Diggin’ DC Dirt: A Raised-Bed Garden Adventure

Part One: We’ve been framed

My indoor basil plant looks like this:

I know, pathetic.  Believe me, when I was pregnant, it was the inspiration for many “so you think you’re ready for parenthood” cracks. My response was, there is a reason that babies scream when they are hungry.

Elijah is eight months old now, and so far so good, so this summer, my dear spouse and I decided to take on another complicated project for which we were only minimally qualified: a raised bed garden.  I hear that these are trendy at present, but let me tell you, that trend hasn’t reached my neighborhood.  Our block seems to favor vegetation more like this:

New age sculpture or misguided but admirable attempt to grow a beer tree?  You decide.

We decided on the back porch as the locale for our foray into botany.  Large and concrete, it has thus far served little purpose aside from storing some semi-decaying deck chairs.  The whole back “yard” is paved over, so it seemed like concrete was our fate.  We called up our friend Pat, who jumped at the chance to bust out some power tool action.  He and Kurt (my husband) headed to Home Depot for supplies.  They were gone for about three hours, reasons for which are still unclear, and returned with some very long pieces of wood.  The folks at HD were kind enough to cut the 12-ft. boards into two sections, 10 ft. and 2 ft. Pat was a little sad about not having a chance to use his circular saw.

Using some 4-in. wood screws, they assembled the boxes, drilling a hole first, then putting in the screws.

To maximize our aisle between, one box had the long boards on the ends of the short, and the other had the short boards on the end of the long.  Our boxes were, therefore, not identical.

After that, I used a staple gun to cover one open side of each box with weed guard to help with dirt containment, and Kurt spread rocks on the bottom of each bed.  Both of these things turned out to be pointless, but more on that next time. Then, it was time for some dirt.  But what kind?  How much?  Should we add sand?  Compost?  Worms?  If dirt is everywhere, why did it turn out to be so darn expensive?  I answer these questions and more in my next installment.  Just a hint of what’s to come: turns out concrete is a less than ideal surface for a garden, if you can believe it.  Tune in next time to hear how we almost failed before we even began.

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