A Nerd In The Garden: Designing A Raised Bed Layout & Clearing A Space

After tilling

Sort of Before

Sort of Before

Good day, gentle reader. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks designing and researching a raised bed garden. This has involved measuring the area I will get to use for the garden, compiling a list of vegetables and herbs that we would like to have in our garden and preparing the spot chosen.

The design side took quite a bit of time. Once I had the dimensions I made some graph paper layouts in Excel and printed the grids on paper so I could draw raised bed layouts to scale and find what appealed to me the most. The most efficient use of my space took several tries to get. Each bed needs a 2′ walk path around each side of it so that a gardener can reach the middle of the bed. To get the maximum amount of useable garden space with that restriction that also appealed to me aesthetically took several layouts.

Once I had a layout that I liked I used it to calculate the linear feet of lumber I would need to build the beds as I had drawn them. Once I had that number I went online and began looking at the kinds of lumber I could use to build the beds and the costs. Different board widths, heights and lengths gave me varying options not only for construction but also price-wise.

Calculating how many pieces of which size helped me reduce waste. For a raised bed garden wood that is bug and rot resistant is a must. I wanted cedar but it was so expensive. There was no size I could afford to get in sufficient quantity for my project. In the end for economic reasons I decided I would go with 2x12x16 pressure treated wood, which for the size of my garden would be pricy but worth it. I could already imagine the fresh vegetables and herbs.

The lumber is pricy and once I purchased it I would have to load it in my vehicle, bungie cord it and put the red safety flag on it to get it home then unload it. I would also need to get corner fasteners, posts and other little things to actually construct the bed.

OR…the interwebs was happy to suggest that For $50.00 more I could order pre-made raised bed kits made from cedar (superior and preferable) from Amazon and get them delivered free to my house. Hmmmmm….I’m already committed to spending quite a bit of cash….And I really wanted cedar to begin with, I just couldn’t afford it if I got it at any of the number of local home improvement/lumber yards I’d checked out.

Still $50.00 is a lot of money, so I went to the store I’d found online that had the pressure treated wood for the price I was willing to pay. There I found that they didn’t actually carry the lumber I had chosen for the price listed. The price they did have was more by $2.00. Multiply that over the number of boards I would need and suddenly the pre-made kits were in range. I was sold–on the pre-made kits that is.

Let’s be honest here. If I constructed the beds they would be basic boxes. I am not mitering any corners to give them a finished look and I’m not buying end caps for the post tops. My basic garden would look like someone bought some wood and made boxes. Since this is intended to be a semi-permanent installation the beauty and finished look of the superior cedar beds was really worth the little bit extra they cost me. It was the free delivery that put it in range. If I’d had to pay for delivery I wouldn’t have done it.

Now over the course of the past month we have been cleaning up the garden space. We have been cutting out Himalayan blackberry vines, which are vile things with huge sharp thorns and digging out the roots, cutting out Clerodendron runners (apparently it propagates underground too–who knew?) and catnip that was planted in one little spot 15 years ago. Catnip is invasive. It was an absolute mess back there. We have filled our yard debris bin to overflowing every weekend for the past month. The day finally came when we had enough space cleared to rototill the spot.

After tilling

After tilling

I researched several little rototillers online, even going so far as to watch youtube videos of people reviewing some models. I finally settled upon a lightweight model that was reasonably priced and that I felt I could operate myself without having to ask someone else to do it. Once again my local hardware store did not carry it. This is the same place I went for the lumber I had chosen. Oh I could order it online and have it shipped to their store for free but this involves a wait while the item ships and then I still have to pick it up.

For the record, offering to have something shipped to a store is a bad strategy for a local store. If I want to wait for something to ship, I don’t want to have to then go pick it up. The only reason to buy something like this locally is if you want to pick it up the same day. If the shop is forcing me to wait for it anyway, then I’ll order from the place that not only gives me free shipping but also ships it right to my door.

Thankfully, another garden center nearby actually carried the little rototiller and I picked it up there. With the added bonus that this was a locally owned place. I try to support locally owned places whenever possible and had I known beforehand that they carried this item I wouldn’t have even tried to get the tiller at the other place.

This week the kits arrive and next weekend we will assemble the first beds. Stay tuned.