Friday, 29 May 2009

No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy

Helmuth von Moltke, Prussian general in the mid-19th century must also have been a gardener attempting to make raised beds to grow vegetables.

Plan A didn't work (that was the one where the long corner stakes are fixed to protrude 4" down as anchors)

Plan B wasn't looking too good either (that was the one where the boards were made into a frame using strong angle brackets and the long corner stakes were hammered in afterwards)

Plan C may well cause problems down the line, but at least it feels like I'm making progress!

The corner stakes which were going to stick up 12" now protrude 16". To help anchor the timber frames and try to prevent bowing, small larch stakes are going to be hammered into the soil on the inside of the frames and screwed into place afterwards, they won't show when the beds are full of soil. (The scrappy bits bracing the corners will be removed once the frames are level, fixed and I've stopped messing around!)

If John had not turned over the soil all this would be a lot simpler, BUT, I am only ever going to make these once [I hope!] so a few more hours isn't really the end of the world and I would never have dug the beds as thoroughly or as deeply if the soil had not already been broken up, and long-term that is going to pay dividends. Is this overkill? Yes, probably, but so what. Management and I intend this to be our 'forever house' and therefore we agreed at the outset that we wouldn't do anything in the house and garden unless we could do it properly, the theory being this way we might only have to do things once.

I don't want to have to replace the raised beds in a few years time. I've seen how quickly wood can rot up here, all that water may make the fields and fells look wonderful but it plays merry hell on timbers in the garden. The DPC might be unconventional but I've done similar in previous gardens and it makes a huge difference to the longevity of structures.

The extended uprights seemed logical to me putting in place permanent fixings for string, supports, protective netting and so on. A chat one afternoon with Mrs Flummery confirmed that whilst this wasn't something she'd seen done before, it did make total sense (and she has shorter sticks in the corner of her raised beds to stop the hosepipe smashing across young crops). Flum also had the great idea of putting finials on top of each post to stop the timber edges cutting through fleece and netting and Management had a brainwave - use cheap wooden doorknobs!

Of course, now I have grand plans for sewing perfectly sized fitted fleece covers for the beds - they won't be patchwork but if we get a really, really cold spell they might need to be quilted!


  1. Now! I do think that the last sentance is going a little too far! :-)) Quilted blankies for veg beds? I ask you!

    But good work on making the beds - I too can see the sense of tall corner posts.......

  2. Things are definately come along.

    Quilted veggie covers sounds a bit extreme ven for you.

  3. Go for it! Quilt 'em if you want to!

    It's really starting to take shape isn't it? Not too late to get some winter greens sown now - Broccoli or Spring Cabbage can be sown for transplanting into their permanent place in August.

  4. .... continuing from vegetable heaven - yes, and some salad crops and any soil which would be bare plant some green manures, such as buckwheat, fenugreek and so on - have a look on the Garden Organic website for more info.
    I heard somewhere that in the first year after digging up a lawn/grass, there is a problem with a pest attacking your crops, can't remember what though, is it chafer grubs? I'll have a look, if I find more info I'll let you know.

  5. Thanks girls, I'll try and confine the quilting to patchwork {giggle}.

    Welcome Heskie, I was reading something about green manures yesterday; article by Bob Flowerdew about how difficult some of them are to incorporate into soil after they've grown. Whatever I use, won't leave the soil bare - there's already too much of that here.

    Interesting you should mention chafer grubs - saw an adult crawling around some grass yesterday (but the other side of the garden from the veg area).

  6. It's wire worms I think. Chickens love them!

  7. Came across a Chafer Beetle larvae whilst digging yesterday, thankfully only one. Huge b*gger . . . it was swiftly relocated to the road. Either a bird will have had it or a convenient passing car flattened it.

  8. I have the week off this week and am trying to have a go in the garden. I had a load of pallets from work and I looked at them piled up there yesterday and thought of your raised beds and thought I kinda wished I had bought proper cut wood this is going to take me forever! One thing though that I am hoping to incorporate if I ever get to grips with it all is put in downpipes - well not as big as that. Possibly the size of the pipes you have as a sink outlet for washing machines etc? Sink them in round the perimeter of the beds so that you water down instead of disturbing the soil by watering across. I regularly check out your blog and you certainly do have your work cut out. But as you say its your forever home so it will be worth it. Ps does hubby not realise that pheasants CAN fly LOL! We get them in from time to time - think it was last year one found his way up to the front garden and was outside my front door LOL

  9. Hi Janette, incorporating pipes for watering is a great idea. Make sure you block the ends of the pipes so that in time they do not get filled with soil and completely blocked. An option you might consider is using "leaky hose" (the porous stuff) rather than pipe, might be easier to manipulate it to where you want.

    Good luck with the pallets, as you have probably already found, dismantling them is a lot of work.


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