Raised Beds and Cleaning for Next Season

This season draws to a close and the garden needs to be tucked in for next year. Among the many tasks on the to-do list are creating new beds and cleaning up old ones.

Raised Beds

Nearly filled beds with mulch-covered walkways.

These are nominally raised beds; they are only a few inches above the ground surface. We’re using some of the left-over potato tower wood to create the bed walls. These 1-×-6-in nominal lumber segments about 2 ft long. I overlapped the ends by 1.5 in and put two screws into the overlap with short pieces of 2-×-2-in nominal lumber for reinforcing. The corners have 2-×-2-in posts that go about 5 in into the ground.

A view of the corner posts before being pushed into the holes made with the fence post.

Once assembled, the frames are placed over large sheets of cardboard spread out over a raked area (the cleaned-up potato field from this last growing season). The cardboard will suppress weeds. To dig the corner posts in, I used a large fence post and punched through the cardboard and rammed the T-post down about a half a foot, rotating to loosen the soil. As each post slots into the hole, the bed rests on the cardboard surface.

The beds being filled with compost and the walkways with mulch.

Once in place, the beds are filled with a half foot of compost, decomposing straw, and rich, weed-free soil. Between the beds, the walkways are covered with about 3 in of wood mulch. Come the spring, the beds will probably get another layer of cardboard on top and then clean straw mulch.

Cleaning Up Beds

This year we grew cucumbers, tomatoes, tobacco, and peppers in some mounded beds. Most of these got trellises: the cucumbers had a wire frame held up by U-posts, the tomatoes climbed up top-roped twine.

Mounded beds before cleaning: tobacco in the foreground with cucumber trellises behind, and dead tomato vines in the background.

These plants are more likely than some others to transmit disease from year to year, so instead of composting the cleaned out dead stalks, they will be burned. Once cleaned out, the mounded beds will be spruced up with a little work to contain their sides and cardboard on top and in the pathways to help smother weeds.

Cleaned beds with weeds piled in the barrow.

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