Some people just naturally have green thumbs and the ability to make anything grow under any kind of circumstance. I, on the other hand, have two very black thumbs. How bad you may ask? Well, if you are a gardener you know that people who grow zucchini often end up with so much they are practically begging people to take them off their hands. This black-thumbed gardener, however, has two zucchini plants and so far this summer only one zucchini has threatened to grow while all the others have started and promptly molded, turned brown, or fallen off the stems. That’s pretty sad, wouldn’t you say? best elevated garden beds
Early this past winter while flirting with thoughts of living off the edibles in my garden, I read an article about keyhole gardening. These are basically raised bed gardens in the shape of a keyhole, exactly as the name says. The gardener stands in the longish section of the keyhole and is able to reach all parts of the keyhole within an arm’s distance from all sides of the raised bed. The writer spoke of how this style of gardening has helped many people in parts of Africa feed and support themselves. I thought to myself that if they can do it in arid, hot regions, why shouldn’t I be able to accomplish something similar here in Alaska, home of all things humongous?
Since it was January, the dead of winter and months still ahead to fantasize about giant green zucchini, squash, green beans, and the like, I continued my research. I read about a woman who did something called “lasagna gardening”. She placed leaves, newspaper, grass clippings and dirt in layers which eventually broke down into compost.
There are different heights of raised bed gardens, probably as many different heights as there are different people and different tastes. My house is toward the bottom of a slope. My garden area consists mainly of clay which does not drain well and stays wet most of the planting and growing season. My attempts at low raised beds resulted in poor root growth for anything I planted, while grass and chickweed thrived, suffocating what few edibles did grow.
I decided to do a combination of the keyhole and lasagna style gardens. Pallets being discarded by stores around town became the walls of the keyhole garden. With the help of my long-suffering husband, we measured the area and then dug down approximately a foot into the clay to insert the standing pallets. The clay, incidentally, does a fantastic job of being glue, both for me when I stood in it shoveling and chopping, and to hold the pallets steady. Once the pallets were in place, with braces nailed at the corners for added support, we laid weed mat at the bottom of the bed. Then came all the fun stuff. Truckloads of black soil purchased from a place in town, wheelbarrows of long-dead leaves, brown glass clippings, truckloads of goat compost from a friend with more than she knew what to do with, newspapers, and cardboard boxes. We made layer after layer, at one point actually trying to keep track but eventually just trying to remember not to put two layers of the same thing in at once. I thought it was simply beautiful when it was finally layered to within six inches of the top.
At a height of four feet, and a distance of approximately 1.5 arm length from every side, it is very comfortable to work. I planted mint, catnip, pansies, several other flowers that my 7-year-old son chose, and strawberries. Oh my goodness! I thought it was beautiful before, but nothing compared to the bounty sprouting up from that layered mass of recycled materials and dirt. Everything I planted grew, and I did very little to help it along other than an occasional watering and oo-ing and ah-ing over it at every possible opportunity.