Spring Planting the Raised Bed

It started as an idea 3 years ago, a necessity really if we ever wanted to eat greens from our own garden. Urban soil in older neighborhoods is notoriously known for pollutants, our little lot being no different.

May 2008: The bed is built, quite fittingly on Mother's Day - a gift for mama!May 2008: The bed is built, quite fittingly on Mother's Day - a gift for mama!</span>

I love living in this small city, 3 blocks from Daddy's office and everything we need within a 1/2 hour walk. But having lead contaminated soil is something I don't love. In fact, it infuriates me to my core. Not being able to eat food grown from your soil is just all wrong, wrong, wrong. What if I had no choice but to eat what I grew from my yard??? I would be poisoning my children. (Not to mention starving since we can't grow enough with the space we have to feed our family). But those are topics for another time...

The fact remains we have lead contaminated soil, I've tested it - and so should you if you live in an older urban neighborhood. I can grow certain crops, (well peeled) root crops, berries and fruiting vegetables no problem. But greens; lettuce, spinach, chard, kale - the really good-for-you veggies are a no go.

July 2008: The bed is filled with soil & compost July 2008: The bed is filled with soil & compost </span>

But we love those vegetables so we decided to a) build a raised bed and b) try to de-tox the garden soil (this year we're growing sunflowers - supposedly they help leach lead from the soil but you have to treat the plants as waste, ie: don't compost the lead back into your garden!)

March 2009: Using our old window panes to warm up the bed for an early spring planting.March 2009: Using our old window panes to warm up the bed for an early spring planting.</span>

The raised bed idea was born a couple years ago but has taken time to come to fruition - like everything else in my life! So I'm so happy to announce that last week, the first week of April, I planted my first spring seeds in the raised bed, while my kids played in mud.

Late March 2009 : Adding compost before the spring plantingLate March 2009 : Adding compost before the spring planting</span>

Here's a couple advantages to raised bed gardens (in addition to not poisoning your urban kiddos with garden grown greens):

  • Can be planted earlier in the season because the soil heats up quicker. Topping with old glass windows really helps to speed this up.
  • Easily covered to extend your growing season. Covers give seeds adequate warmth for germination and protect tender seedlings from spring frost and winds. At the end of the season they insulate from fall frosts.
  • Easy to plant, weed and harvest from. Less bending and such.
  • Because they are never walked on (you shouldn't walk in your regular garden either, use paths instead) the soil doesn't get compacted and roots stay happy, growing healthy & productive plants.

Here in Maine we don't plant our "regular garden" until mid-late May, except for peas, which I'll plant soon. So you can understand my delight in planting my raised bed a whole month and a half early! This means I'll be able to do successive plantings. Here's what we've got:

April 2009: What's planted and what will be plantedApril 2009: What's planted and what will be planted</span>

There's a lot of helpful websites and blogs that go into building a raised bed. I won't repeat all that here because we took the easy route and ordered a kit last year from Naturalyards.

The "hoop house" in the photos was fashioned with:

  • 1/2" PVC pipe (fits over the metal posts that hold the bed together) purchased at hardware store.
  • Reemay and clips specially designed for this kind of thing. Both purchased from our local seed company, Pinetree Seeds. The black ends on the hoop house were added because the Reemay wasn't long enough, those were left over from a household building project.

April 2009 : All covered to keep those babies warm.April 2009 : All covered to keep those babies warm.</span>

To make your own raised bed you can check out this post How to Make a Raised Bed blogged at The Pleasures of Homemaking.

If you know of more great how-to-build a bed resources please leave a link in comments.

As a note, I use the square foot method but think 4 feet is too wide, especially for a short individual like myself. I think 3 feet, with access from both sides, is just right.

~Seed Giveaway~
So to celebrate this occasion of garden planting I'm giving away two seeds packets. I found them yesterday in my seed bin, after I had already planned out and bought the seeds for my beds. We are limited for space and won't be planting these - maybe you'd like them.

Up for grabs Seeds of Change Certified Organic seed packages. China Choy Chinese Cabbage and Anaszai Flour Corn, winner gets both (somber-faced princess is not included). They look like lovely seeds and this is a company I would buy from if I didn't have such a great seed source</a>, Pinetree Seeds, so close to home.

Comments and contest now closed. Winner chosen using Random.org:

So, commenter number six (not including those pingbacks) is MMW.

Happy planting and isn't this just the best time of year??

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  • Pamela

    Pamela on April 6, 2009, 1:44 a.m.

    Oh, your hoop house is so lovely! Now I'm thinking of how I can cover my beds, since our beds are constructed differently. Maybe some stakes at the corners and the center sides of each bed, the PVC, and then the plastic. Must mentalate. I have three beds filled with soil, four of six (or eight) built, and am dying to plant, but we're due for below-freezing later this week, so I'm holding off planting anything yet, much less transplanting what I've been nurturing on the kitchen table. I'm impatient and also wanting to do succession planting. Funny, we're further south than you (in western Virginia) and so should have a longer growing season, but our average last frost isn't until the first week of May.

    My mom-in-law has been wanting to plant Chinese cabbage, so I'm definitely eyeing those seeds. And the thought of trying to make my own flour from my own homegrown corn is REALLY appealing. So definitely throw my name into the hat! And thank you so much for the link!


  • michial

    michial on April 6, 2009, 2:08 p.m.

    Did you say "organic seeds". . . Hmmmmm...

    i would feel really weird "winning" your seeds. Especially if there is someone else that really needs them. But the idea of adding interesting new projects to the pharm is irresistible! That being said. . . before autumn is over we should talk about how you can use your hoop house to make your yummy greens last longer into the winter!!


  • MMW

    MMW on April 7, 2009, 3:35 a.m.

    Love the princess but will take the seeds...

    I have not planted either of these before. I would love them both!!



  • Jamie

    Jamie on April 7, 2009, 5:11 p.m.

    I never would have thought to test our soil! We've been preparing our urban yard for a garden for a while now and our seed starts are getting ready for the ground. Now I'm nervous about the soil and absoulutely must test it. Thanks for the tip!

    Jamie's last blog post... Nick & Kallie | Sibling Photoshoot


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