Raised Garden Boxes
Gardens were first instituted by the Persians and were called paradisios – in fact this is where we get the word paradise from. It’s an ancient way of building a garden bed and a popular permaculture method.
While you may use planting soil exclusively the first year in your new garden boxes, a lot can be said for saving your compost and mixing it in for the following seasons. With the addition of fertile compost under your plants, there will be never be a need for adding fertilizer to your garden.
Having raised garden beds is also a way to allow wood chips and other debris to rot in place. The decomposition of wood releases heat, which has many benefits for a garden bed, not the least of which is the ability to extend your planting season. The decomposed wood also becomes sponge-like, holding water and storing it for when your plants need it.
Raised garden beds imitate the nutrient cycling of the forest floor, how it uses organic matter, but in revere, or upside down. The rotting wood creates a rich, deep, loamy, fertile soil, and an ecosystem where bacteria and fungi thrive, essential for healthy plants and vegetables. Like a branch rotting along the forest floor with fungi growing beneath it, the slowly decomposing wood below your garden plants releases energy and nutrients and feeds their roots.
If at all possible, use Redwood to construct your bottomless box along the ground. Redwood will last a long time. It won’t last as long as pressure-treated wood, but then you don’t want to use pressure-treated wood due to the chemicals. Other types of woods may break down too fast or release toxins affecting the growth of your plants (such as Black Walnut). Depending on what’s available near you, do your research. You want something that will ultimately decompose so you benefit from its self-generating heat, but something that will break down too quickly or kill your vegetation.
Building a raised garden bed is pretty simple. There’s some labor involved but little maintenance once it’s established. The bed can be as large or as small as you like – base it on the amount of wood you’ll be using, which can be fresh or already decomposing (depending on your future needs and whether you would like to continue to use it).
· Build your bed from the soil surface up. If you’d like your plants and vegetables to be at the ground level, consider starting your project in a trench.
· Use the largest logs/boards for your base, at the bottom where the majority of the weight is held, and pack them tightly. Allow as little space as possible between them.
· Place smaller logs/branches or smaller boards on top of the base logs/boards, followed by smaller pieces still. For example, if using boards: use 2 x 12s along the bottom then 2 x 10s or 2 x 8s.
· Add liberal amounts of high nitrogen materials like kitchen scraps, sod, grass clippings, manure, etc., known as “greens” in composting. The nitrogen in the greens is necessary for the decomposition process, and they’ll supply nitrogen to your plant’s roots.
· Water the pile deeply.
· Add two inches of soil on top of the pile and then add a layer of mulch.