Sunday, 11 March 2007


We transformed our waterlogged back garden into a productive plot in just two days. With the use of paths and raised beds the work needed to keep it tidy won't take up the summer.

PIC. 1 The waterlogged garden before work commenced.
PIC. 2 With the help of the neighbour, the site was cleared.

PIC.3 The whole area weas covered with 6 inches of coarse sand.

PIC. 4 Detail of raised bed edges.

PIC.5 The new raised beds were laid out in the sand.

PIC.6 Weed block material was put down.

PIC.7 Lots of muck is needed to fill the beds.

PIC.8 Next, the wood chip went on to the paths.

PIC 9 Young plants flourish with in the heat of the raised beds.

PIC 10 An arial view shows the growth in just one month.

PIC.11 Time to concentrate on the details.

PIC 12 Even in winter the beds look attractive.


If you have a wet site or would like to grow plants and vegetables but dislike weeding, then raised beds are for you. They can be built quickly and cheaply without being too sore on your back. The back garden I am using as an example was a marsh when we started and because of the fact that the area was built on rock. This meant that there was no soak away for the water. Initially I dug a 1metre soak away and the water just sat in it and didn’t drain away. So we had no choice but to build up the garden. Here is a step-by-step account of the work that was needed to create a small productive plot.

Firstly we measured out the size of the site then came up with a workable plan on paper. We were very adventurous at the beginning, but it doesn’t matter if anything is left out as they can be added at a later date. We then decided what features were going to stay in the garden. This didn’t talk long as there were only two clothes line poles in the garden and nothing else apart from mud!

The existing garden was waterlogged for six months of the year (Pic. 1) The first thing to do when work started, was to clear the site of all of the rubbish and unwanted features. (pic.2)

The next step was to build the level of the garden up to allow water to drain away and also to get a level surface for the beds to sit on For this we used about five tonnes of coarse sand (pic.3)

We chose six foot by three foot (2mxIm) fencing panels for the bed structures; these are a manageable size for the beds as we can reach the middle of them with no effort when it comes to weeding. The planks were nailed together with the help of wooden blocks in the corners. (Pic.4) The wood has been pressure treated and should last at least five years hopefully more.

After the beds were constructed they were laid out on the sand. I painted them with a wood stain to match the fence and blend everything together. We chose to have a path running along the centre of the garden and we left at least two to three feet (0.75-1m) between the beds for access with the wheelbarrow and for weeding. We then put the weed block fabric down on the paths. The fabric pushes underneath the wood. This eliminates gaps where weeds can get a hold (pic. 6)

Now it was time to fill up the beds. I collected a few large trailer loads of good topsoil form a local builder. He was kind enough to give me this free of charge. Before this was used I put very generous amounts of well-rotted horse muck into the empty beds. The manure came from the stables at Inch Island and it is fabulous stuff (Pic.7). I also added all of the contents of the compost bins that were in the garden. I heaped the soil as it settles after a week or so. We also decided where the small patio areas were going to go. I didn’t cement them in, as they are not going to get heavy use and we planned to get the shed put near the fence, which we have done, and the slabs were easily lifted. Wood chip was then put on the paths, we decided on wood chip in preference to gravel, as it was softer on the feet. (pic. 8)

Now we were ready for planting. Although the area was predominantly for vegetables, we though that room should still be made for flowers. Especially ones that attracted ladybirds and other beneficial insects into the garden. Seeds that were planted soon shot up in the sunshine and heat stored in the soil of the raised beds (pic 9)

Now it was time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour as the garden is very low maintenance. We added a few inexpensive features such as chairs and a small container with water plants. We also filled up some containers with specimen plants for a bit of height in the garden. After two months the garden was really starting to takes shape (pic 10). After a while we were able to concentrate on the finer details of the garden. (pic 11) Because we have grown over wintering vegetables such as broccoli and kale we will get winter interest. The birds will enjoy the feeder that we put out on the cold mornings (pic 12)

The garden is a work in progress and we try to improve it all of the time. Although it is only a small area, the costs can still rise. That is why the plan is a great idea. We can dig it out once a year and see what needs adding next.

You might be surprised to learn that all of the materials came to well under €300, with enough money to spare to buy some seeds and a bird feeder. We did all of the labour with the help of a neighbour, and all of the goods were sourced locally in Inishowen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very informative. I made my raised bed very tall and they dried out too quickly in summer.

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