Gardening with Higher Standards

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Gardening
Click to view this article in the Spring 2016 issue of ADVENTURESS magazine.

 

Building a raised garden bed & strawberry patch

By Jennifer Pudenz

had been dreaming of my own strawberry patch for a while, but on my husband and I’s acreage, we had some issues that continued to hold back the planning process. However, there is this house I admire as I drive by on my way to work each day and I couldn’t help but love the looks of their raised garden beds in the back yard. They have such a clean, crafty look to them! While the idea of a raised bed for my strawberries came out of sheer looks, it ended up being the perfect problem solver. Check out how a raised bed can help out your garden!

Raised Beds for All!

One of the best things about raised beds is how they really can be for anyone. Whether you have all the space you could ever need or just a tiny backyard, a raised bed can be a great addition to your garden or create a great garden for you. That house I admire is in town and they have lawn in between their boxes with enough room to put a mower through. Where we have large garden areas fenced off on our acreage and chose to put our boxes inside.

Problems Solved

The first issue we had with trying to plan a strawberry patch was just where to put the thing. With our large garden areas, and my husband and I enjoying planting completely different plants, we found ourselves completely changing our garden layout every year. And strawberries grow back each year… Also I love to plant all sorts of vining fruits and vegetables that would easily take over strawberries if they had the chance.

A raised bed solved these issues for us as the box was going to mark off this designated permanent area just for our perennial strawberries. And the raised box was also going to keep the other vining plants from taking over the strawberries.

Our next issue was runoff. When it rains here, we really get the runoff draining heavily through the garden areas, creating some deep crevices and leaving debris. However, a raised bed solved this problem, as the strawberries would be kept up out of the runoff.

Another issue was later when summer heat and drought started to kick in. We get so dry at times that you can fit your whole hand down into cracks in the ground! We do our best to keep everything watered, but sometimes you just can’t.

However, the raised bed helped with this issue too. We were able to fill the beds with good topsoil and then top them off with mulch. If you have poor soil in your garden area, you can improve this within your bed to help the plant roots thrive. The mulch then helps stop water in the soil from evaporating in the heat of the day, keeping the strawberries moist longer.

Let’s Get Started!

You can create your raised bed at any dimensions to fit your space. One thing to consider is to not make them so big that you can’t reach weeds or produce in the middle. I chose to have two raised beds, each approximately 6-1/2’ x 4’ in dimensions.

When it comes to the boards themselves, you want to make sure you use thick enough boards to last. We bought pre-treated (to help against rot) lumber 2×8 boards, which actual dimensions are 1-1/2” x 7-1/4.” This gives them nice height as a raised bed and thick enough they aren’t going to easily warp.

You’ll want to leave enough space around the outside of the boxes to walk and reach those delicious berries inside. I left approximately two feet around all four sides. If using a garden tiller for weeds or mower for grass in between, be sure to measure those so you leave enough room to fit. You can also put mulch or rock on your paths or lay stepping stones.

Use outdoor wood screws strong and long enough for the boards you choose. Instead of cutting your board ends at a 45-degree angle so they fit together, cut your board ends flat and over lap one over the other to make your corners stronger.

On the inside edges of the box, hammer long metal stakes into the ground until they will no long stick up out of the top of the box. Especially stake well on both sides of the corners for support. We used 1/2” re-rod.

What’s great about DIY projects is you really can get by with bare minimums or you can go all out – it’s up to what time, effort and money you want to spend, and raised beds are no different!

You can keep it simple and just fill with dirt, or you can add liners to help against weeds, irrigation to help with watering, and nets to help against pests.

While you can use a raised bed for something other than strawberries, and you don’t have to plant strawberries in a raised bed, the two go great together.

I planted a variety of strawberry plant types as this gives you berries throughout the growing season as well as different sizes and tastes. I was amazed at the results! The plants quickly filled in the boxes and I had beautiful strawberries not only through the summer, but even enough in October to make one last pie!

Jennifer Pudenz just loves being outdoors, whether it is gardening, taking care of her chickens, or hunting and fishing. This article was sponsored by Duluth Trading Company.