Building A Raised Bed Garden (page 2)

Building A Raised Bed Garden (page 2)

Building A Raised Bed Garden (Continued)
By Marge Talt (mtalt(at)

Copyright by Marge Talt. All Rights Reserved.


Where does design inspiration come from? The answer is just about anywhere. It's not that you see exactly what you want and set about copying it slavishly - although that will work, too, sometimes. More often something you see will trigger a chain of thought that instantly reveals the solution to your problem - the proverbial light bulb turning on in your head. Usually, your final result will only vaguely resemble whatever the original trigger to your inspiration was.

Ideas are everywhere you look. They are particularly evident in other gardens and at the exhibits designed by nurseries and landscapers at flower shows. If you're looking around for ideas to solve a particular design problem in your garden, the best course to follow is to visit every garden you can; read every garden publication you can get your hands on and either go to the library or buy garden books to see what others have done. There are really no totally new designs in the world, simply different interpretations of solutions that have been done before.

In 1997, we went to the Philadelphia Flower Show and inspiration struck. One of the exhibits was a space about the same size as the intermediate level. A simple design of a central bed with surrounding walk and a bench which solved the problem of too much boring paving; gave me more places to plant and a perfect location for the sandbed I'd been wanting to make. Of course, it wasn't exactly what we wanted, but the concept could be transposed. I wanted raised beds instead of flush beds, for instance, and where the grass strip is in the photo, we would have an upper pond. We both got rather excited and I set about drawing up plans and calculating what needed to be done. I figured it shouldn't take all that long to accomplish. But, first, I had to get the ground cleared. There's always a "but first" to every project, isn't there?

After spring clean up and planting, I attacked the now well-established weeds, a combination of Poa annua, white clover and some horrible member of the (I think) Erigeron genus, who I had originally considered a rather pretty wildflower. Oh, how I rue the day I let that child go to seed. It seeds around madly and sprouts from the least little bit of root left in the ground. I've been fighting a major battle with it for years all over the garden.

At any rate, it took quite some time to dig out the weeds an sift out the roots and begin grading. I knew I had to remove a fair amount of "soil" and, since I wanted to stockpile it for future use, I wanted it to be as clean as possible. I've learned that piling up soil full of nasty stuff just postpones problems for another day.

Getting It Right

Once all the ground was clear, I was ready to get down to business. Staking and measuring is a time consuming affair when dimensions are tight. This is particularly true when you want to pave an area with flagstones, which come in certain sizes and are not at all flexible. Since space was so tight, I decided to use the flagstones as bed edging, too.

The only way to work with flagstone is to draw your plan to scale on paper. It's much easier to work out stone sizes and laying patterns on paper than with a heavy pile of stone, plus, when you buy the stone, you need to know how many pieces of what size you want. Cutting flagstone requires a special saw hooked up to a water source - a bit more than I want to deal with. You can have pieces cut at the stone yard, but this adds to the cost of the material.

Like most construction materials, flagstone sizes are nominal. In other words, an eighteen by eighteen inch (0.45 x 0.45 m) flagstone is more or less about seventeen and a half inches square (0.44 m²). More or less are the operable words because sizes can vary quite a bit - much more than with lumber. If you draw your layout to the nominal size, you will actually be allowing for space between the stones, once laid, for sand infill or mortar.

It gets a tad tricky when sections of flagstone need to abut at specific points because of the variance in stone sizes.

The design called for this kind of abutment in several places which gave me a bit of grief down the road, since what actually happens on a site will vary from the most carefully drawn plans.

>>Continued: Grading, Setting Stones, Planting>>

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