Raising gardening to a new level (Google / Reporter News)

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Raising gardening to a new level

By Mattia Bray
Special to the Reporter-News
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Growing and harvesting vegetables just got easier thanks to ingenious ideas from two gardening buddies. Abilene neighbors Raymond Rice and Charles Reed have devised raised beds on their properties, ideal for producing quality, homegrown vegetables. Both experienced gardeners, the friends had always gardened the old-fashioned way by planting directly into the ground. After years of fighting weeds and watering excessively, they put their heads together last winter to draw up plans for something different — a new type of raised garden bed. Neither had seen raised beds in Abilene residential gardens, so they decided to put a different spin on the typical “above the ground” garden.

Making a plan

Because the friends are also neighbors on Yaw Road, it was easy for them to get together and plan their strategy. Their first step was to start designing diagrams on paper back in February.

They decided what sizes of raised beds they needed according to what they were going to plant — a variety of vegetables.

Finding building supplies

After deciding on the size and number of beds, they went to local lumberyards and home improvement stores to purchase raw lumber.

To save money, they bought castoffs and odd pieces the stores had in excess. They also purchased nails and brought in free mulch from the city’s recycling center at 2209 Oak St.

Secret to weed control

To assist in weed control, the pair decided to lay carpet on the ground before building the beds. They acquired yards of carpet remnants from local carpet sellers and laid them on the ground, carpet side down. This is their secret for little or no weeds.

Construction

After the carpet was laid in February, Rice and Reed began constructing the raised beds on top of the carpet. The beds range in size from 2-by-16 feet, 2-by-8 feet and 4-by-8 feet.

Because the beds are rectangular, passers-by asked Rice and Reed if the containers were coffins, not realizing they would soon be teeming with life.

Planting

With construction complete, the pair layered mulch directly on the carpet inside the beds using leaves, old newspaper or cardboard (which will biodegrade over time), then topsoil. The ratio is about one half mulch (including the leaves and other additives) and one half topsoil.

Two sprinklers are strategically placed to hit all 24 beds plus a lone watermelon patch.

The men started planting onions in March. The rest of the crop was planted in April and May. They have about 25 varieties of vegetables, plus some dill plants so Rice can put up his own pickles.

Rice’s wife, Suzanne, doesn’t like the heat, so she doesn’t participate too much in the actual gardening process. “She’s in the consumer end of it,” Rice joked.

Reaping the benefits

Both men agree the benefits of these beds far outweigh gardening the “usual” way. No fertilizer is needed because the mulch and topsoil supply enough nutrients.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.