Thursday, April 21, 2011

Raising the Bed

Yesterday was Earth Day.  Not that I need an excuse to work in my garden lately, but I take what I can get.  I am such a novice when it comes to all things garden-related, but can't believe how much I've been loving being out there and getting my hands dirty.

Since it rained yesterday, and I was in the city yesterday anyway, I tackled my Earth Day project today.  This year, I'm really committed to getting more than one lousy tomato out of my vegetable garden.  In my book, that starts with leveling the garden so that all my seeds don't wash downhill this year after the first good rain. 

For perspective, this is what our vegetable garden looked like today before I got started.  That is not garbage in it, for the record, it's cardboard and wet newsprint, which I was using to smother the weeds before planting time, a tip I learned on Margaret Roach's gardening blog, A Way to Garden

Incidentally, those are also my supplies all piled up around the vegetable patch.  I found the 2x10 (which is 10 feet long - exactly the length of the existing vegetable patch, as it turns out) under the deck, which is what inspired this project in the first place.  I went to the Home Depot and picked up another 10 foot 2x10 and and eight foot 2x10, which they nicely cut in half for me.  Those two pieces of wood plus a box of nails was around $20.  I spent about another $10 or so on dirt, but I would have had to buy that anyway, whether I raised the bed or not, so I don't have to count it, right?

When I got home, I decided to build the frame for the raised bed off in the back yard, where the ground is more level.  Which turns out not to be the brightest move, since I was building it myself.  By the time I had dragged it back to where I wanted it, all the nails had pulled out.   Whoops.  In retrospect, I probably should have gone with slightly longer nails, or even screws, to really hold it together (you should never listen to the people at Home Depot, they usually steer me wrong on these kinds of things).  So then, I re-built it in place, trampling about half the baby spinach shoots that I planted on our first real day of Spring.  I dug up the strongest looking guys, and set them aside to see if they could be salvaged.  The rest got covered over.  This is what the frame looked like when I got it all put together.

Then I decided to check whether the raised bed was level.  Or rather, how un-level it was.  Ahem.  Quite un-level is the answer.

I don't think that bubble gets any farther to the right.  So then I set about the leveling process.  First, I leveled the frame with some old bricks we had lying around...

... Then, I leveled the inside by spreading some of the god-foresaken mulch inside...

... and viola:

Next, I set about filling 'er up.  On top of the leveling mulch, I put a nice hefty layer of compost, and then topped it off with the soil I bought earlier in the day.  This is what she looks like all ready for action.

So then, I put in my spinach babies that I had salvaged.  Don't they look hearty, there, all ready to grow?

I also put back in some strawberry plants I dug up before I started this whole process, and took the opportunity to divide the two biggest plants, so now we have six instead of four.  Because I love a good before-after comparison, here's a reminder of what we started with:

And here's what our raised veggie bed looks like now:

 (For the record, I do realize I held the camera at a weird angle to take this picture,
so it looks decidedly un-level.  Rest assured, IT IS NOT. 
My father is an engineer, for crying out loud.)

Much improved, don't you think?

Update:  Apparently, I should have indulged my slightly neurotic nature, and not relied on memory to remember when Earth Day was.  Because it's today, April 22nd.  Perhaps I was confusing Earth Day with that other favorite day of Michigan hippies -- the day of the hash bash in Ann Arbor (which is 4/20, for you non-natives). 

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