While we’re waiting for spring to finally show up in Sitka, one thing gardeners can do to prepare for planting is build a simple raised garden bed. The pictures with this post feature members of the WISEGUYS men’s health group (Rick DeGroot, Kerry MacLane, Doug Osborne and his daughter, Darby, then 4) building a garden bed in May 2008 at Blatchley Community Garden in Sitka.
First, you will need some untreated lumber (treated lumber has chemicals that can get into your food), with 2x12s being good for the frame. Your garden bed will probably be between 3-4 feet wide and 6-8 feet long, depending on your garden space and your lumber. Don’t go much wider than four feet, because you will want to be able to easily reach across the garden so you can plant and weed without falling into the bed. You can go longer than eight feet, but you might need to use more than one board to get that length. So cut your boards to your desired length and width.
Next, lay out your lumber and nail or screw your boards together to form a box. Some people prefer screws over nails, because they don’t pull loose as easily as nails. But use what you have. Some people will add corner posts that can be punched into the ground.
After you’ve built the frame, cover the ground with a bunch of old cardboard or newspapers. This will act as a barrier to help keep weeds from getting into your veggies.
Now you can start filling your frame with soil. About halfway through filling the frame, you can add a layer of seaweed, compost or other soil amendments to add nutrients to your soil. Finish by adding top soil that you mix with some of your soil amendments.
Once you have your raised garden bed built and full of soil, you can start planting (if you’re past your last-frost date, which tends to be mid-May in Sitka). Once you have your seeds planted or starts transplanted, you can water your garden bed.
In Sitka it’s always a good idea to use row-cover over your garden, especially early in the season. This not only helps keep birds and other pests out of your garden, but the white fabric creates a mini-greenhouse effect that helps warm your soil so your seeds sprout sooner.
• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication on raised bed gardening
• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Gardening In Southeast Alaska
• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Southeast Alaska Garden Varieties