Building a Raised Garden Bed

building a raised garden bed

Building raised garden beds can be an excellent addition to a yard as they add a bit of personalized style and enable you to grow flowers and / or vegetables in your own back yard. Raised beds also appeal to gardeners because of the control you have over where to put them and the soil you grow in. For instance, if you have a small back yard with limited space to grow due to the orientation of the sun, you could build a raised bed on wheels to track the sun throughout the afternoon. Or maybe the soil in your back yard is hard and unsuitable for growing and you would rather not till it up and condition it. No matter the reason you choose to grow in a raised bed, this offers a quality alternative to in ground gardens.

Building a Raised Garden Bed

There is not one proper way to build a DIY raised garden bed – you can use your imagination to build one to your style, or purchase a pre-fabricated kit that only needs simple assembly. Here are some popular methods to building your raised garden bed.

Landscape Timber or Railroad Ties Make for Great Raised Garden Beds

Landscape/Railroad Ties – Landscape or railroad ties provide a rustic, natural look to your raised garden bed and are relatively easy to procure. Most large hardware stores (Lowes / Home Depot) or any landscape store will carry these. Both landscape and railroad ties generally measure 7” x 9” x 8’ long so you can expect to build a roughly 8’ x 8’ bed if you do not cut them shorter.

How Deep Should a Raised Garden Bed Be

Your raised garden bed needs to be about 8” – 12” deep so depending on the look your going for, you may be able to use one layer of ties. If you’re building it with lumber, you can build the walls higher to act as protection for your plants.

Building a Raised Bed with Lumber

 If you are going for more of a refined look, you may want to build a DIY garden box out of stained or painted lumber. This is also a relatively easy way to go, but make sure you put together a game plan before buying your lumber. You should devise a plan to join the lumber at the corners, such as positioning a cut 4”x 4” on the interior for something to join to. If the boxes you are making are small enough, you could build them in your garage or driveway and then relocate them. If they are large, then make sure you build them in the location they will stay. This method affords you lots of freedom to customize the look with trim features or colors and is a fun way to brighten up your backyard.

Raised Garden Bed Kits

building a raised garden bed

As with most projects, you always have the option to buy a raised garden bed pre-fabricated and ready to put together. As a matter of fact, I have raised garden bed kit in my backyard that I purchased from Northern Tools . The kit I purchased was about $70 and consists of two 12” x 72” galvanized metal sides and two 12” x 36” sides. This makes a 6’ x 3’ bed with a depth of 1’. I found these kits to be easy to work with and very convenient – just be careful if installing them when the sun is shining bright, they get very hot!

Portable Raised Garden Beds

Building a raised garden bed on wheels is another great advantage of this style of planting bed. As I mentioned before, if you’re limited on space, there is no reason you cannot build one that you can move around and follow the sun throughout the day. I have never personally built one, but as long as you take into account the weight of the dirt when sizing it, you can pretty easily add a bottom and wheels to a garden box.

What Type of Soil to Use When Building a Raised Garden Bed

Now that you have your raised garden bed built, it’s time to fill it with dirt! This sounds simple, but there are so many options for garden soil out there – there is even a product called “Raised Bed Soil”! It can be tempting to buy the product that literally has the words “Raised Bed” in it, but it’s not always necessary to spend upwards of $10 on a 2 cubic foot bag of soil.

As a quick example, consider you have a 6’ x 3’ x 1’ raised bed (like me). This bed will take roughly 18 cubic feet of soil, or 9 bags at 2 cubic feet each. At $10 per bag, that’s over $90 including tax to fill this bed up with “Raised Bed Soil”. 

You may now be thinking, what are my options? Over the years I have found a specific combination of soils that is both effective and somewhat cheap. I like to purchase fifteen 1 cubic foot bags of topsoil for about $2 each to fill the most of the garden and then purchase two 2 cubic foot bags of garden soil for about $8 each to for a nice top layer. This costs a little more than $30 and I’ve found that it works wonderfully.

Obviously I am not taking a scientific approach to conditioning the soil I grow my vegetables in. If you are more serious about your soil’s pH balance, then disregard my money saving advice.

What to Plant in a Raised Garden Bed

The best part of this is that it is entirely up to you what you want to plant in your new raised garden bed. I love having a vegetable garden at home that provides an overabundance of peppers and eggplants all summer long. My parents grew a ton of horseradish in their raised bed last year and prepared horseradish for the family for Christmas. My in-law’s neighbors, they grow potatoes in theirs.

I will leave you with one little piece of advice – put light fencing or chicken wire around your raised bed if it is close to the ground. If you don’t, all of the critters will come in at night and snack on your leafy greens!

6 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Spring

It’s officially time to prepare your home for spring! As the sun gets higher in the sky, a general sense of anxiety sets in among some homeowners – maybe it’s just me – in regard to getting their house put together for the warmer part of the year (that’s most of the year here in North Carolina). It’s mid-February now and I’m starting to see weeds growing in the cracks of the driveway, the grass is starting to turn green again, I’m starting to notice how dirty the house siding is from raining all winter, and I’m becoming overwhelmed with the amount of work that I need to do.

No, it’s not that bad, but I think it’s about time to put together a plan so you can get the work done in time to enjoy outdoors this spring! I want to talk about 6 ways to prepare your home for spring, while the temps are still below 100°F.

What Makes the Grass Grow?

If you spent any time at MCRD Parris Island, you may wrongly believe that blood makes the grass grow, when in fact, this is not wholly true and there are much easier and painless ways to get that thick, soft grass that you’ve been dreaming about all winter. If you haven’t, it doesn’t matter, you too can have great grass because not much my drill instructor told me turned out to be true anyway!

When Should I Reseed my Lawn?

One question I always here is, when should I reseed my lawn? Here in NC, I usually re-seed my lawn around late February or early March, depending on how cold it is. This works out great and gives it some time to grow before the dry hot summer comes along and ruins everything again! I usually keep it simple – I aerate the yard (you can rent an aerator from Home Depot for pretty cheap) and simply spread some seed. Check with your local government – some counties provide a soil testing service. You can contact them and they will send you a test kit, collect some samples, and send it back to them. They will give you soil profile and tell you what to fertilize with in order to provide your grass a more healthy ecosystem.

Now – I’m not an expert, but this keeps my yard looking pretty good. If you want to really get into the weeds of lawn care, take a look at LAWN LOVE, a great blog I came across the other day. In particular, this article about growing grass seems helpful – “Growing Your Lawn From Grass Seed: 3 Easy Steps” . I have spent a good deal of time reading here and I think I may be prepared to grow some new grass this spring.

You Should Clean Your Driveway and Sidewalks

Another great way to prepare your home for spring is to clean your driveway. A clean driveway and sidewalk really make a difference in the perception of your home after a dark and dreary winter. For me, I like to clean the driveway and sidewalk first thing in the late winter/early spring because it motivates me to run through the rest of my chore list, and at the very least, my neighbors don’t think I’m a complete slacker.

In the past, I used to blast away at my driveway with a 5,000 psi pressure washer, but lately, I go a little easier on my concrete as not to erode it. Have you seen the cost of new concrete lately? But seriously, I have gotten just as good results using my trusty electric pressure washer – I even wrote a blog post about it! 4 Reasons to buy an electric pressure washer today

The big takeaway here is that you don’t need to blast off a layer of concrete to get a fresh looking driveway. If you don’t have a pressure washer, no worries! You’ll be surprised at how much dirt you can wash away with a garden hose.

prepare your home for spring
Photo by Marius Christensen on Unsplash

Best Way to Clean Siding

Depending on what type of siding your home has, you may need to go about this task in a different manner. No matter how you do it though, this is a great way to prepare your home for Spring. My home has vinyl siding and brick, both of which tend to get kind of gross after a few months of rain and wind. You don’t need to get out a scrub brush, unless of course this is the first time you’ve cleaned it in a few years, buy a pressure washer and some cleaner that is appropriate for your type of siding works well.

You don’t really need a pressure washer  either, but I like to use mine with the 40° sprayer tip – it’s not too rough for the siding and it gets an ample amount of water onto the siding. My go-to siding cleaner is Mold Armor E-Z House Wash . Take a look at it, it’s good for most types of sidings and I think it does a great job to break the mildew and dirt to the point it just rinses away.

Similar to cleaning the driveway and sidewalk, cleaning your homes siding just makes it shine. Again, at the very least, these two chores will keep the HOA at bay!

Mulch Helps Bring Definition to Your Landscaping

Here in North Carolina, the winter rain tends to wash away some of the mulch and most of its color, leaving behind a thin layer of gray soggy wood. If it were up to my wife, I would mulch everything, three to four times a year to prevent this from happening, but luckily, I introduced her to charcoal spray. This helped me limit my mulching activities to once a year, around early spring, and then I spray it throughout the year when it’s color fades. You can find many natural products out there, the one I use, as I mentioned is charcoal based. This product really helps to maintain that contrast between the mulch you worked so hard to put down and the rest of your landscaping – and it’s much cheaper than adding mulch every few months.

Mulch Specifics

After a quick search on the internet, Yard Works , a seemingly helpful ‘Land Improvement Solutions’ company based in Virginia, indicates that you can fit 2-3 cubic yards of mulch in a full-size truck, 1-2 cubic yards in mid-size truck, and 1 cubic yard in a small truck. These are obviously vague because no one wants to be held to it when your 30 year old “full size” truck bottoms out after one half of a scoop! I can confirm however, that my 2000 2WD Silverado with a 6.5’ bed CAN hold roughly 3 cubic yards of mulch. Why am I telling you all of this? Per my usual motive, I want to save you money!

Here are the facts – your average bag of mulch is 2 cubic feet and costs ~$4. There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. That’s roughly 40 bags of much in 3 cubic yards at $162 total. Last year I paid $30 per cubic yard to pick it up myself at a landscaping yard. Obviously prices will vary depending on location and type of mulch, but you may find that it’s cheaper to pick it up in bulk rather than by the bag.

Obviously if you opt to have someone spread mulch for you, my calculations above don’t really matter!

Cleaning Dirty Windows

Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

One of my least favorite home preparations is cleaning windows. It blows my mind how dirty windows get over a few months! In my head it makes no sense – I don’t open them, I don’t close them, I don’t TOUCH them.

Windows exist and they get filthy – similar to the siding on your home. All of that rain, wind, and dust outside tends to cake up on your windows and before you know it, your neighbor has written ‘clean me’ on your bathroom window making you wonder why they’re paying attention to your bathroom window… In all seriousness though, dust, pollen and dirt combine with moisture and leave a film of dirt on the outside of windows. Clean those windows and I promise you’ll appreciate the hard work when that spring sunshine comes shining through and you don’t have to see shadows of spiders on your wall!

If you have windows like mine, the plastic latches and mechanisms on them are brittle and they tend to break every once in a while, when you’re opening and closing them. If because of this you are afraid to open your filthy windows to clean them, worry no longer! Lowes and Home Depot both carry replacement parts that fit the majority of windows out there. You can get latches, locks and even cranks. I’m not sure if they carry balancers, but you can get those on Amazon! As you prepare your home for spring, it’s important that your windows are not only clean, but operational! How else will you get all that pollen in the house???

Check Your Lawn Equipment

For me, the last big push to prepare my home for spring is to get all of my lawn equipment is in working order. I say ‘ALL’ of my lawn equipment, but it’s really just a push mower. Over the last few years I have gotten rid of most of my gas powered equipment and replaced it with battery powered! I now have a battery powered trimmer, chainsaw, and blower, and they are so much easier to maintain throughout the year. The main upside for me is that I do not have to keep 2-cycle gasoline anymore and I do not have to winterize any of this equipment.

As for the lawnmower though, It’s always a good idea to get it out and make sure it’s running BEFORE you need to use it. After my last cut, I fill the gas tank with fresh gas and add some fuel stabilizer (there are tons of brands out there to use, I’m not particularly choosy when it comes to these products). Fuel stabilizer is important because it prevents the gasoline from evaporating and breaking down into that sticky gunk that clogs up the carburetor and gas lines. One last thing, be sure to run the engine a for a little while after you add the stabilizer to be sure it gets circulated through the entire system.

IF you did this in the beginning of the winter, then you shouldn’t have a problem!

Enjoy the Weather!

Again, these are some things that I like to do to around the house to prepare for the spring and summer. Is there something that you prioritize that I didn’t mention? Let us know!