A year ago I'd planned to share with you my new garden project, raised herb beds. Unbeknownst to me my whole world would be turned on its ear when my son was hit by a car while training for the Ironman in Lake Tahoe. A year later Matthew has healed from his injuries and the herbs in my kitchen garden are cascading over the sides of the beds. I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you pictures of the thriving sage, rosemary and thyme outside my backdoor and share a few lessons learned about creating a raised herb garden.
Building a square frame is not difficult if you have a talented partner who can tote wood, use a saw and wield a hammer. Marty spent an afternoon with me putting together the framework for the raised beds. Marty was the journeyman carpenter and I was his apprentice. I also added the stenciled design on the sides of the frames for a little whimsy and color. Here's what you need to know to start your own beds.
1. Raised beds can be the perfect solution for spaces with poor soil. I built my beds outside my backdoor near the kitchen and on top of an under ground bolder. I was never able to get anything to grow in that space because the soil was only a couple inches deep. Now I have lush herbs and eatable flowers for daily use.
2. When choosing a site for your herb garden, follow the sun. Herbs need lots of sun to thrive and reach their full potential. If sunlight is in short supply in your garden, a small raised bed could be the solution.
3. Raised beds can be crafted out of almost any material. You can use materials such as concrete blocks, masonry, rock, galvanized culvert, stock tanks, steel or wood. I chose wood because I liked the look and wanted to be able to stencil the sides. I did make the decision to avoid chemically treated wood. It will decay faster but the chemicals won't leach into the ground and into our water supply.
4. I asked Marty to cover the bottom of the beds with chicken wire to keep animals from burrowing up through the beds. In retrospect this was an unnecessary step for us because our beds are on rock. But if you have garden critters that burrow, the chicken wire could be the solution for you.
5. We mixed the soil ourselves using organic products. Topsoil was the main ingredient with compost and manure added for drainage and nutrients. The hardest part of this job wasn't finding the right composition of soil but toting bags and bags of topsoil and rock. We filled out the spaces between the beds with bluestone rock that is indigenous to New York.
This was truly a labor of love. Watching the herbs thrive and the brilliant colors of the nasturtiums decorate the space outside my kitchen brings joy to my day. If you want to renew and rejevenate a section of your garden to grow your own herbs, I suggest giving a raised bed a go.