By Matt Hein
Earlier this year our family decided to plant a vegetable garden at our home. One attempt at digging in our backyard clay was enough to convince us that building up would be far easier than digging down to create our garden. With that decision made we moved forward into the world of raised bed gardening.
I should mention, before more talk about raised beds, that our family has a dream. We want to have a community garden on a plot of land that brings people together over growing food and relationships. We’re pretty sure that Jesus would do some wonderful things with this garden.
The trouble with this dream is that we do not have the property that allows for this kind of garden plot. That dream is on hold, for now, and we are simply growing vegetables in our back yard.
Reality meant a smaller raised bed garden in our backyard. Constructing our raised beds turned out to be a lot of fun. I purchased 8-foot landscape timbers and worked with a mixture of 8-foot and 4-foot pieces, cutting 8 footers in half to create the shorter length.
From there it was a process of laying four timbers in a rectangle, screwing them together, and repeating the process for two more layers placed on top to create the frame.
When I finished one frame I built another and then another. In the end I constructed four large beds and four small beds. We positioned each and filled them with soil.
When the danger of frost had passed we planted the vegetable seedlings that had been started indoors. We sowed seeds and watered and waited.
As August comes to a close our raised beds are loaded with beans and tomatoes. Our peppers are still small but coming along slowly.
Some carrots are ready to be pulled and cantaloupes are close to being pulled from the vine. We are enjoying the start of harvest and realizing that we’ve learned a lot about gardening along the way.
The biggest learning has been, for me, that our dream of having a community garden was being fulfilled in ways I didn’t anticipate. We may not have had hundreds of people raising vegetables on a multi-acre plot of land, but we did have a community of people who joined us on our raised bed adventure.
My children helped cut timbers, fasten them together, and staple chicken wire to the bottom of each raised bed frame. My father brought me a load of gravel to spread on the ground for good drainage. My mother celebrated our raised bed adventure from her hospital bed through stories and pictures.
Friends helped haul supplies, dig out sod, prepare the ground, and construct a vertical trellis for climbing plants. Our neighbor watered faithfully when we were out of town on vacation, while others harvested so nothing would go to waste.
It may not have been hundreds of people, but over 20 individuals walked with us in our raised bed adventure. God allowed us to be in relationship with these people in a unique way because of our gardens and helped fulfill our family dream in a way I did not expect.
We still have a dream to gather a large group of people on a piece of land to garden and be in relationship. We still think that Jesus would do some incredible things in that community garden. However, as we eat green beans and savor juicy tomatoes this fall, I am thanking Jesus for what he has been up to in our little “community” garden.
Basic Raised Bed Plan (4’ x 8’ Rectangle)
Raised Bed Frame Materials
9 – 8’ landscape timbers
Box of 2” deck screws
Tube of construction adhesive (optional)
Gravel/stone (optional if drainage is a concern)
4 – 1’ rebar
- Cut three 8’ landscape timbers in half to produce six ~4’ pieces.
- On a flat surface lay two 8’ and two 4’ timbers to create a rectangle.
- Fasten timbers together using 2” deck screws.
- With bottom rectangle fastened together, repeat steps 2 and 3 laying timbers for the second rectangle on top of the first rectangle before fastening together. Repeat steps 2 and 3 again laying timbers for rectangle three on top of rectangle two. Make sure to secure rectangles two and three to the rectangle below with 2” deck screws. To make an even stronger frame consider laying a bead of construction adhesive between each layer before fastening with screws. Raised bed frame will be approximately 9 inches deep.
- After the three-layer frame is together, staple chicken wire to the bottom of the frame to prevent unwanted pests from burrowing up into the raised bed.
- Lay frame in place on top of prepared ground. If drainage is an issue put a layer of gravel on the ground surface before placing frame.
- Place a 1’ rebar at each corner on the inside of the frame. Drive rebar into the ground, leaving at least 3’ above ground to hold frame in place.
- Lay landscape fabric inside of the frame, on top of chicken wire before filling frame with soil. Staple fabric to frame to keep from moving.
- Fill with soil and plant away!
**For adventurous individuals, consider experimenting with different designs. We created two beds that were L-shape with two 8’ sides and four 4’ sides.
We are blessed to have members here at St. Luke donate their abundance of fruits and vegetables to our Gardens for Growth program. If you have a garden overflowing and would like to donate any, please bring them this Sunday morning, August 31. You will be able to leave a donation for these items Sunday mornings, the donations will help pay down the mortgage.
We are going to start collecting recipes during Gardens for Growth. We will share these on Facebook as well as in the blog. As we share God’s bounty from our gardens, so to shall we share from our heart. You can click on the link One up Recipe card to get a pre-formatted recipe card if you’d like to use it, as we will be publishing the recipes online. You can also follow StLukeAA on Pinterest for additional ideas.