Updated: Mar 12, 2022
With fall just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your garden/s. Why now? Why not in the Spring? Because the soil will be frozen in the Spring, if not covered in snow. Planning and creating your garden bed/s now will make it so much easier to get planting in the Spring. Plus, all the gardening stuff is on sale right now and, let’s face it, you need something to keep your kids busy now that school is virtual. There’s nothing like a little manual labor to tire them out!
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a raised vegetable or pollinator garden and getting it ready for the winter. If you already have a garden established, you can skip to step six to “put it to bed” for the winter.
STEP ONE: Locate your garden. There are a few factors that should be considered when locating your garden bed, including access to water, ease of clearing the plot, and how close it is to hungry deer and bunnies, but the most important factor is how much sun you’ll get. So spend some time walking around your yard at various times during the day and locate the sunniest spot you can.
STEP TWO: Decide on your frame. If you are handy with a hammer and saw, now is a great time to use some scrap lumber to put together a quick frame. Or if you, like my husband, enjoy channelling your inner pioneer, you can work with raw logs
STEP THREE: Clear a place for your raised bed/s and dig down as far as you can easily. Depending on your yard, this may involve anything from easily slicing into grass and digging into loose soil or, if you are working on newly cleared land, you may be working with some big old New Hampshire rocks (we recommend a six-foot iron bar). Dig down at least a couple inches, but four to six is even better.
STEP FOUR: Build your frame. Put together your frame in the are you have cleared. Don’t worry that it is lower than the ground level. This will help keep the weeds out and contain your soil. Your beds don’t have to be beautiful, the flowers and vegetables will add the beauty.
STEP FIVE: Fill your bed. We use a hugelkultur technique to fill our raised beds because it’s an environmentally-friendly way to build soil and to get rid of brush and dead tree limbs. First, put down a layer of bigger sticks and logs – the deader, the better. Next, a layer of grass clippings, leaves, and small, dead sticks. Next, a layer of the soil you dug out to make the hole. Lastly, topsoil, finished compost, or soil from the garden store.
Here is the last layer of good topsoil and compost. We also used a layer of unfinished compost underneath the leaf layer, just to get rid of it.
STEP SIX: Put your garden to bed. Now that you have created this lovely new garden, it’s time to put it to bed for the winter. You have two options here. One is to cover the garden with a layer of mulch or cardboard. This will keep the weeds out and the soil in. I highly recommend, though, taking it a step farther and planting a cover crop (hairy vetch, buckwheat or winter rye). Cover crops hold in the soil with their roots, add nutrients to the soil, and keep out the weeds. In the spring, you can fold the cover crop into your bed to add bulk to your soil.
STEP SEVEN: Start dreaming about Spring and all the wonderful food and flowers you are going to plant. OR, build another bed! That’s what my husband and the kids are doing as I write this. 🙂