Growing Vegetables in Raised Beds
When I decided to make a vegetable garden the most appropriate place was an area with heavy clay soil which was very difficult to work, very sticky and heavy when wet and it turned to concrete and cracked when the weather was dry in the summer. As a last resort in order to grow my own vegetables I decided to make some raised beds in the hope I could improve and manage the soil better.
So one Easter I managed to talk my husband into helping me build four 4 x 8ft timber raised beds. Once the beds were built we emptied the contents of the composters - I have two, one is just made from scraps of timber and isn't particularly pretty but since it's hidden in the back corner behind the greenhouse it doesn't need to be a thing of beauty and the other is the type that looks a bit like a Dalek that my dad got for me from the local council, and some left over bags of compost from the previous year and worked it all in as best we could. I planted a row of strawberries and some cauliflower plants and sowed Lettuce and Swiss Chard in one bed, two types of Runner Beans in another (far too many as it happens!) and early potatoes in the other two. We had good results with most things, the potatoes were excellent, the beans were a bit slow to get started but once they got going we had beans coming out of our ears! The cauliflowers were good too and the chard looked great but unfortunately nobody liked it so I haven't grown it again! I didn't really get much pest damage that first year but the next year cabbage white butterflies found my brassicas, I went to the plot one morning to find they were covered in caterpillars and the leaves were looking more like my grandma's lace doily!
At this point I realised that I needed some sort of support for fleece and insect netting and decided to put in some permanent posts and this system still works quite well.
From then on we kept adding compost, the contents of spent grow-bags and summer containers and plenty of Organic Extra, the soil is now beautifully friable and very easy to work, we still get quite a few stones coming to the surface of the back two beds which I suspect is a legacy from the builders, but I just rake them up when the beds are empty.
I have three chickens now and they had the run of the beds during winter when they are mostly empty and this spring I haven't had to do any weeding or digging prior to sowing and planting, I'm hoping most of the slugs have been gobbled up too. However now I've planted the beds up again the chooks are banned - I just use canes and some green shade netting as a barrier and that keeps them off the beds completely - so they turn their attention to the flower borders instead! But hey-ho they give me an egg a day each and are so tame and friendly (always under my feet!) so I'm not complaining.