Raised beds it is … but a lesson in trusting one’s partner

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Chicken wire stapled to the sides of the raised beds can help keep out pesky moles and groundhogs.
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So it’s Sunday afternoon and it’s drizzling. I have arrived home with my Jeep full of lumber and a determination to build my raised beds for the greenhouse that afternoon. I walked into the living room and announced my intention to Martin who, in his very Irish way said, “You’re joking, aren’t ya?  It’s 3 o'clock. I thought we’d do it next weekend.”

But I wasn’t joking.  And “we” didn’t have to do anything. “I” was going to do it. While he was enjoying reading the paper with the snoring dogs at feet, the spring clock was clicking down. My butter crunch lettuce was way past time for transplanting, and in a week or two my tomatoes would be ready to spread their roots. I had made up my mind. Those plants needed terra firma, and soon.

Martin then began in his very male way of trying to help which, of course, sounded to me like an interrogation about whether I knew what I was doing.

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“Where you going to build it?” he asked.

“In the barn, obviously,” I said.

“Not in the greenhouse?”

“No, you build it upside down, then turn it over. There isn’t room in the greenhouse to flip it.”

“How are you going to get it inside?”

“Tipped up and sideways, what do you think?”

“Is the door big enough to get it through?”

“Of course, if it’s tipped up on its side.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes….”

What followed was then a similarly intense inquiry about measurements, angles, and bolts or nails. I had had enough. I bid goodbye and headed for the barn.

There I cleared the wooden-floored work space of last years’ paint cans, bicycle wheels, and the deflated dingy, as well the winter’s accumulated dust and hay.

I then went to get the lumber. Now, I’m not a big woman and that lumber was heavy. Still, I lugged each piece inside and spread it on the floor in the appropriate pattern.

Now, I’m going to digress here for a moment. The man at the Home Depot didn’t have any cedar in the dimensions I required, so he suggested that I opt for pine and then simply polyurethane it to keep it from rotting.

Without thinking it through, I agreed.   I picked out my pine and he kindly cut each piece to my specified measurements (And might I note that he didn’t question me once about whether I was right or not…!)

He then showed then me to the polyurethane and the chicken wire (to keep out those pesky moles.)  Smiling inside, I paid for it all and loaded it into the Jeep.

But, on the drive home I started to think again about chemicals, and the whole reason not to use treated woods in raised beds. Then I remembered what a piece of wood with polyurethane started to look like after a few months outside. It got cracked and peeled.

I didn’t want that in my garden bed. So, I decided against the coating the pine with polyurethane, and decided to instead line the sides of the beds with heavy black plastic. And then, too late of course, I thought, “Ach! I just should have used that recycled plastic wood."

But now, my mistake was made. I still had to decide where to build my raised beds. The first thing I realized was that if each individual plank was heavy by itself, then all bolted together  with their 4 by 4 posts in each corner, the complete raised bed would extremely weighty, to say the least.

I also realized that, no matter how much yoga I did, I’d never be able to lug the complete structure through and out of the barn and into the greenhouse – at least, not by myself.  (Martin might be right, ugh, even if it was for the wrong reason.)

So off I went to investigate in the greenhouse. I realized that if I moved all of my pots out, I could build it inside. (Besides, I figured the seedlings would enjoy a taste of the fresh rain that was now coming down.)

The only problem was that I had to build it right side up (not upside down as recommended). But, with the help of a sawhorse or two, I figured it could be done.

So I began the process of emptying the greenhouse of plants and replacing them with my planks. Then I got out my handy drill and began to work.

I suddenly sensed a presence at the door. It was Martin and the dogs. He’d come to help. (The dogs to get in the way.) Suffice it to say that little was said about my decision to build inside the greenhouse. But I could tell from the bemused expression on Martin’s face that nothing needed to be said.

Within two short hours, we’d drilled, bolted, and tightened together a lovely raised bed.  It was indeed, “fairly easy” as advertised.  We then dug 6-inch holes in the gravel for the corner four by fours and voilá!  It was only 8 o’clock in the evening and “our” raised beds were complete.

Unfortunately, I realized that I’d have to wait until another day to line the bottom with chicken wire, load it with soil, and begin to give my potted seedlings a more permanent home. But then again, patience can sometimes be a virtue.

Next:  The joys of a soaker hose and learning about gardening, Italian-style.

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