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spunky_ma_z6

high end vegetable garden border material?

18 years ago

I am getting an 8x8 raised vegetable garden. The designer spec'd "wood" as the material to build it. I know I don't want pressure treated, rr ties, or anything untreated that would rot out over several years. Any ideas? The rest of the back yard is a lot of bluestone, two fieldstone risers to the back door, cedar fence, shed, and 5x8 swing/pergola structure. Plantings: grass, azalea, buxus, enkianthus, hibiscus, ilex, stewartia, taxus, and thuja, astilbe, clematis, hosta, liriope, miscanthus, penesetum, ladies mantle, and sedum (can you smell low maintenance?). I think there is already an awful lot of bluestone...what can I use instead of the wood that would stand out but also tie in to the other elements? Is there a wood that could be recommended for this purpose that would hold up many, many years, but not leach into my food?

Comments (54)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Cedar would be my choice.

    Janie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you Michelle and urbangardener... I am off to read and learn. The picture and article are very helpful.

    Ink, we didn't even talk about that. ?!?! I think it's partly aesthetic reasons, partly practical. It's located directly across from the (2) steps to my back door, and it gave me kind of a "balanced feeling" to see it raised, so I didn't even question it. My 8 year old has the job of taking the trash down to the street and back on trash day, and she needs to go right by one corner of the veg. bed without much clearance, so I assumed also that the raised bed would protect it from my child dragging the trash can as well as the odd ball that gets rolled around there. Are those reasons good enough? None of the other beds are raised.

    She also didn't spec how HIGH the thing should be....which I guess either a)doesn't matter, or b) she assumed I'd know it's "average", or c)she ended up spending more time than budgeted on other parts (on a set fee) and was ready to wrap on this job. (I suspect it's all three of these). Oh well. I am very happy with the layout and it's actually interesting to figure out a few of the details like this too. I am in no rush.

    ALso, I don't want to leave the impression I am now cut off from my designer because she got her final check--I am welcome to email or call her but I would like to interact with some different brains for a while. One thing I didn't expect about this process....it takes time to process the results. I wasn't expecting that!

    I really appreciate getting ideas/feedback from others with more experience than me about the possibilities.

    I really like the stone option--it would be my first choice in terms of longevity, maintenance, look, etc. But I'm afraid we will be overkill with stone. The back yard is only 71x27 or 71x20 on the side with the mudroom extention/back door. Between the entry area, walkway, and patio there is approximately 500-600 sq ft of bluestone. It looks very balanced on the paper with the other elements--especially as the stone and greenery weave in and out of each other a little bit. Is there a percentage of land that can be in stone before it becomes overkill? Like the Fibonacci numbers in a horizontal plane???

    If I go with the trex option, do I need to put something between it and the soil?

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  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Michelle's stone wall is one of the most well-crafted stone walls I've seen. It's definitely high-end and something like that of bluestone might fit perfectly into your situation. Spunky.

    But, I'd vote for using cedar. Cedar is extremely rot-resistant and will last a very long time, even w/o being treated. You already have a cedar fence and I'm assuming the pergola is also cedar. Cedar would probably be more affordable and can be spiffed up to be more high-end, if that is your main concern. Cedar can be planed smooth, edges rounded and, as Kate suggested, you can add icing on the cake by including decorative finials on the corner posts, etc. You could also add a wider plank along the top for a "seat" or bench to sit on while you're weeding. (with stone, you can have a wider cap, which would serve the same purpose ...)

    You may want to til the raised bed every few years (not every year) and it would be alot easier to do if you could "dismantle" the sides (cedar) to do the tilling. Just another point in favor of using cedar wood.

    The composite woods work, too -- as Michelle suggests -- but in my opinion, you'd be introducing yet another material into your overall garden scheme and it might look fussy or too busy consequently.

    I'm with Ink -- what is the purpose of raising the bed and where is the raised vegetable bed in relation to everything else in the garden? Is it immediately next to the patio in which case, stone might look better. Or is it off in the corner away from the stonework and closer to the cedar fence? I love gardening in raised beds - that's how our veggie garden is laid out -- but mine is definitely not high-end. It's whatever end happens to be around at the time I'm building the beds. hah.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ink, I was thinking the same thing, or at least how high you need it raised.

    Where it is 8'x8' and "high end", I would check out a stone yard in your area and see if they have some photos on their walls or built work in the yard.

    I don't have a love for wood edging, pavement, or walls. I think it is because of all of the builder landscapes that I have seen that screams "a carpenter did this".

    Sometimes contractors will stear you away from things that they don't have capabilities in. Stonework s sometimes one of those. It will cost about $1,500-$2,500 for a well crafted mortared stone wall. Granite curbing would work. Dry laid shale stone would cost less.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Stone and cedar will not poison youŅthe other choices I am leery of.

    For a raised bed vegetable garden I would never ever use green or brown treated lumber, or worse yet, railroad ties as these treatments contain arsenic or creosote. Both would be nasty stuff to get into your personal food chain. The nice thing about cedar is that it won't contaminate the soil with poisons or PNAs (polynuclear aromatic compounds), which are known carcinogens. I did some functional raised beds out of 2x8 cedar and it gave about 10 years of life before showing signs of rotting out. I would guess using 4x or 6x stock would last longer and give that high end look you are going after. Stone speaks for itself.

    The composite lumber options showing up on the market might be an interesting choice, but I would ask some pointed questions before incorporation into a raised vegetable bed. The recycled polyethylene and polypropylene components are biologically inert and will not rot. But Im not too sure about how these materials are guarded against deterioration to UV light without use of UV protection additives and what might be added to the wood dust to improve its ability to withstand rot. Some UV protection additives are not poisonous in the minuscule amount that might leach into the soil. Other UV protection additives might be a problem. The wood, if treated, would put this back in the green or brown lumber arsenic poison concern. In any event, I would guess that the cost of the composites will exceed that of cedar.....given crude oil is now running solidly above $60/ barrel it will get even more costly in the future.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If you can get hold of this month's SOuthern Living, there is a very nice veg garden in there whose raised beds are made of stone.

    melanie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I will try to get the Southern Living. It's pretty hard to find up here. Sometimes they put their articles on their website.

    How about Teak or Ipe? I know they are expensive relative to cedar, but they can't be nearly as expensive as Laag's estimate of stonework. Has anyone seen a veg. bed made of these woods? Or maybe mahogany? I know that is also sometimes used in outdoor furniture and decks. I am finding a lot of ready-made options in cedar, but I want something with a very "finished" look.

    Are there any catalogs I can order that could be a good source for me? (Maybe with a matching potting table).

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky,
    We are in the process of building a rather fancy sandbox .
    The side walls of the sandbox are sandwiched teak and trex .
    The trex is the inside border 2x8
    The teak is the outside border 1x6.
    This gives the box a stepped down beveled look and the color difference between the two materials is playful and fun.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We built raised vegetable beds of plain pine 2 x 8s whitewashed more than 5 years ago. They are still down there, and still fine. At this point, I think they'll require reworking in about 5 more years. Ten years really isn't that bad for the silly things. At that point, I won't mind emptying them out and replacing the soil.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky--

    e-mail me your snail mail address and I'll send you my copy.

    melanie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some people enjoy raised veg/flower beds for the change in topography. But, the custom of raising veg beds goes back centuries, and there actually is a pragmatic reason: it allows gardeners to plant things that ordinarily wouldn't thrive in their particular soils. You raise a bed, fill it with the right soil for the crop you want, and - voila! - perfect growing medium for persnickety parsnips.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Back in the crazy dazes when I did the Garden Show thang we designed a garden that was geared towards ease of access for those with mobility concerns.
    It was a topic that I was, and still am , passionate about.
    Since designing that first accessible garden some 15 + years ago , I have gleaned a lot more valuable information from those who appreciate and garden in a raised garden .

    The raised vegetable and herb beds make life a lot easier for many people who have to overcome a variety of mobility challenges .

    I've included two more photos over on the gallery forum that addresses the raised vegetable bed idea.

    One photo shows my first feable attempt at handicap accessible garden design using a smooth brick surface that wheel chairs , scooters and walkers can easily manuever over and a much too low raised herb and vegetable bed.

    The second photo - ( redwood raise bed ) is much better designed and is regularly gardened in by an older woman of tall stature who over the course of her 75 years has broken her back twice.
    The 24 inch tall raised veg beds are reported to be very comfortable to work in .

    photos on gallery forum.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Right on, Mich, about the raised gardens and accessibility for disabled and elderly persons. Some of the retirement villages here have worked such gardens into their designs.

    Another bennie with raised gardens: I have raised beds built of granite cobble blocks...all along around 30' of paved driveway I no longer use. It's a sneaky way around hiring a guy with a jackhammer to take out the paving. There are cucumbers and herbs growing 18" above blacktop.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I used PT 2x10 lumber to build four 4x8 raised beds behind my garage for veggies, cutting, and nursery beds. Yeah, yeah, I know, the PT will kill me, but I'm counting on all of the asbestos and lead paint I've ingested or aspirated over the years to counteract the copper.

    They allowed me build up a very nice compost-y soil quickly, are tidy looking (the neighbors have to look at them), and keep the grass from growing into the beds. In between the beds I've mulch the paths.

    The 4x8 size means I can reach into the center from each side to plant, weed, pick, etc., and don't have to ever walk in the bed, compacting the soil. I'm wondering how you'll access the center of an 8x8 bed? Having to tromp through a veggie garden to tend it kind of defeats the purpose a bit, unless you plant to put a path through the center. Also, raised beds can dry out more quickly, requiring more supplemental watering.
    Jo

    {{gwi:24706}}

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    BIG sigh of relief here. Signs of common sense. PT 2x10's, white washed pine, cedar. SayPoint makes a very good point when he says all those other toxins will probably get us before the copper.

    I love your garden, by the way, SayPoint.

    What I am getting at is that I have been reading this, and (not being critical)it seemed to be a good "how can I spend the most money?" thread rather than how can I have a nice raised veggie garden.

    I love pretty places and things, but the idea of spending money just foolishly gives me a rash. If a client wants to spend money foolishly, that is one thing. But not MY money.

    There is so much really good work here. I take a lot from you all. Thanks

    Janie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Melanie, thanks for the offer...I asked around and one of my friends has a subscription, so she will pass it on to me. I laughed and laughed at the Hector's article. Every bit of it was true. I wonder if I sat by that guy at the counter at some point.

    Jo, yes, it's true, I will have to step into the bed. I know this isn't ideal. Your set up is divine. My bed is the way it is because we are an active family of 5 and I don't have NEARLY the space you have. Not anywhere close. The designer originally drafted a four part potager (sort of like Michelle's, which I used as an example in my wish list folder) and there was no room for my children to do anything except be told "don't step on that". I sacrificed the potager for cartwheel space.

    So I am left with my 8x8 area, which will be supplemented with large pots of herbs and peppers. This bed is certainly a compromise, but one I can live with because we are getting more functional space in other areas of the yard.

    Gee Janie, you sure are making some assumptions ("how can I spend the most money.....spend money foolishly"). I posted this on the design forum rather than the access. gardening or veg. gardening forums because I want something much more special than the PT box! Guess, what, I'm actually a thrifty person. I spend my money with the long term investment in mind. I live in an upgraded house but I am wearing a $5 blue t-shirt from Target. Unless I go with stone, I probably won't be spending as much money as you think. My BIL is a cabinetmaker and gets me cast-offs of quality projects all the time. I have a new mahogany bench in the front made from a neighbor's discarded iron base and mahogany cast-offs from his shop. He can also get me materials wholesale which makes the "wood" spec all the more appealing.

    The veg.'s are going in this spot because it's the only area in the yard with full sun. This area is certainly worth spending some money on, as it carries a lot of traffic, unlike Jo's, which appears to be tucked out back somewhere. It's the first thing anyone sees entering my yard, and it's the first thing I will see coming out my back door to the car. You must pass it to get to the patio. You will pass it when going to the shed. It's a real focal point. I want it to be made of exquisite materials that are long lasting because I don't WANT to have to rebuild it in 5 or 10 years. This is pretty much it for me. We are a do-it-once, do-it-right kind of family.

    If BIL can't come through with the wood (sometimes it takes time to assemble enough large cast-offs to do anything with), I'm still going to fancy it up as much as I can--I'm willing to spend the money here.

    As it stands now I am leaning to one of the harder, longer lasting woods and will ask BIL to make a "lip/skirt" around it with some routering on the two front sides inspired by this Jesuit bench (see link). These materials may be WAY too hard for him to do what I want in his shop, in which case I will simplify the pattern, but this is what stage of investigation I am in as I post this.

    Here is my inspiration piece. If anyone out there has seen ANYTHING like what I'm describing, please email me.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I know what you are saying Janie. I need to so something to make my vegetable garden more functional and aesthetically pleasing, but the idea of spending hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars so that I can grow $50 worth of vegetables seems a little odd.

    Kate: Thanks for the Fine Gardening link. It gave me some good ideas. I would love to get back into using my woodworking equipment to make some stuff for the garden.

    BTW, P Allen Smith has a nice looking vegetable area with wooden raised beds in his garden. I did a quick search for a picture but could only find the small close up on the link below. There are some pictures in his "Garden Home" book and often shown on his "Garden Home" television show. He has his beds arranged in a geometric pattern that ties in with his garden shed. I am not sure this applies to what Spunky is looking for but it might be useful for others.

    - Brent

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hmmm, I wonder if I should have titled my post as a search for a very large, very fancy, high-end, DIY planter. Would people understand any better? Keep in mind you are talking to the person who wants to plant gourds in her fancy Smith and Hawken windowboxes. LOL

    Here are some little tables I found on Craigslist that would fit the bill, if they were a lot bigger, deeper, and had the legs sawn off and table top cut out.

    Still looking for sourcing for this kind of stuff...catalogs, anyone??

    I do appreciate the feedback--my project is indeed a little (or a lot) odd. I guess it's also "out of the box".

    (and by the way, my designer did say I have exquisite taste, and did warn me similarly on budget, and we reached agreements i'm very comfortable with).

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky,
    In last Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine, there was an ad for a place that sells Indonesian teak furntiture and accents locally. I have some Indonesian pieces I bought at antiques imports places that no longer exist, unfortunately, but there are a number of places in Massachusetts and So. New Hampshire that sell these things. When I have some time, I'll dig up names for you.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky,
    I am wondering if you are a long lost friend of mine from back in my highschool summer time Mass Art dazes ?
    The more I read your posts, I wonder ! ~ ... did you attended Waltham High back in the 70's ?

    Below is the name of the two main stores that I purchased much of my Balinese furniture from - they have very reasonable prices .

    Of course they are here in California , but they may ship or have a contact for you in Boston.

    The Flying Elephant in San Rafael is where I purchased my hand carved antique Balinese day bed / giganto bench that sits outside and my Balinese teak kitchen/ dining set ( Batavia style ) came from The Wooden Duck in Berkeley.

    The Flying Elephant has tons of carved Balinese friezes and other types of moldings suitable for inserts, appliques ect....

    I've also recently discovered a great new import shop that I got my reclining buddha from, it is called Pacific Blue traders .

    Also Livinggreen.com ( my favorite shop of all time ) has lots of stuff but a tad bit pricey, but everything is of top quality . - www.livinggreen.com

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If you used cedar to frame the bed, you could then apply purchased moldings and medallions to the outside that mimic the designs on the furniture you linked to. A weatherproofing sealer or stain on the outside to protect it from the elements would probably work well, and blend the moldings with the base wood.

    Interesting idea for veggie bed in plain view. Mine is indeed, behind the garage, and strictly functional.
    Jo

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I did say I was not being critical. If that is what you want, and you are willing to pay for teak to grow carrots in, that is what you should have. There is a lot of difference in what I sometimes do for clients and what goes on at my house.

    But even if I am using recycled materials, I don't want anything ugly at my house. I see SayPoint's garden as functional, and functional is high on my list of desirables.

    I do love that bench, and I think SayPoint has a great idea for embellishing cedar in the same manner.

    Janie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Has the whole world gone stark raving mad or is it just this forum. An 8' x 8' raised bed that will grow $20 worth of vegetables that seems to have no other purpose than to be ornamental? If there was an anti landscape design forum you should post this question there. People, from Adolf Loos to Garret Ekcbo have lived and died railing against this kind of excess.
    Build a simple but solid container and fill it with the kind of soil (which may not have been dredged from the Nile delta on a spring day in the year of the moose) that will support what you intend to grow and regard that vegetation as ornament much in the same way as the makers of your Jesuit bench did except yours will be real leaves not leaves carved out of wood.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Tony , I don't 'get' why you feel that there is madness involved in one wanting an attractive raised planting bed at all ?

    If there is any madness involved in this discussion I think it should be directed towards why someone would discourage or poo poo such a desire.

    Everyone is different. Different social economic circles, different personalities, different desires, different cultures, different everthing.

    Spunky puts value on her exterior landscape and desires a nice looking raise bed. It's her perogative , her choice, her money.

    This should be no big deal or an event to get all excited about.

    I could care less what I wear to work but I put a high value on how I outfit my garden gallery.

    Differnt strokes for different folks.

    Big deal, - teak, stone, core ten, glass block, crappy looking pre cast concrete blocks, what ever floats her boat. She has to live with it, not us.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Michelle, honestly I am not against "an attractive raised planting bed" at all at all I am only querying what "attractive" means in this context, I also know that Spunky will do whatever she fancies regardless. This does not mean that I couldn't care less. What it means is that if I can encourage someone to look at Shaker furniture (let's say) as inspiration for garden furnishings instead of the Jesuit bench shown here then I have broadened the discussion to something that may have more substance. So, far from discouraging Spunky I am encouraging her to consider another approach, it is indeed my approach but isn't that what this forum is for? How she spends her money is not my concern and I too prioritize my spending.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    personally, i experience extreme raised bed lust looking at mich's bluestone/brownstone veggie bed picture.

    i will go without many many things before i can afford it, but one day 75' of truly righteous stonework will be snaking down the far side of the driveway, corraling my asparagus & delphiniums & sunflowers in high falutin' style.

    oh yes ... it will be snaking.

    spunky -- spend the money, get whatever makes you tingle & enjoy the hell out of it.

    \m/ \m/

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Michelle, I did not attend Waltham High in the 70s. But my old boss (from 10 years ago) is the son of a teacher there....and he was a sculptor, and about that age.....but somehow nothing about you makes me think of him! He had this human form made out of wire hanging from the drop ceiling over him in his office. Thank you, thank you for understanding my vision. I appreciate the sourcing, at the very least for inspiration.

    Janie, I am sure I am sounding defensive although I do not mean to be. I do appreciate all this input. I didn't expect more than 2 responses much less 29. Honest feedback is always a good thing here on the internet. Not always in real life, but here, I am very happy to get it.

    Cady, thank you so much. I am not a subscriber and so didn't even think to look there. Of course!

    Ink, ok, I had to google Loos and Ekcbo because I've never heard of them. Briefly summarizing (and sort of plagiarizing) I learned that Loos was an architect who apparently gained more notoriety for his writings than for his buildings! In a nutshell: It's necessary to suppress decor in order to regulate passion, the renunciation of which generates culture by feeding man's spiritual power. Did I get it right?

    My reaction: I can half way buy this. There is nothing more spiritual than laying out in the black midnight away from civilization with no ornament to ponder other than the stars. Or to zero in on the individual strands of the poofy part of a pussywillow. You know, Alice Walker's idea of erasing cultural negatives by the simple spiritual act of noticing the color purple and all that...(if you read that book). Simplicity, beauty, recognition of genius, connectedness, satisfaction. That's the way it goes.

    Garret Eckbo--major player modernist in Landscape Architecture, reactionary against Beaux Arts forms in favor of functional, site specific plans. Master of the "use of off set forms to change the apparent size of a site".

    How astute to bring this to my attention. I believe this Eckbo stuff is somehow slightly involved in the kind of plan my designer drew up for me, as close as it can be without um....disregarding my personal wish list (not in material things, but the wish list in how the yard functions). The plan is unbelieveably simple, but I never, ever, would have been able to figure out the linear part on my own. The shape of things. My mind was too cluttered--too connected-- to let it happen the way she did. There is a calm, still feeling on the paper even as there are diagonal, geometric lines all over it. Now, before the designer showed it to me, she felt the need to counsel me on being open minded, because she knew, I wasn't expecting what she delivered, and there were no similar examples for me to see right here on my own street. But luckily, I am well travelled, and my parents are extremely well travelled, and I grew up culturally sophisticated, that is, learning to be comfortable with that which may make most people feel queasy, because we mostly lived as cultural outsiders, like gypsys. I take great pleasure in thinking about my carrots having such a grand home. And it really isn't putting me out much at all....it's revitalizing me. I'm getting energy from this, not having the life sucked out of me.

    Now, if I had to spend two hours a day deadheading froofy flowers, which I know many here enjoy, or constantly on guard against bugs and weather, for the purpose of protecting my prized orchids (which I don't have), I would indeed feel drained. I guess my teak project is spiritual in that way. I am ensured success....even if all of my beloved seed grown vegetables die, I still have my artful planter. It gives me confidence.

    I do like Eckbo. I live in an area very opposite in appearance to his sensibility. I guess this is why he is good--some part of him can be translated from the new west here to the old east. But not all, in entirety--it needs adaptation to fit in here with our history, with our crooked, stupid streets. Decor....whimsy.....the purple fence or Betty the thief stopping topiary....or a wierdo vegetable garden.... we all need to see some of our cultural necessities to the sparse, solid, backdrop of human life. Even cave people decorated the walls. Loos was myopic. But most specialists are.

    (Shaker....I do enjoy that to. As well as primitive, but not here, in this spot.)

    Marie, I do appreciate the encouragement.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That is an exceedingly cool deck shown on the Trex home page.

    I had to look at this Trex stuff for a project that is the antithesis of a raised bed. I spent the day gazing into a trench I've dug between my back yard and the neighbour's field of morning glory, pondering materials for a sunken barrier. Well, not the whole day.

    I like your "do-it-once, do-it-right" approach, and with that view it seems to me that the suggested lining with Trex and embellishing with medallions etc. would work well.

    How about cast iron grating as an outside embellishment, lined with Trex or cedar?

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This has been and interesting thread. I have to admit that it was a show on HGTV that first gave me the idea that a vegetable garden did not have to be ugly. Why do so many people carve out a rectangle in their lawn and plop in rows of vegetables?!? That is what I did twice on two different properties.

    Spunky (and I am starting to see that the username fits): I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with. The reality is that most people spend way more time and money growing vegetables than could be justified by cost alone. There is just something about making BLTs with those first tomatoes from the garden or repaying your neighbor that looked after your cat with a basket of vegetables that "I GREW MYSELF".

    I am inspired by your experience with your designer. It sounds like you picked a good one. Be sure to post pictures of the finished results.

    - Brent

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Do consider including a top ledge that you can sit on, plus remember to include some kind of stones for a path or stepping areas in the middle of your 8 x 8. To weave together the functional vs. cost vs. beauty arguments, I would rather have a somewhat plainer raised "box" with some available places to put my tush while desultorily weeding my expensive carrots than to have a lot of medallions. I think also there's a difference between good quality and "ornate". Ornate kind of clashes with the veggie and square foot gardening look, and instead you could use a few garden ornaments that can change or move around as needed. I understand this is a personal taste/preference issue, but I would use materials that are plain but weather beautifully and develop a distinguished kind of "old" character, plus the good craftsmanship to which you apparently have access, to get my "high end" effect, rather than a lot of embellishment. Something that improves with age and a patina of dirt rather than works against it.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Please be careful with solid bluestone, the corners are lethal. If your kids are going to be running past the planter, you need to make sure the edges, and corners, are rounded. Wood is less of a problem, of course.

    And, another reason raised beds are commonly used for vegetable gardens is that they can be planted much earlier than flat garden beds - the soil dries to workable condition about a month earlier - at least in New England.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Interesting reading Spunky. Remember my earlier posting asking why this bed needed to be raised, leading to assumptions about wheelchair gardening early spring planting and so on? " but not here, in this spot." you say in answer to another question and "even if all of my beloved seed grown vegetables die, I still have my artful planter. It gives me confidence." So can I be so bold as to ask you what this thing is that you want to build in this special spot and why it is so important. Why did your designer suggest an ornate veg garden, what was the problem that this solved, you want a low maintenence vegetable patch that looks....?
    Please do not think, (anyone) that I am pooh poohing someones desire, I am only trying to understand what that desire is.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If stone is out of your budget, Spunky, and if introduction of another material is not out of place, might broken concrete provide an inexpensive contrast to the stone and wood already in your design? It's hard to make it ornate, but the texture can be nice, it does well for curved or straight walls and many veggies appreciate the resulting alkaline environment.

    Two more cents from an interested amateur...

    LynnT

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    These are the cedar beds that I build for my veggie beds. They are 4'x16'xabout 16" high. I used 2 by material for everything except for the ledge which is 1x6 cedar decking. I absolutely love having the beds raised for easy working and the plants love it. You can let them gray out or use a linseed oil (read the linseed oil label to make sure just boiled linseed oil) to seal it prevent graying. {{gwi:48437}}

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Frankie, I think you are absolutely right. I need to plan for comfort. Digger, I will take a look and make sure we dont have any dangerous corners. I don't think we do, but I appreciate the reminder. McKenna, thank you so much for posting. Yours is the nicest, most refined, finished looking construction for this type of bed I've seen. I was originally thinking something like that, but with some ornament around the bottom of the lip, in a wood that would be very long lasting so that we would not have to re-do it. Your cedar looks really good. Most of the others I've seen have been more rustic looking.

    I still don't think I'm being understood, by Ink and others, however, who are questioning my motive and wisdom....I'm not looking for a veggie/square foot gardening "look" and never was. I am an urban gardener. Well, technically suburban, but it may as well be urban for the density of my area--one way streets, shake hands with neighbors through windows. There will be no rows of carefully measured raised bed arrangements for me. (As far as plant material, I'm not even planning to grow carrots...my kids might....someone threw carrots out there and I followed up with it because I didn't realize how much it mattered to people what I'm growing...but in case anyone does care, I'm interested in mostly in ornamental vegetables and culinery herbs--I'm interested in experimenting with greens and lettuces, berries, beans, gourds and some things I've never tasted before--yellow tomatoes and purple hot peppers. I would like to try something like saffron. Perhaps some edible flowers--perhaps make my own rosewater as I remember from my childhood. These are not really mainstream things. I might do some carrots....I think I saw some beet red ones in a catalog once. I would like to try to pleach a tree. And no, I don't think I am going to be able to cram all this in my 8x8 area. I want to tackle them one by one over the course of years, and mix it up for fun. We buy most of our foodstuff at the grocery store and pick some of it in u-pick farm fields....I'm not trying to feed us with this bed. This is the kind of gardening I want to learn about and spend most of my yard time on, not roses or English garden style perennials or rare plants that could be seen in the LIttle Shop of Horrors.)

    Ink, I am nervous a bit because I have not tried this kind of gardening yet. The first one I saw that inspired me to try was Michelle's. I'm not really a seasoned gardener...I do have the "bug" but really only about 4-5 years experience, and all of this was spread out over having three babies under tow. Until the last year or two, Home Depot was my plant source. I have not produced anything worth showing off in the gallery. Just your normal Joe HOmeowner type stuff. I hired a designer because I realized there is so much more potential than I was able to finagle from my property by myself. I really, really appreciated that someone knowledgeable could provide structre/form for me as nothing I did looked quite right. I waited a long time for this. Every detail has been scrutinized. Nothing here was plopped down on a whim.

    We are not rich people, although I realize it might sound like it from the bits and pieces posted here. $2500 for a stonemason to do an 8x8 bed is way out of our budget. $500 for the highest quality wood materials is in it--but it has to worthy for us to put all this time and money into it. DH and I both drive the cheapest cars of their class....me a minivan, he a truck, but we spend money on the things that will be with us a long, long time, and we find ways to afford the best materials on the things we do buy with DIY and other creative means.

    I think I was quite tired when I wrote that long post up there....I do see I contradict myself a little. What I mean by confidence and dead plants is that a nice planter will give me "satisfaction" on a daily basis as well as "confidence" to go to (for me) unchartered territory. And if it doesn't work out, I can use it for flowers, or something else, without having to take it down because it looks like a vegetable garden gone neglected.

    I am again tired (it's midnight or so). I will try to post my terrible Paint rendition of our plan of this small area...which ultimately, is a service area...a utility area, but an often used, often seen entry to the whole back area, and the only place on the property with enough sun for vegetables.

    BTW, I don't want to put myself up for revision of the plan, because it suits our needs perfectly...this isn't a first draft, it's a last one. I left out all the plants, and all of the rest of the back yard. I tried to color it for clarity. I'm just posting it so you can believe me that some ornamentation is warrented, and it will fit in with my classic (not a McMansion), small lot, detail oriented, historic, home.

    Please keep in mind that this is the first time I "painted" anything....no scanner, no camera. The scale is pretty far off but you can see the bed placement.
    (I just looked and see that some of the text is hard to read.... There is only 20 feet between the back door itself (which is glass) and the back fence/lot line. It reads like 70, but it's 20. How should I save the pic to make it clearer??)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I really appreciate the effort you have made rather than going off in a huff as some do when asked to explain things, thankyou. I do feel that someone with the sensitivity to pick up on who you are and where you are, which can only happen in person, will provide you with what you are after. Meanwhile have a look at the work on http://www.woodsshop.com/japanese.htm this may not be your style but it does show objects that have been designed and made specifically for the garden.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ok, I think I see some clearing through the mist. There are certain practical aspects of this sort of gardening that should probably be pointed out. First, the bed is going to be empty for about six months out of the year. Second, the extremely visible part of the bed isn't the sides, but the top. Particularly since it's going to be below the level of the back door. So the usually way of fancying something like this up is to make pleasing patterns in the bed. Either the beds themselves make a design, some sort of knot pattern in the bed, something that stands out from above. Decorating the sides of the bed is like decorating the soles of shoes. It can be interesting, but only to people with good eyes.

    Also, understand that this sort of thing is reasonably time consuming, and not easily adapted to something low maintenance. Annuals for sun are hungry, thirsty, untidy little beasts, whether they produce food or flowers. The space is too special looking for a relatively normal perennial garden, which can be lower maintenance, and too small for shrubs.

    I know you've said you want to do this once, the right way, but it also sounds like going top of the line when you don't even know if you'll enjoy this.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That is a great link Ink.

    Mad Gallica, oh goodness. I do see that you are right. The bed will probably be entrenched in snow most of winter. That's pretty much why I wanted the strongest material I could get/afford, besides a finished look. We will probably even deposit snow on this bed from the shovelling. I knew that going in. In most areas of the yard, we thought about snow load and picked only plants that could handle it all along the driveway in the front, along the sidewalk, and in this back utility area.

    You are also right about the perspective from the level of the back door. Somehow I hadn't been imagining it that way at all. In my mind the bed would be higher, thus seen more, but I think if I take a measuring tape out there it will be just lower than the back door, and the focus will be on the top plane. A knot garden sounds lovely. I guess it's a good thing I have plenty of time to think about this before construction. At the rate I'm going I will be surprised if we have it in by next Spring. Sigh.

    Not to change the subject....but, this brings to mind an interesting phenomenon that we hit upon when we were picking out new lights for the (rebuilt) front entry and lamp post. I did all my research. We hit all the stores and catalogs. We were set on getting the perfect light. Dh and I spent an hour looking at lights at one store, when a funny old and odd sales man approached us and told us to lighten up. He was watching us go from one light to another and back again. He said we have "analysis paralysis". "It's a light," he said in his gruff Boston accent. "Not the ansah to cansah. Just pick one....whatever you pick, it'll be betta than what you got. Take it home, put it up, if you don't like it, bring it back and get another one. End of story."

    We did. We were pretty happy with it all year.

    The designer stopped by the other day, to pick up some pictures she had left me....saw some progress on the new front porch, and asked if we were keeping the lights. It set off a whole new wave of doubt.

    Analysis Paralysis.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky, this thread inspires me. I, too am a homeowner (and a mom with three kids underfoot) and my vision for my yard is to be a canvas on which I let my true self loose. And the energy, the passion, the determined intensity that you give this raised bed is coming through very powerfully in your words. I feel how important this is to you. Not because it's makes your garden worthy of showcasing in House and Garden. And not because your snooty neighbors will think you're "all that". But because it will express a part of who you are. You will let your true self loose on that planter. And I think that's a factor that's missing in many gardens.

    You are showing how the building of a simple raised bed is more than utilitarian gardening. It's a journey. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We did. We were pretty happy with it all year.

    The designer stopped by the other day, to pick up some pictures she had left me....saw some progress on the new front porch, and asked if we were keeping the lights. It set off a whole new wave of doubt.

    Analysis Paralysis.

    Come on now! You are tougher than that! Have you been to this designers home? I bet if you were to go there, you would find something that you just DID NOT like as well.

    We all have a certain space to live in. You have spent a long time making your space as pleasing to you as possible. The proof is in this box for vegetables (perhaps). It needs to be 'just so', and when you get it built and it is just exactly what you wanted, are you going to let someone spoil that for you? One of those 'designer' people walk in and say "It would have really been nice in Teak", and your perfect veggie box will be spoiled.

    You have offered a very lucid and logical explanation of what this vegetable garden is all about. I think you are right to hold out for what you really want. But you have to know what it is you want, and offer no excuse to anybody once you have made and executed the decision.

    To thine own self be true.

    Janie

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you two. I feel better....I defected from the GardenWeb and went over to talk to some other people....the fine woodwork artists, who know their wood and know how to plant it.

    Cedar in my situation will last me 10 years, possibly 15. The fence man also said that when he came to estimate. He recommended I go with Pressure treated posts due to damp area/snow load.

    I am not a nut! LOL

    Sometimes who you ask is more pertinent than what you want to do. Here is one example--not the one for me, but proof that my idea is hardly unchartered territory.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I love the idea of a raised foodstuff bed near the house. I don't have any ideas for you but I'm glad you brought up this topic. Herbs especially are nice by the house. They can be enormously ornamental and fairly low maintenance. If you want even less maintenance, just let the thyme spread. The bed needn't be empty in the winter--some herbs are deciduous shrubby things (lavender, thyme, sage, some oreganos, etc.) You should even be able to put in some hardy perennial artichokes to dress it up. :)

    Thanks everyone for your contributions. This is quite an inspiring thread!

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Analysis paralysis IS more common, with the Internet and with huge number of choices. There was a thing in the paper that just going to get a pair of JEANS (even a guy, not me) brings 100 or more options. Even this forum can instill paralysis--wait wait, back up, big picture--I know I do that.

    Back to raised bed. Along lines of making it good enough but not overly good (or expensive), and at risk of incurring more paralysis, you might think about whether you are going to use some trellis, tripod poles for veggies, etc and then think, will I have a problem with what will "go" with my proposed box? So you might want to reserve some $$ for some of these raised-bed veggie-supporting accessories of nicer construction or materials, and/or keep the basic bed from getting so "fine" that you can't grow peas. I'm thinking of something that might remain in the bed during the winter and provide "vertical interest" and so might be designed to be inherently attractive as well.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That's right, you have to furnish the thing. How about dividing into four quarters with a boardwalk, and putting an obelisk in each quarter...? I'm not kidding either. I can't stand having garden areas that I can't reach with relative ease, and an 8' square would drive me batty, if I weren't already.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yes, thanks, I have obelisks--but not 4 of them. I shop clearance sales and get stuff for Christmas and my birthday....that's how I got my fancy windowboxes.

    By the way, I wanted to say that my neighbor's are not the least bit snooty. They are mostly wonderful. My front area and house tends to be a hub for the kids of the families around here--and the doggies, and I am taking them all into consideration in planning, but the back area is my personal haven.

    There were a few snooty people on my old street, however.....so maybe that's where you got the impression, Ginger.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just plucking out words that caught my eye and confuse someone even more but couple of ideas that could give you different directions, if you want
    - you could look at your 8X8 area as a roof top container garden and design it from that angle.
    - it could have different levels, like pyramid maybe, so that when it is covered with snow, it will still have interesting sculptural value?

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky, no, I wasn't speaking of your neighbors specifically. Rather that many people DO landscape to satisfy the snooty neighbors. And that you are doing this raised bed just for you.

    At my former house I had a neighbor come over one fall day (when I had two toddlers and a newborn and my dh was out of the country) and offer the phone number of her "landscapers" because she'd noticed my leaves were piling up. Heck, they weren't off the trees yet! She was upset they were blowing into her yard three houses down. Yes, some neighbors WILL drive you batty.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Spunky, so what did you end up with? I just came across this thread as I was Googling for info on rebuilding my raised bed garden with bricks instead of wood. I'm still not sure what I'm going to use.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The raised area ended up being 6x6 instead of 8x8. We decided on (white mountain) fieldstone "walls" with bluestone toppers. We had extra stone from the patio and front steps, so it became an easy choice because we already had the materials--plus it's "permanent" and matches the rest of the property. I'm looking for an obelisk or something for the center.

    Obviously, with 6x6, we won't be getting much food from this bed--but it's still fun and seems to be in scale.

    DH ended up doing everything himself--the patio and front are done, but the raised veggie bed is this summer's project so I don't have a pic to share yet (except for the footing which was poured last Fall).

    Thanks!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Spunky-
    Did you ever post pictures of the finished raised bed?
    sarah