Charlotte is a great area for growing food in your backyard. The climate and soil conditions have provided favorable conditions for farmers to grow a wide variety of crops for years. Now, homeowners are realizing that they can grow far more than tomatoes in their backyards. In the summer, gardens in Mecklenburg County are filled with squash, beans, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, okra, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, hot and sweet peppers, melons, and a wide variety of herbs. In the fall, while some crops such as winter squash are maturing, other summer crops will be replaced with garlic, leeks, sweet peas, root crops such as carrots, turnips and radishes, cabbage, broccoli, salad greens, kale and chard.
As interest in growing backyard kitchen gardens is growing, raised bed plans and kits have become available at local stores. Building a raised bed can be an effective and relatively easy means of adding a productive vegetable garden to yard. Built over your existing soil, raised beds are filled with a light mix of soil and amendments, allowing the vegetables to grow in an uncompacted soil. The garden will benefit from yearly (or even seasonal) additions of compost, but will not require yearly tilling.
Home Depot currently carries a do-it-yourself raised bed by Greene’s Fence Company which is easy to assemble and can be constructed easily in under an hour. At under $40 for a 4 foot by 4 foot bed, Greene’s Cedar Raised Garden offers a simple raised bed at a good price. To complete the project, the instructions recommend using a drill with a 3/16″ drill bit and either a Phillips head attachment for your drill or a Phillips head power screwdriver.
The instructions to put the raised bed together were easy to follow, and all of the materials needed to complete the beds were supplied in the kit. The wood was a bit roughhewn on the edges, but the cedar wood was clean and gave a lovely appearance to the raised bed. You can also choose to use more than one kit to stack the raised bed and create a deeper bed, or join several beds together to create a longer raised bed.
Lay out the wooden corners pieces on the ground in a four foot square, then place two four-foot long planks between each corner piece. Each corner piece is cut with 4 grooves to allow you to slide the edge of the planks into a grove. Place the edges of the slide planks into the corner pieces. (See the slideshow for pictures of the finished raised bed and detail pictures of the assembled corners.) The corner pieces have pre-drilled starter holes for a long, painted screw (included). Drill the long screws into the pre-drilled starter holes and through the plank to secure the sides. Top the corner pieces with the flat, square cedar tops and drill into place. Once the raised bed is completed, fill with a lightweight mix.
We chose to place all of the cedar pieces of the raised bed together prior to securing the planks with screws. Once we placed the planks into all four corner pieces, we were able to adjust the bed slightly to conform to the slight curve of the ground, and then completed the raised bed by drilling the screws into each corner and plank. The finished raised bed was securely built, and had firmly attached sides and a lovely rough-hewn appearance. It took about 10 cu feet of soil mix to fill each 4 foot by 4 foot by 8 inch raised bed. We used a mix of coconut hull (coir), compost and organic potting soil.
Because the beds are based on a system of interacting parts, it is easy to adjust to fit individual needs. For one section of the kitchen garden, we chose to combine two 4′ x 4′ beds into one 4′ x 12′ bed, using the cedar planks on the sides of the raised bed and added a few pieces of treated wood, purchased for about $5, to complete the internal walls of the adjusted bed.
If you plan to place your garden on a area with a lot of weeds, it would be worth your while to kill the weeds first. For tips on how to clear a potential site of weeds, see “Clearing weeds to prepare for a raised bed”.
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