I started the raised bed expansion project yesterday–after spending a few days just wandering in my backyard, looking at the spot, thinking about my strategy. Which changed somewhat midstream.
Here’s that spot–cleared out a few days ago with the brush mower and then painstakingly combed over for tiny tree stumps with a pair of soft-soled shoes and a pair of pruners.
I brought in the landscape fabric I’d gotten when I bought the used greenhouse frame from Morse’s a couple years ago (and never put up due to all kinds of indecision about where and how and etc., etc.). I also brought in the first load of blocks–about twenty-four of them. I “harvested” those blocks when I was helping a friend dismantle his ex-wife’s (who is also a friend) old garden center, where I worked once upon a time.
I had planned on stretching the landscape fabric all the way to the neighbor’s driveway, and realized (as I couldn’t drive any of the landscape staples there anyway) that that was a supremely dumb idea, and it’d get ripped up by his snowblower directly after the first winter storm. So I pulled it back about eighteen inches from the drive.
When I finished setting the first layer of blocks, I took a break to think about what I was doing (and to drink a beer). There’s a little bit of wiggle in a couple spots because of this very large half-exposed cottonwood root, but I didn’t think it wise to cut it, so I went over the top.
But I did landscape fabric the bottom of the whole bed (and a little out from the sides) to avoid the constant growth and re-growth of little trees that’s been such a problem with the herb bed retaining wall.
The border of the bed does follow some dips/drainage spots in the lawn–hoping this won’t be a big problem! I wasn’t really sure if I should try to fill it in (and maybe have it wash out or buckle underneath) or just follow the lay of the land. I figure if following the natural line poses a problem I will go back and fix it.
After my break, I went out to the farm and got another load of blocks–32 this time. That’s about the limit for my little truck, which is good, because it’s about the limit for me, too.
The next part of the project is to start dismantling the old herb bed retaining wall. I’m going to dig out the spearmint and oregano plants and compost them–they don’t have good enough flavor to justify keeping. The apple mint needs to go in a pot–it has already started sprouting up in places it shouldn’t be–totally my fault, as I was so happy to finally get some that I decided not to bother containing it.
Chocolate mint needs a bigger pot, lime mint (not so invasive) needs a pot, too. The big, happy sage plant will stay right where it is. The strawberries may move out to the farm.
I’m going to pull a good amount of this bed’s soil into the new extension and then top and mix both parts with some good compost and manure. The original bed was built up from the sod removed from the garden I built on the north side of the house, but the fertility has mostly gone out of it.
The landscape fabric will only go in a wide strip half under the old bed and half exposed instead of underlying the whole bed–wide enough to keep the trees and weeds away from the edge of the bed and out of the wall. The edge of the old bed will be pulled back a few inches so it’s not so close to the neighbor’s drive. I’ll keep it trimmed short and then maybe mulch that border as well–some wood chips from the recycling center.
I’d like to get a rain barrel on the corner, where the downspout will drain into the completed bed, but for now, I’ll just have to mitigate the erosion there with a catchpan or something. I’m guessing the retaining wall on the new part will be about four blocks high in the end, and will taper down to one or two blocks high at the upper end of the old part of the bed.
It’s raining today, and I’m back on teaching duty, so my work on this may be limited today. Then there’s the fact that with the wet grass, I may not be able to get my truck down to the rock pile and reliably get it back out.
This is somewhat of a race against time, as I want to get this thing completed and plant garlic, a few of the smallish leeks from the farm, and a divided clump of perennial green onions before freeze-up, and give the herbs I do move a little time to re-establish healthy roots as well.