Preparation of this raised bed (bed number two) began with the cleanup a few weeks ago. After that, I turned over the soil with my garden fork. This loosens the soil to allow air and water to move freely, mixes decaying plant material into the soil, and buries weed seeds so that they will decompose rather than sprout.
While I was digging the soil with my garden fork, I discovered that some of the landscape timbers used to frame the raised bed were in bad shape. I decided not to try to replace them this year, and so on Friday (March 29th) after work I strengthened the timbers by removing some of the long (TimberLok brand) screws that were in rotten areas and putting them into the solid wood near the edges of the timbers. I added a few more screws where needed.
That done, I could proceed with preparing the garden bed for planting. The bed was raked out so that the soil is flat, then raked up around the sides to keep water in the center of the bed.
Then, it was time to add fertilizer. I like to use both manure and inorganic fertilizer in the vegetable garden. Manure contains some nitrogen that isn’t water soluble and thus should remain in the soil for the plants to use later in the season. It also may have micro nutrients and beneficial organisms. On the other hand, inorganic fertilizer is easy to use and inexpensive. I follow the practice of using the equivalent of about 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of inorganic fertilizer per 100 square feet (9.3 square meters). Since the bed is about 70 square feet and half the fertilizer is from the manure, I used 20 pounds (9 kg) of manure (at 1-1-1 Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) and used the garden rake to mix it into the top inch of soil. As it was getting dark, I decided to call it a night.
On Saturday, I spread 2 pounds (907 g) of 5-10-10 inorganic fertilizer on the bed and raked that in. If I was planting corn or squash, I would use 10-10-10 as they can use the extra nitrogen. Actually, I would prefer fertilizer with less potassium, such as 5-10-5 and 10-10-5, but I use what I can purchase locally.
Next, I covered the soil with landscape fabric. The type that I like to use on top of the vegetable beds is opaque and has tiny holes that allow water to pass through. I used the same fabric that was used on this bed last year, when it had tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant growing in it, so it already has some holes cut into it. I cut the fabric and folded it back in the areas that will have peas and beans planted in them. The fabric is held down with plastic garden stakes.
The fabric does a number of things for the garden. It blocks light and thus keeps weeds from germinating and growing. Rain water can pass through the holes into the soil, but the fabric slows evaporation. The black color absorbs sunlight and helps heat the soil more quickly in the spring.
Finally (with some help), I could move the trellis from bed number one. I place the trellis on landscape fabric to reduce contact with soil so the trellis will last longer. The trellis is secured by driving electric fence posts upside-down through holes in the bottom board; this means there is about two feet of steel rod anchoring the trellis at each corner. I’ll go into more detail about the construction of the trellis in another post.
The final result is in the photo above. Peas will be planted on the right (east) side of the trellis, beans will be planted on the left (west) side when the weather is warmer, and herbs will be transplanted into the area in front (which faces south).