Plan your plot and get grow­ing

Matamata Chronicle - - Summer Living -

Be­fore you start

If you’re think­ing about build­ing a raised vege gar­den, the first step is de­cid­ing where it’s go­ing to go. Veges like a nice bal­ance. A bit of shel­ter, a bit of shade and de­cent amount of sun so try to find a spot where they’ll get at least 5 hours of sun a day.

A rea­son­ably level site is a good idea as well, and since it’s a fresh food gar­den try not to have it too far from the kitchen.

Site prepa­ra­tion

This is pretty sim­ple. Once you’ve de­cided where your raised gar­den will go and what size it’s go­ing to be, mark it out, grab your spade, and skim off any grass and veg­e­ta­tion.

You don’t need to take a lot, 20mm should get you down to bare dirt but you might find you’ll need to take a lit­tle more off in places to get your planks sit­ting even and level.

Stan­dard build

200x50 planks Go­ing with the 200x50 planks will cost less plus it’s quicker and eas­ier be­cause it’s nailed to­gether rather than screwed. Oth­er­wise the process is just the same.

Get your bot­tom four planks in place, line them up and nail them to­gether us­ing 100mm gal­va­nized nails.

Mea­sure cor­ner to cor­ner di­ag­o­nally to make sure ev­ery­thing’s square, use a spade to trim any high spots on the ground to make ev­ery­thing’s sit­ting down level and you’re ready to put the top planks on.

Nail them to­gether then sim­ply skew-nail top and bot­tom planks to­gether in each cor­ner.

For ex­tra sta­bil­ity you can drive a wooden peg into each in­side cor­ner and nail it in place.

What size tim­ber?

Once you know where the gar­den’s go­ing, work out what size you’d like it to be.

You can go any size and shape but 2.1 x 1.8 me­tres is pretty com­mon, partly be­cause you’re deal­ing with stan­dard lengths of tim­ber but also be­cause any­thing wider than 1.8 me­tres makes it a bit of a stretch to reach the plants in the mid­dle of the gar­den.

On a gar­den this size, good, solid, 200x50mm planks will en­sure the gar­den holds it shape and two planks each side will give you a com­fort­able 400mm work­ing height. A pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to the 200x50mm planks are the big, 200x100mm macro­carpa tim­bers.

At 200x100mm ‘‘sleeper’’ is prob­a­bly a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion than plank, and while they cost more and

don’t make a bet­ter raised gar­den, they do cre­ate a great look.

Like the smaller planks, they’re also avail­able in the 2.1m and 1.8m lengths.

A gen­eral rule-of-thumb is that two, well-man­aged, 2.1 x 1.8 me­tre gar­dens is just about right for a fam­ily of four.

What kind of tim­ber?

There’s on­go­ing de­bate about what tim­ber you should use to build a raised gar­den. An un­treated hard­wood like macro­carpa is rot re­sis­tant and looks great, but you pay a pre­mium for it. H4 treated pine is pop­u­lar be­cause it’s eco­nom­i­cal and you can buy it any­where.

And be­cause it’s treated, it won’t rot ei­ther.

The de­bate is around whether the tim­ber treat­ment chem­i­cals will leach into the soil you’re grow­ing your veges in.

If you’re not com­fort­able with treated tim­ber you can sta­ple poly­thene sheet around the in­side of the planks as a bar­rier be­tween the tim­ber and soil.

Just re­mem­ber that good drainage is im­por­tant for a raised gar­den so don’t run the poly­thene sheet over the bot­tom of the gar­den.

Get grow­ing

You’ve got the ‘‘raised’’ part of your raised gar­den sorted, now it’s time for the gar­den.

Spread about six lay­ers of old news­pa­per over the ground to help pre­vent weed growth then wet down with a lit­tle wa­ter to hold the pa­per in place while you add soil.

The first layer should be green ma­te­rial such as green waste and the sod you re­moved when you were pre­par­ing the gar­den.

This green ma­te­rial will rot down and pro­vide great worm food, at­tract­ing worms to your gar­den and cre­at­ing nice rich soil.

Then cover your green waste with lay­ers of pot­ting mix and com­post, or make it even eas­ier by sim­ply fill­ing with vege mix (a gar­den mix and pot­ting mix combo).

Aim to fill your raised gar­den up to about 50mm from the top, rake it level then and de­cide what veges you want to grow.

Build your own: A raised vege gar­den is an ideal ad­di­tion with the ex­tra ben­e­fit of hav­ing plenty of freshly grown veges.

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