Raised bed building

I wanted a spot to put beans that was completely safe from critters above and below. 1 inch chicken wire was not doing the trick, and apparently nothing in the garden is as absolutely irresistible as green beans. So, I ordered some hardware cloth and aluminum screen, scrounged lumber, and went to work.

Hardware cloth is pretty much ridiculously expensive, so I didn’t really want to put it on the bottom of the box to keep out whatever burrows around here and eats all the roots – gophers, I suppose. Because I’m a materials engineer and had to take multiple thermodynamics, kinetics, and corrosion classes, I know that aluminum should be stable from corrosion in a certain pH range which is about what I’d like to keep the raised bed for gardening, so we’ll see how it works. The native dirt it’s sitting on is pretty basic though, so we’ll see how long the aluminum screen I installed lasts.
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I don’t know how well this shows up in this picture, but I basically just built a box with six supports that go down about 8 inches to keep things from settling too much. The wood I used for the sides was what used to line our front porch and is pretty warped to start with, so I’m not sure how necessary the supports were. I stapled the aluminum screen on the bottom, then spent a long time with a shovel and pickax (caliche is the worst) trying to get the box relatively level.
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I started with a layer of cardboard. In places where things grow naturally, people do this to keep weeds down, I did it in hopes it would retain some water.
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Then I put a layer of pine needles on top of the cardboard. I’m hoping they’ll help retain water as well as providing some acidity as they decompose.
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Next I put a layer of dirt, then a layer of compost. The pile I started last fall had decomposed enough to cover about half of the bed, and I used some from the pile that we made over last summer to do the rest.
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I put another layer of dirt, and bought three cubic feet of steer manure for the top layer. My eight year old friend who came to visit earlier this week because he had an unexpected day off from school mixed it in for me. Too bad I didn’t get a picture of him mixing.
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These covers took me quite a while to make because I was determined not to buy any lumber and spent a lot of quality time with the table saw playing sawmill to get pieces the right size. That is $41 worth of hardware cloth. I couldn’t use the window screen because I want bees to be able to get in to pollinate, and I know by experience that 1″ chicken wire doesn’t keep out the bean eaters, whoever it might be. Oh well, this better provide me with years of beans for my effort and expense.
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