second row of beds. I had to decide. Should we build the high raised bed at the south end, leaving room for a second row on the north, or start it at the north end, with a potential second row on the south side?

In the end, I decided to build the bed on the south end. It was the shade that decided it for me. If we were to make a second row of beds further south, they would be more shaded by the trees between the garden and the house. If we add a second row on the north side, they will be closer to the short row of trees my mother allowed to self seed among what had been her raspberry patch, but I want to get rid of those trees, as they are causing problems. If nothing else, they won’t be shading any new beds that are closer to them.

That decided, it was time to start digging!

I dragged over a couple of logs to use as a guide, then started removing the loose soil and piling it on the end that will not be part of the bed, pausing to remove more roots and rocks every now and then. I was happy to see how much the straw had broken down – and by how many worms I was finding!

This is it for the day!

I dug down only as far as the rocks, so it’s not very deep. Mostly, I just removed the straw and soil layer we made in the spring, and maybe a couple of inches lower.

The next step will be to level this off and straighten the edges for the logs. I cut the logs a bit longer than 9′ and 4′, to give room to trim the ends straight, but I may not even bother with that. As long as the beds themselves measure no more than 4′ wide on the outside, we’re good. I don’t care if there are bits that stick out a bit further at the corners.

I want to get this bed at least 2 logs high before I start putting the layer of logs on the bottom down. They’re smaller and lighter, but it’ll be easier to put them into place while the walls are a bit lower. The other layers can be added when the bed it as its full height. When it is 3 logs high, I’ll decided if it needs to be higher or not. Then it’s a matter of filling it with layers and getting it ready to plant garlic in. We might be able to plant all three varieties on one bed.

As much as I enjoy the work, it does help me realise how necessary having high raised beds will be. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to continue doing stuff like this. Weeding the bed was the most difficult and painful part. Thankfully, I was able to sit on the scooter for some of it, which helped, but this old body is breaking down. I can still do big stuff, like cutting and breaking down trees and carrying logs, but I’m loosing my fine motor skills on my hands. I drop things a lot more often, the joints are almost always stiff and sore, and that one finger just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Then there is the back pain from bending over to weed. I can’t bend at the knees, since my knees are already shot. Strange that I’m losing my ability to do small, easy things faster than doing heavy manual labour!

I can still crochet, though, so that’s good. I whipped up a couple of hats recently, and plan to work on other small projects. The only problem has been choosing what yarn I can work with. My hands are so rough right now, some types of yarn catch on my fingers while I work! LOL Working with my stash of metallic yarns is out of the question, as well as anything the least bit fuzzy. 😀

Hopefully, I will be able to continue working on this raised bed tomorrow, after I’ve headed out to do some errands. We hit 27C/81F today, but tomorrow should be a bit cooler, and we’re expected to get rain – possibly even a thunderstorm – over the next couple of days. Looking at the long term forecast, we’ve got another nice, warm week before things start to cool down, and overnight temperatures may result in frost. It’s not until the end of October that we’re looking at the possibility of snow. Of course, looking that far ahead, things are very likely to change, so we shall see what really happens! Until then, I’ll be taking advantage of the mild weather and doing as much work outside as I can!

The Re-Farmer

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