The raised beds

18 Jun

The two raised beds came about not out of some desire to “grow my own” (unless you count the likes of the SHEEPKILLER puya bertoroniana, ), but as soon as I realised that I had a problem. The problem is pretty simple to explain: I noticed that if I was going to get my hands on The Sheepkiller et al., I had to provide full sun and, most of all, relatively dry soil. At that time, the existing borders were as I inherited them, arranged around the edges of the lawn. The trouble with that is that their proximity to fences and hedges means that they were in shadow for a good deal of the time. Furthermore, the soil here is heavy, compacted and drains poorly. It also sits on top of a layer of solid clay which lies between 9″ and 18″ beneath the surface. Finally, we receive a fair amount of rainfall here, at regular – but unpredictable – intervals. So I needed a growing space in the middle of the garden, raised up and filled with a mix of soil, sand and gravel.

Having decided all that, the primary consideration then was that it had to be done on the cheap. I called at houses on our road that had the builders in, asking permission to take unwanted bricks (got any walls you don’t need? We will take them off your hands), before calling back in the evening with wheelbarrow to take the bricks away. The vast majority of these bricks are “commons”, unsuited for use in exterior walls because they are porous and flake easily when exposed to frost, but what the hell, they were free and we could always use extra mortar when building the walls.

Bricks acquired, I chose to have two raised beds, one much larger than the other, separated by a walkway leading to the back of the garden. This way I could reach pretty much all of the area without having to lay down boards first. Soil that is regularly trodden on quickly loses its structure. My Dad did the bricklaying, which was a great help. Alex, my eldest, named the larger bed “the field” while I call the smaller one “the desert”. Most of the edges are curved. I’m still not sure if that was a good idea or not. The beds always look monolithic sat in the middle of the back garden, especially in low season because they are a bit higher than they need to be, they are built from brick and, well, they are bang in the middle of the garden. I am no garden designer. *cough*

About eight tons of soil, sand and grit, more weird, fluctuating notions than any one person should have in their head, and more plants than is sensible, we have the following . . .

Agave americana is doing its crocodile thing, surrounded by flowering echeveria glauca

And finally, hang on to your livestock, you don’t want them to get into any ACCIDENTS – it’s the sheepkiller, left foreground:


4 Responses to “The raised beds”

  1. Loree / danger garden June 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    So many beautiful things! What zone/part of the country are you growing in?

    • thechthonianlife June 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks very much, my plants put up with me – mostly.
      I’m about a dozen miles south of Manchester. In Cheshire, Northern England. I reckon i’m in zone 8a. I had it in my mind that your garden is a little bit warmer than here, maybe half a zone?

      • Loree / danger garden June 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

        Ah! Yes…not in the U.S. at all. How silly of me to assume. I’m an 8b with lows reaching 15F (-10c) although thankfully not often.

        So I see some of these plants are still in containers. Will you lift them in the winter?

  2. thechthonianlife June 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    8b, right. The weather here does what it likes. I mean, normally the lowest winter temp here is about the same as with yourself, but -17C/1F a couple of years ago made a fool of me. You know it’s cold when the snow is too powdery to make snowballs!

    Silly of me to dwell on winter now though, of all times of the year.

    Yep, lots in pots, to be moved later in the year. I’ve been a bit lazy there. Come autumn i’ll build a corrugated perspex rain shelter for some of the hardier ones, free up a bit of room in the greenhouse. Do you keep quite a few of yours inside over winter under grow lights?

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