Building raised beds

This project took a couple of weekends, mainly because I’m a late starter and I end up working until the light truly fails. My Kiwi friend Alistair, keen to get his hands dirty and who was taught horticulture at school helped with plank and plant moving, which was very useful because I was pretty ignorant of moving plants before then.

I usually fork plants up and hope they’ll get on with things, and then wonder why their leaves wilt. Alistair insisted that we move the fruit bushes properly, by digging around them with a spade to help protect the fine ends of the roots and transferring them to containers. I have him to thank for the crops that I got last year, yields would no doubt have been less without his root saving tips.

The raised beds were made from a mixture of long planks and short planks, both kinds were bigger than me which is about all I can say about them. They were handily delivered by Jewsons, as it was expecting too much of my Polo to fit them all in the back, or on the top, and with delivery in the region of £15 it wasn’t too pricey. All told, I think it cost in the region of £250 for all the materials.

The planks are pressure treated timber, no toxic wotsits in them that could contaminate the soil; they were joined together using regular timber stakes at the right angles of the structure. I later used the off cuts to build two planters that are about 50x50cm in the back garden.

I use two compost bins, subsidised ones from Camden Council, which you can see in the top right. We also have a huge water butt that is connected to the downpipe for our block of flats. This was a freebie, left outside a cafe on Upper St, Islington for anyone who wanted it. I’m planning on covering it with sweet peas this year, as it’s a hideous green one.

The beds were double dug, and the bricks and rubble removed. We filled them with peat free compost, around 8-12 bags from Homebase, which were topped up with compost from two local city farms:

  • Kentish Town City Farm: the compost is kept right at the end of the farm, and you need to bring a spade and dig it up yourself. Please leave a donation to help their good work.
  • Freightliners City Farm: around £5 per rubble sack, which are ready filled for you. You can keep or return the sacks, I found them useful for moving compost and rocks around.

You can find City farms in London by following the link, but most have a web presence.

In the months to come I’ll regret leaving the rhubarb where it is (top left). It will thoroughly enjoy all the extra compost that was added and flatten all the plants around it. Still, it did feed us and neighbours got plenty of stalks.

That’s history taken care of, the next post will be about getting sowing for the year ahead.


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