raised garden beds

Project Brief

The client requested a design and build for a veggie garden area on their farm in Devon. The 266m² garden area will be used primarily for feeding two occupants however will need to be wheelchair accessible for use as a therapeutic garden and workshops. At times the farm may need to feed up to ten people at a time so having an expansible growing area is ideal. The design laid out on the following pages show 48.1m² of raised beds with 87.6m² of self binding gravel pathways that tie the garden into the existing vegetation and structures.

Design

The layout for the Veggie garden has been done to maximize accessibility and circulation for wheelchair users to be able to sow, plant and harvest from the garden. Divided into 12 wooden raised beds and 3 composts bays, the paths and beds are all sized so that someone sitting in a wheelchair would be able to
access all parts of the beds. Using a mixed self seeding annuals and hardy perennials most of the beds will not need rotating or yearly planting so specific beds can be separated for more therapeutic tasks or small workshops.

The raised garden beds will be made of 225mm x 47mm treated timber and built to a height of 750mm. This will allow wheelchair users optimal access to the beds. The bed will be build up with top soil excavated from the path areas as well as lasagna bed style composting using local and cheap resources.

Pathing will be made from sieved self binding gravel. 40mm on top of Type 1 MOT will provide a compact hard surface suitable for wheelchair use and wet conditions. Path is at least 1200mm wide to provide wheelchair accessibility and was designed to minimize turn around or dead ends.

Edging along the path will be done with driveway paving bricks in single file. They will keep the gravel separated from the grass and hedge areas. They will also be used to make small raised beds at the end of some of the wooden raised beds to help mulch and protect the trees and other perennial bushes.

Build

The construction of the raised garden beds started in late Nov and despite the usual threats of British winter  and rain, the weather cooperated with us the whole build.  After removing any plants that me disturbed by the build and giving the existing trees a hard prune to remove obstacle, we marked out the beds and began digging in the lower level of the raised garden beds. On the coldest days when the ground was frozen we cut up the hundreds of meters of lumber into their appropriate lengths and pre-drilling the verticals.  When the weather warmed, it was a long process of digging out the paths down to 400mm for the MOT to be layed.  The excavated soil was turned into the raised garden beds to help maintain the soil health and help build the depth.

Lasagna Raised Garden Beds

Once the raised garden beds were completed it was a matter of infilling them for planting in the spring.  Instead of bringing in top soil we decided to use the resources on the farm, such as sheep and pig manure/bedding, to create a lasagna bed to help promote healthy soil and reduce the possibility of weeds and compaction.  Lasagna style bedding, sometimes called deep mulching or the Ruth Stout System, is where you layer green and brown material at a ratio of 1:2 so create deep beds of organic material that will slowly decompose and build soil as more layers are added annually.  

The method is an excellent pairing with the raised garden beds as the frame helps keep the shape while allowing adequate drainage and aeration. With the animals on the farms and the amount of trees on the property it was quick work to fill the 37m³ of layers of leave mulch,, straw, compost, manure, chipped pruning, and old animal bedding.

Workbenches

At the end of the build there was a little lumber left over as well as some old work benches in the poly tunnel.  The MDF tops of the workbenches had become rotten and unusable but the metal frame, though rusty, were still usable.  We chopped the remaining wood to length and attached them to the metal frame to produce four large workbenches for the tunnel.  Because the same wood for the raised garden beds there is now an excellent continuity between the tunnel and the rest of the garden.  Before finishing, the benches were planes down and given a rough sand.

Conclusion

Now there are nine raised garden beds half filled with top soil and then layered lasagna style bedding on top. The beds vary in size and height across the garden to provide you with a variety of micro-climates to plant in. In total there is 37m² of growing space, 85m² of pathing and a large three bay compost.

The client was also given several books on permaculture and no-dig gardening techniques so they can better understand how to take care of the garden space.  Since the raised garden beds were built at the start of winter there will be plenty of time to plan for its first growing season and make some good preparations on the compost for the seedlings starting in the spring.

Seeing the transformation from start to finish has been amazing the and client couldn't be happier with the finished product.  We'll be giving additional support with garden planning through out the year and can't wait to see what grows out of this garden in the coming year.

If you would like to find out more about other projects we do, be sure to check out our Residential Project.  Or to find out more about what we might be able to do for your garden, visit our Residential Services page.

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