Do you like the idea of a raised bed garden box with easy-working, fertile soil that’s practically weed-free? Is the idea of not having to bend down so much appealing? Do you like the idea of more time for other things? Give me low maintenance, please.
4’x8′ raised bed garden boxes are perfect for easy-care gardening. In only 32 square feet, you can raise a highly productive garden. All you need is a little fore-thought.
I plant my raised bed boxes after the concept used by the intensive gardeners of Europe. French gardeners are masters at getting the most from a little in their potager or garden. Often, it fills most of a side yard; it is so tightly packed with various vegetables in various stages that one must do a balancing act to get in to tend. Every spare space is used. Most are so well cared for that you wonder if Monet was inspired by them!
Though old-fashioned gardeners plant mainly right in the ground, the intensive method is perfect for raised beds with not nearly the bending. It is also a very clean way to garden since you are not walking in soil or mud at all, depending on how you finish the walkways. We used stone 4″ deep so the walks are almost totally weed free.
You can create a very small garden or quite a large one by configuring the boxes to your needs and space. We did a grid of 9 boxes – 3 rows of 3 (with 4 foot aisles) and can grow a lot of food. Also, I know families that are making full use of just one 4’x8′ box growing: 3 herbs, 2 tomato plants, 2 – 4′ rows of green beans, 1 row sweet peppers and 1 row each kale, green onions, spinach and lettuce.
Because of the tightly packed vegetables, the plant’s leaves canopy fast and the germination of weed seed is at a minimum.
Materials to Build One Raised Bed:
- 8 (2″ by 8″) 8′ boards of treated AC2 (arsenic free) lumber. Two of the 8′ boards will be cut into 4′ lengths for the ends as in top photo.
- 4 – 2′ by 4’s for leveling stakes, 22-24″ long. They will anchor the box, so drive them in once the box is where you want it and screw to these stakes.
- 3″- long exterior screws. (Galvanized is best, but we couldn’t find them.) ‘Exterior’ so they won’t rust. Screw the box together and screw to the leveling stakes so it won’t shift when filling.
Perfect Soil Mixture Recipe
- 1/3 vermiculite (or perlite).
- 1/3 the best weed-free soil or seasoned compost you can find
- 1/3 peat moss.
We dumped the bags into each raised bed in thirds and ‘stirred’ with shovels. We made play of the work, and once it was done, we had a productive garden!
You can get peat moss and vermiculite at many of the garden centers (Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc.) or your local nursery may order it for you. You’ll find big bags of vermiculite at Menard’s in the insulation aisle (4 cu yd for around $12.00).
For the total amount to add to the raised bed garden box, you can use calculations found here.
The average French gardener would be incredulous at the ‘recommended’ spacing used by the American gardener. Due to space limitations in many areas in Europe, over the centuries they have learned ways to maximize production, allowing creativity and a free spirit to flow into their potager.
I got a lot of my ideas from Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space. It opened my mind to think out of the box, and I’ve been gardening like this ever since.
With good planning and management, it would not be impossible for 4 – 4’x8′ raised bed garden boxes to produce enough for a family of four. By inter-planting (having another plant ready to stick into the ground the moment that one is harvested) you keep the space filled. You can tuck in onion sets (save some back from your spring planting) and have more green onion tops coming in early fall.
Also, succession planting is practiced. In reading about this years ago, I have learned that once my early crops of cool weather plants (beets, cabbage, spinach, lettuces, turnips, and early onions) are harvested, I can them plant the lovers of hot weather and use the same space twice! Sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, another cabbage or two…
And as you harvest (or thin) your hot weather crops, you might be able to squeeze in the seed or seedlings for a cool weather crop repeat. In this way gardening is not boring, but can be a satisfying creative adventure.
The secret in a raised bed or a garden in the ground is composting. If you haven’t seen the Back To Eden Movie, you are missing something very special that will revolutionize the way you think about gardening!
Are you planning a garden? Have you thought about raised beds?
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Thanks for reading!