Early in our decision making we had decided to constuct a few raised beds so that we could better manage our growing areas. This provided us with several options and because it is mostly cost driven we used the cheapest pine boards and materials we could find, and foregoing the use of pallets as it is far too much work to disassemble pallets to make of any use.
We used 1×4″ boards with 2×2 and 2×3 supporting braces. The beds are 4’x8′, 4’x4′ and 2’x4′. We prep the area by digging out a level surface, then set the bed in and backfill around the outside. This lets us make any adjustments and correct any high or low side issues.
We prepare these beds in layers, and the fist thing we do after setting the bed is to sheet mulch with cardboard the entire inside of the bed. Next we soak the cardboard and then add compost, manure, and top soil in alternating layers. We adjust the compost and manure depending on how nitrogen rich we want the bed. As we are layering each bed we are mounding the dirt in the middle or center of each bed, and will sometimes soak that layer before going to the next.
After the bed is prepped we will often let it set for a couple days to sort of settle into the area. Typically we soak the bed at least every day and then keep covered with plastic until ready to be planted. Then after planting we may keep covered or leave open. When leaving a bed open after planting we then provide mulch to help protect the top layer of soil and help the bed to retain moisture.
These beds are pretty versatile and lend themselves well to cold beds or covered beds through a little bit of creativity and engineering. A covering can be made by bending 1″ conduit pvc over the bed and secured with wooden braces and duct tape. Then drape with a clear plastic drop cloth of at least 2 mil to suvive most winters, and harsh summers.
These beds go together easy and will survive a couple seasons. We were in a bit of a hurry getting them setup so we did not treat the wood as we did with our winter growing bed. If you have time we prefer about 5 to 7 layers of boiled linseed oil, this will protect the wood for 3 to 5 years.