Monday, July 14, 2014

DIY Arthritis Friendly Raised Garden Bed - Backyard Homesteading Series

One of my favorite gardening!  This is something I learned from my mother when I was very young and is something I hope my daughter will grow to love as well.  Its a fun activity that we can do together and is a great reason to get out of the house, get some fresh air and enjoy being outside.

But the last few years have been rough.  I was recently diagnosed with early Arthritis, which explains why my body just seems to hurt and ache more and more lately.  So this year I wanted to make sure that my aches and pains would not come between me and my garden.  Plus, our backyard doesn't have the best soil quality so we needed some good, nutrient rich garden soil for our garden this year.   So I decided to build a raised garden bed.  But not just any raised bed.  This one had to be arthritis friendly and easy on my back and joints.  We were also on a really tight budget.  So I came up with a great way to not only recycle and re-purpose old materials but build a great raised garden bed!

For the walls of my garden box, we used re-purposed privacy fence panels.  The retirement home behind my parents house was putting up a new privacy fence and replacing one that had been there for at least 15 years.  We asked the crew what they would be doing with the old fence panels and they had planned to haul them to the dump.  The guys were nice enough to leave a stack of panels for us to use.   Since these panels are already assembled, cutting them for the walls of my garden box was easy!  

All we had to do was saw through the support beams on the back side and my walls were ready to connect.  I used 4x4 inch posts for my corners and at the seams where I was connecting the ends of the panels.  The pieces of 4inch x 4inch posts were reused from another project as well and for a couple of the seams in the walls, I used some pieces of left over 2x4 and those worked great as well.

I decided to build the garden in one large L shaped box so that we could utilize space and be able to reach plants from either side without taking up a lot of yard space and without having to bend or reach far.  

 I also build a second box that was a bit shorter, in the shape of a square.

For soil, I decided to use a lot of compost material.  Basically, my garden box is one huge compost bin!  We layered the bottom with twigs and brush from our yard waste pile.  I had a large pile of yard waste that needed to be hauled away so I decided to use this as the bottom compost starter.  Then after the twig and brush layer, we emptied our compost bin, which was full to the brim after a long winter of composting.  We spread all of that moist, nutrient rich compost material over the twigs and brush and then topped it off with some mulched compost.

Were very lucky!  We live in a smaller community that doesn't have a yard waste pick-up service like many towns in Iowa.  Instead, residents have a drop off site in town where they can drop off all of their yard waste.  Then several times each year, the city comes out and mulches up all of the yard waste, tree branches, and organic materials into this really great mulch.  They pile it up in rows and each year the old piles are re-mulched, broken down again and rotated.  After a while, the older piles have broken down into soft, moist soil that is great for gardening.  And if you're a member of our community, you can go out, load up and take as much as you need at no cost.

So after we layered our own compost material, we covered that with the composted soil from the city, added a bit of top soil and planted my veggies!  What I love about this box is that I don't have to bend over or be on my hands and knees and we hardly have any weeds that need to be pulled.  Plus my plants get tons of nutrients from the soil and the box helps retain moisture so I don't have to water as often!  Saves me time and saves us money!  Having a rain barrel set up also helps collect rain water for gardening which lowers your water bill too.

The large L shaped box is now home to my carrots, turnips, beets, kale, Swiss chard, eggplant, Serrano chili peppers, green bell peppers and tons and tons of tomatoes.  The smaller square shaped box has our yellow squash and zucchini!   We have cucumber patch as well and if you missed my post about how to grow the perfect cucumber patch with help from Lehman's, be sure to check out that post!  And if you're needing to order seeds for your garden, be sure to check out Lehman's gardening products.  They carry everything you need to create a great garden, including seeds!  Lehman's sent me some of their Seed Savers Exchange USDA Organic Garden Vegetable Seeds to plant in my garden and I've already had some great compliments on my Rhubarb Red Swiss Chard down at our farmer's market.  My Danvers Carrots, Kale, and Tomatoes are also grown from Lehman's Seed Savers Exchange vegetable seeds and my plants are thriving.  My Halladay's tomatoes (mortgage lifter tomatoes) and Black Cherry Tomato plants are taller than I am.  I cant wait until everything is ready to pick and Ill be sure to update you all when we're having our first home grown BLTs of the season.  We've also got some Seed Saver's Exchange Lazy Housewife Pole Beans growing along one of our fences in the yard as well and the plants not only provide us with some great produce, but the plants are beautiful growing in and out of the lattice that makes up our fence (photo update to come later).

In addition to the raised garden beds I talked about, we also have a couple of rectangle shaped boxes in our daughters garden area where we have planted mini pumpkins.  We thought these would be perfect for her tiny hands this fall!  And having her own garden is a great way for us to bond and in the coming years, shell be able to pick out her own plants and choose what she would like to plant in her garden beds each year.  I'm so excited to teach her all about gardening and so excited that my garden won't be a literal pain in the neck from now on!  I can continue to enjoy my favorite outdoor activity, pain free! 

I hope you enjoyed my garden bed and hope it might inspire you and help you create your own raised garden bed!  If you're not into building your own, be sure to check out my post about raised garden beds from Lehman's that are ready to easily assemble in just minutes!

Happy gardening!


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