Build a Simple Raised Bed Garden

April 15th is a special day in Nashville. This has nothing to do with taxes and is all about planting gardens. After April 15th it’s usually safe to say there will be no more frost. So all the little seedlings and blooms will be safe.

In preparation for this, Stephanie and I typically wear out our backs and tear up our hands getting our garden beds ready for the first weekend of planting. This year we got them back in shape after two years of neglect. We picked right back up, working by flashlight in the dark trying to finish everything on Sunday and then barely being able to lift or move anything Monday and Tuesday. We have another day of work and then the fun of planting still to come. 

In case the gardening bug hasn’t bit you yet, I’m writing to give you a little inspiration and direction for starting small. Here are directions for one 4×4 planter box that will fit almost anywhere and give you plenty of planting options.

-Pick a sunny spot of your yard with decent drainage. You’ll probably take the best care of it if it is near where you park your car or outside a door you use every day.

-Go to any lumber yard or store and buy two 8 foot boards that are 10 or more inches wide. Get untreated wood so no treatment chemicals are absorbed by your dirt.

-Ask to have them cut in half so you get four 4 foot boards.

-Buy two blocks of peat moss and four bags of compost.

-Buy some wood screws, wood stain, gloves, and rags.

-Once you’re home stain all but one flat side of each board twice. I go in a few inches so that there is stain above the dirt line on my boards. 

-Lay your boards into a square where you’re going to put your box. Drill guide holes and drill three screws into each corner of your box. This project is easier with two people and this part especially is best with help. Thankfully I’m the help and Stephanie is the do-er.

-Here’s the best part for cutting down on your weeding. Lay a ton of newspaper, cardboard, and/or paper bags down at the bottom of your bed. This blocks all the current weeds and grass and draws worms to your bed.

-Fill the box with peat moss and compost. Top it off with topsoil or more compost if it looks low.

-Now you’re ready to plant!

Think of it as a grid and roughly plant one plant in every square foot. I could talk forever about drawing out a garden, but I was thinking that if I had just one bed this is what I would plant. And if you want my recommendation I would go to Bates Nursery out in Whites Creek. They’ll be hopping over the next few weekends and it will be so much fun!

-2 grape tomato plants

-2 larger tomato plants

-2 pepper plants (I prefer banana peppers but jalapeños and bell peppers are fun)

-1 basil plant

-1 square foot of cilantro

-1 rosemary (this will stick around so plant it in a corner but not an edge)

-2 cucumber or squash plants (but not both in the same bed)

-5 everbearing strawberry plants (these will stick around, so plant them with the idea that you may let this whole bed become a strawberry bed sometime in the future)

-Forget the square foot separation and plant six marigolds amongst everything else to draw bees and keep out pests

For tomatoes you’ll need stakes and you’ll thank yourself if you stake them when you plant them. Everything but the cilantro I would start with seedlings.

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