Improved Engineering

3 minute read

Once upon a time in another life, I built a vegetable garden. The big bed was 5×20 which is pretty sizable for a raised bed. But as you can see from the photos, at the time it was pretty easy to work your way around the entire thing. Five feet wide is still pretty wide but it was at least manageable. At the time, I didn’t know anything about square foot gardening either.

Fast forward 4.5 years and suddenly that tiny blackberry bush you planted is huge and that five feet width is starting to be a drag. So I decided to reengineer it into something a little more manageable. As with most of my projects, this one sprung from my head about 50% formed, what I like to call a Half Athena project (Greek mythology nerd joke). Ten days ago, I was standing on the south side of the house about to replenish the soil with fertilizer when I realized it would make a lot more sense for almost anyone if that monstrous bed was several smaller beds. As I pondered, a plan began to take shape and I busted out the measuring tape.

Square foot gardening calls for 4×4 foot beds but I wasn’t about to try and lop off a foot from a 20 foot bed. So I decided that 5×4 would be perfectly acceptable since you’d be able to walk all the way around each one. Two foot pathways would separate the beds. So I started measuring and then worked out how much new wood I needed to make the change. It turned out to be about a $60 project though I haven’t rebuilt the sprinkler system yet and that will add some to it if I choose to do so.

The result is much more manageable as you can see from the photos below. Now I have three 4×5 foot beds along with the original 5×5 foot square bed which didn’t need rebuilding since nothing grows around it. There is also the 12×3 foot bed. I’ve lost a little square footage but don’t think that will be a problem. There was about 3 feet at the end of the bed near the blackberries that didn’t really fit so I took it out and spread the soil among the other beds. This has the added benefit of making it much easier to pick blackberries. These beds will never need to be walked in so the soil won’t get compacted.

As with almost all projects, it didn’t get finished the first weekend though not for lack of trying. I actually didn’t think through the necessary lengths of purchased 2x12s and didn’t buy enough to finish. Last week, I picked up an extra 2×12 to finish it. One of the old sections along the house was rotting worse than the others so I went ahead and replaced it as well.

I was hoping to get tomatoes in the ground tonight but after 2 hours of hauling dirt and sawing old 2x12s with a hand saw because I’ve never managed to buy a reciprocating saw, I was out of energy. Tomorrow night, I’ll plant tomatoes and probably some more turnips, lettuce and other cool season veggies. This weekend, I’ll see about peppers, corn and eggplants. Here’s hoping we don’t have a spring like last year when we had a freeze late in April.

On a funny note, that dog in the pictures today and 5 years ago is the same dog and not a statue. Apparently he likes to stand in the exact same place and supervise. He’s not much of a digger so I guess that’s ok.