Building Raised Beds

I had a small patch of grass in my garden that was really too small to be of any use. It was fairly annoying to mow such a tiny lawn. I decided to replace the lawn with some raised vegetable beds.

The first job was to dig over all the grass. Although having grass in your soil isn't ideal, I figured that it would end up deep enough that it wouldn't be too detrimental to the soil. With the grass dealt with, I then prepared the ground further by double-digging the whole area. This involves digging a trench one spade deep, and then using a fork to mix compost into the base of the trench—another spade deep. The next trench is then dug next to the first one, filling it in. As such, the trench slowly moves from one side to the other, and compost is incorporated deep in the soil. The whole process was quite laborious, hindered by the large lumps of clay in the soil.

Clay

With the ground prepared, I then recruited some willing volunteers to construct the beds themselves. The first layer was the most troublesome, as it was difficult to make it level on the damp clay soil, though using some sand did help a lot. We rushed to complete the second bed as the sun started to set. As a result it looks noticeably more wonky, but it will suffice.

I then filled the beds with topsoil, compost, and manure. One of the beds was filled with equal parts of each, and the other was filled with two parts compost to one part topsoil—with no manure. The manure-free bed will be my root vegetable bed (carrots don't like to grow in recently manured soil), and the other bed will be my brassica bed. The beds are in a shady spot, so will mostly be used for vegetables that are either leafy or roots, as these are less demanding of light than those that are grown for their fruits. My courgettes and runner beans will be planted in the same sunny spot that they were in last year—though I will try growing some broad beans and french beans on the north edge of the beds, which will at least get some sun.

Under Construction

The last matter to attend to was the space between the beds. I replaced the edging around my raspberry bed, which was old and rotten, and then laid a weed-proof membrane on the ground around the beds. This involved trying to cut the membrane into large, oddly shaped pieces. With the membrane pegged to the ground, I then covered it in gravel.

With Gravel

The gravel between the beds also forms a path between the decking and the patio, which is much nicer than having to cross the grass that was there before.