Hey! Put down that seed catalogue! I know it’s winter. I know you’re really just looking at all those seeds and thinking, “Hmm…what can I plant next year?” I know you are in the midst of settling in for your winter break from the garden. But NOW is the time to plan. And have I got a tip for you!
Whether all of your beds need a refurbish or you are planning for new beds, the lumber to make those raised bed or square foot garden beds can be one of the greatest expenses you have in a garden. So use this tip to begin shopping early and often to have everything ready for the moment you need it!
In our neck of the woods, gardening down into the soil is tough because we have a shallow ‘dirt’ layer on top of some big rock caps, plus our soil is so compacted from clay that it is a lot of manual labor to dig it up, turn it, amend it, turn it more, and get it ready to plant a crop. Sure, people did it for hundreds of years, but if there’s a better way, why not use it?
Raised beds or square foot gardening (whichever you’d like to go by), allows you to plant up without all the back breaking work of digging out the garden bed. Create a bed, fill it with good healthy dirt and amendments, plant. That’s how easy it can be.
This is how we do it:
- When we plan our beds, we mark the area we are going to build the bed in.
- We then mow it to the ground.
- We lay a generous layer of cardboard boxes (not the waxed kind) across the area and then cover it with a blanket. This helps kill off the grass and weeds growing in the area without killing off the healthy organisms living in the dirt below. We don’t want to sterilize the area (because that just allows an even greater chance that weeds overtake the area as they thrive in unhealthy soil), but try to kill off the green.
- Then we dig a small base for our lumber to lay into, build our boxes, lay them in, sugar the soil, lay a thin layer of weed barrier or cardboard (generally cardboard since it breaks down into the soil and is usually free),
- Then build up the soil, plant and mulch!
We don’t have to dig out the grass and soil. It’s much less work! So..on to the cost savings tip. When shopping in your local DIY store for lumber (if you’re not lucky enough to have it free), don’t go for the pretty stuff.
How to Save 50-80% off Your Lumber Supplies
Last year when we were planning on our new bed, I was back in the lumber department, ruminating over the benefit of cedar vs the cost benefit of pine, the man working the section gave me a hint about the culled lumber…planks that can’t be sold at full price because they are damaged. So, I hemmed and hawed for about…30 seconds or so, and let him pick out a couple of cedar planks for me. I figured $2 or $3 bucks off per plank would be a great deal. By the time it was cut for me (free), and then rang up at the register, I only paid $2 per plank! That’s an 80% savings off the original price! This goes for most of the lumber in the department. They can’t sell the stuff that isn’t pretty, so pick it, ask for those deep discounts, and get your square foot garden supplies for a lot less! That way you have more money for seeds…and bat guano….and worm castings (if you aren’t harvesting your own through vermicomposting (that’s another post)….and lava sand…..and all those other healthy amendments you can put in your soil to help your garden grow! Good luck…and get back to that seed catalog browsing!