New Space, New Problems


New Space: 200 Square Feet of Raised Bed

This past week we finished adding an extra 200 square feet of garden space. (We still have plans to add additional beds yet this week.) The new bed is along a 100′ fence line and is currently home to tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and peppers. Onions and beans should be popping up soon and later this week I’ll be transplanting leeks and lettuce into the bed. We also added several square feet of beautiful (and edible) zinnias!

Three years ago I started the bed by digging up a 2′ wide section of side with a spade. Yes, I’m a crazy woman and I spent the better part of many Saturdays ripping up sod with a shovel. This is where I began gardening, mostly with flowers. To turn the space into a raised bed, I went back through to pulled out weeds and overgrowth with a pick. Then we covered the bottom of the bed with a layer of clean cardboard and brown paper grocery bags. These create a barrier to keep weeds from regrowing, but will also break down over time and add nutrients to the soil.

For the back and sides of the 6″ raised bed we reused boards from last year’s family garden beds. These were placed flush against the fence (as much as possible) and pounded down into the ground with a rubber mallet. For the front of the bed Ryan constructed a “fence” using 10′ x 6″ x 2″ untreated boards attached to garden stakes which he pounded into the ground.

Dumping Compost Onto Cardboard in Raised Bed

Using the neighbors garden cart to dump compost into the bed.

Compost Pile in the Driveway

This pile of compost is the same length and width as my Toyota Camry!

Once the bottom and sides were in place, we filled the bed with compost. The compost came from Sprinkle Road Supply and was delivered via dump truck. (You can imagine how much Owen enjoyed this!) In case you can’t tell from the picture below, that pile of rotted leaves, grass clippings and manure is about the same size as my Toyota Camry. According to a Michigan State University Extension soil test conducted on the compost last year, its low in nitrogen, so we added some organic matter to compensate. First we added a layer of grass clippings from our yard. Next we piled on the partially completed compost that our wormy friends have been working on all winter. Then we topped it off with another layer of compost from the driveway.

New Problems: Keeping Deer and Dogs Out

With the bed full, I transplanted several seedlings and began to add mulch. To keep the deer out, we put in 4′ garden stakes at 10′ intervals and tied fishing wire along the top and the midway point. This helps to keep deer out because when they reach to get into the garden, they bump into the “invisible” fishing line and being brushed by something they can’t see deters them from moving forward. I’ve seen this work in the yards of two neighbors.

I was hoping that the fishing line at the bottom of the posts would keep our furry farm friends – Daisy the Jack Russell Terrier and Marley the Australian Shepherd mix – out of the garden as well. One of their favorite past times is running along this fence line to bark at neighbors… and squirrels… and birds… and the wind… and…. you get the idea. They certainly seem to respond when they walk into the fishing line, but when they run into it, all bets are off.

Luckily I’ve only lost two plants in the 4-5 days since I planted the bed, but I’m not willing to lose any more! We’re looking at putting a line of underground, “invisible” fence along the bedline to keep the dogs at bay. Meanwhile, I’m trying a trick I picked up from some online research about ways to keep dogs out of the garden: Thorns.

Blackberry thorns placed in a garden bed to keep dogs out

Blackberry thorns are placed on the left-hand side of the garden to keep the dogs out!

From what I read, several gardeners recommend putting rose bush trimmings in the bed to keep dogs out. I don’t have any rose bushes, but I do have plenty of wild black berries. I spent some time this morning cutting larger pieces from “the woods” and laid them along the edge of the bed. I’ll let you know how well this works at keeping the dogs out.

In a few weeks this bed will be brimming with color and leaves. It’s going to be beautiful! I can’t wait.

Have any of you had issues with keeping pets out of your garden? What methods do you use? Please share a comment to let us know!

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