The Building of The Plot

Just before I went on maternity leave early 2016 I insisted that I would have time a plenty to indulge all my hobbies and passions so we’d best get to installing vegetable gardens quick smart (don’t worry I know better now).

We made sure we bought a house that was on a large block of 870 square metres so I could plant anything I wanted (with the provision there was still room to kick a football…. #priority). Being able to grow my own vegetables and not pay $5 for a bunch of kale every fortnight was high on my priority list – I knew I wanted something BIG but also prettttyyyyyyy.

After much Pinteresting I settled on having four separate raised beds each 2.4m long and 1.2m wide arranged in a formal “kitchen garden” format.

My reasons were as follows:

  1. This gives me a solid 11.5 square metres of growing space without making our backyard appear farmlike.
  2. Raised beds means no bending over for weeding/planting/picking (YAY) and the dog can’t run over it.
  3. The H4 Micro Pro Sienna treated timber from Bunnings came in 2.4m lengths so working within those measurements meant less cutting and less wastage.
  4. Because the beds are only 1.2m wide it is easy to reach the centre of the beds from the edge – you don’t want to have to stand on and compact your precious growing soil in order to pick the tomatoes.
  5. I enjoy giving my husband more edges to whipper snip.

An important thing to note is the TYPE of timber we used. We decided upon the H4 Micro Pro Sienna Treated Pine Sleeper from Bunnings (not sponsored). Untreated timber can break down quite quickly when coming into constant contact with soil and water in garden bed areas - we are also in an area that has a VERY high instance of termites so I really didn't want to be creating an ideal little smorgasborg for them 2m away from our house. In saying that - there is a lot of research (and also a lot of conflicting research) that discourages treated timber when building garden beds for growing edible food. Chemicals in the treated timber such as arsenic can leach into the soil with studies showing trace amounts in food crops. Obviously far from ideal - especially if you growing your own food with the purpose of being organic/ chemical free. 

So - after chatting to the helpful Bunnings guy that was wandering around - we discovered that the Micro Pro Sienna Treated Pine was a great option for vegetable garden beds. It's treated so won't be a haven for termites but it has a NON ARSENIC based preservative formulation which is certified for low VOC chemical emissions and rated as safe for use in garden beds and children's playgrounds. It's also got a 50 year limited guarantee against fungal decay and insect attack!!! Plus I really like the colour #priorities.

So the construction of the beds was fairly straight forward (for me-  because Josh did it all … #bumpbenefits). The first layers were leveled and then screwed together, a hardwood stake was then driven into each side for bracing and then the next two layers were screwed on. The end of each bed was left “open” initially for wheelbarrow access to fill the bottom levels.

The beds were filled with:

Bottom layer: a few random bricks, enemies etc.

Lower level: RUBBISH soil that was excavated from our outdoor extension (see pile in above photo’s left corner) – the vegetable roots won’t get that deep so “quality” soil is a bit of a waste in the lower zone.

Mid level: Aged cow manure (thanks Dad).

Upper level: My absolute secret weapon that is GOLDEN. Mushroom compost. I’m not talking a bag from bunnings I’m talking CUBIC METRES BY THE UTELOAD. I’ve found a good source at the Acacia Ridge depot of Western Landscape Supplies (not sponsored but hey I’ll take any mushroom compost offered). I think all up we used 3 cubic metres. The stuff is incredible.

Lucky last level: Organic Sugar Cane Mulch from Rocky Point Mulching (bought at Bunnings – actually I only assume that – Dad gave it to me, again thanks!) Across the four beds I used 2 bales.

And so it is finished! A tip with raised beds is to make sure you overfill them initially – all that organicky composty goodness will quickly breakdown and settle into rich soil so make sure you start ahead of the game. Factor in a top up of compost/ premium soil once a year to keep nutrients coming in and the beds at a good level.

Hopefully this has inspired you to  create your own Plot – it can be a small start in a pot or an extensive whole yard operation. Some factors to consider:

  • You’ll want 6-8 hours minimum of sunlight per day
  • Your local conditions: having afternoon shade in Brisbane helps to protect plants from that scorching late sun.
  • Watering! Is it close to a tap and do you have the time to hand water or will you need an irrigation system?
  • What will you grow? If you want year round Pumpkins you will need a lot of space or if you are happy with herbs, a corner or large pots will suffice.

Happy planning!