A huge thank you to the amazing group of volunteers from Lloyds Bank who joined us to help build three huge raised beds in our poly tunnel. We are expanding our cut flower growing enterprise and these new beds will give us nearly 40m2 of additional protected growing space!
Over the years, we have refined our method for building raised beds. We use 9” by 2” pressure treated timber. Although this is quite expensive and so a large initial outlay, we’ve found that it’s worth it in the long run as it keeps its shape much better than thinner wood and doesn’t show any significant sign of rot for over 5 years. We fix the corners with 3” arris rail and run central supports every 2 meters or so with 2” by 4” to stop the frames bowing out under the pressure of the soil.
Accessibility of the beds was an important factor when designing them, and we were keen to make them accessible as possible. Therefore, we had to consider the needs of the various people who will be using them. We made the beds a maximum of 120cm wide to make sure everybody could reach the centre. We raised the middle one to 40cms high. This makes it a little easier for people with back problems to work on. We have also left ourselves the option of raising the beds further. This would be useful if we ever have anybody who uses a wheelchair working with us. Finally, we left pathways of 120cm between the beds. This might feel like a lot, and a bit of a waste of growing space, but it is about the minimum to allow a wheelchair user to work comfortably.
We have filled the beds with a mixture of top soil and organic mulch. Whilst this is fine as a base, we’ve found that it can be a little lifeless and that the addition of a little homemade garden compost helps bring in all the beneficial creatures needed for healthy growth. So we will be adding some throughout winter.
We are planting the beds with ranunculus, anemones and over wintering antirrhinum for an early crop next year. We have built in water points for irrigation with individual timer controls for each bed, as well as posts for support netting. I hope that these will be very low maintenance beds allowing us to increase productivity whilst still maintaining the therapeutic feel of the growing area.