Raised beds at the barn

We’ve been gradually building these two beds, about 5 metres long by 1.3, by 300mm high. I invented a good way to install hoops removably – pillars made from a rolled up section of chicken wire, wrapped around a plastic disposable drink cup filled with a weak mix of plaster of paris and sand just to give the cup rigidity. The cup is dug out later when the ferro plaster has hardened. Then 32mm black polythene (‘Alkathene’) pipe is cut and placed in the holes. I have set some hoops in plaster of paris to try – but could just sit them in i guess… tests will go on. Plastic covers in winter will make beds into large cloches.

Puppies loved playing in in the bare soil as it gets wheelbarrowed in…

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raised beds at barn

From the mezzanine  window… Some soil up to final level, already planted out by Raewyn! Note how the far bed isn’t as darkly stained – the first was brushed over a bit more and maybe the solution of iron sulphate was a bit stronger?We were rushing away and i may have been inconsistent… Haste makes waste. However my sister prefers to paint the beds red to match her barn, so I’ve left it until a month or so when it will take acrylic paint. We painted some of our raised beds in Kaiwaka years ago and the paint is as good as new still…

Overall, the work of making these permanent beds was not too much at all. Only one coat on these beds, and one strip of chicken wire, folded once lengthwise and rolled over at the top by about 120 mm.

You just have to plod and do it… Then it’s there for good, as a garden bed should be – long after we are gone!

Ferrocement raised beds really are great!

I’ve just done another one at the Story Ark, out the front this time. About 7 metres long, one-sided as it is against the front of the Ark. Framework was minimalist, and one length of 13mm mesh chickenwire folded over it lengthwise, and laced with thin (.7 or somm) tie wire. As per the book fantastic ferrocement of course! Oh and the ends of the framework I stapled onto the wood of the Ark, and plastered right up to the wood. I will line the Ark side of the bed with black plastic to prevent the soil from rotting the wood.

It only took two mixer-loads to plaster it – about 40kg of cement (or two 25kg bags at most), and one coat (round-ended trowel finish) was sufficient. done in an afternoon (by yours truly alone). Then lightly sanded with about 60 grit and stained a couple of days later (can do it same day – it works apparently by chemical reaction with uncured plaster, at least not fully cured) with garden-store-standard iron sulphate, strong solution put on with a rag, two applications to make sure. Apart from keeping under cover for a few days to maximise plaster curing, that’s it!

I grubbed a shallow (maybe 50mm) trench for the framework to discourage the invasive kikuyu grass we have here courtesy of a mad council decades ago…

new raised bed in front of ark

 

This finish goes darker when wet, as you see in the photo. I suppose I used three quarters of a kilo of the iron sulphate – about NZ $5 depending on the garden store you go to.

The mega-fibre II I used to get for plaster isnt available here now, and I havent sourced the Sika fibre here yet, so I improvised: I chopped up some old polypropylene rope into about 30mm lengths, rubbed it a bit to loosen all the fibres, and added it to the mix. It was coarser than the other but plastered fine, and did the job of helping the thick coat not to sag.

I thoroughly recommend ferrocement for serious raised beds. It’s probably about as quick as wood for the same height, or at least if you count the lifetime cost of wood, which rots in proportion to your success in filling it with a fertile soil bursting with microorganisms! Of course, you can make a wooden one then line it with plastic, but why go there when there’s ferro, which will outlast all wooden outdoor structures…

An Elven arched raised bed garden in Gisborne

I’ve been recovering from an intensive two weeks making this (I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but it is at my daughter Anna’s partner’s house on the hill. The doglet is our Poppy’s pup, Honey. She kept up a constant ‘throw the ball for me’ routine every evening when Anna came home. The cappuccino maker was good, and the weather mostly kind, though the heat and the drying out of fresh plaster was a problem). Overall I think it worked really well. I had to fly back before the scraping and carving was all done, and the sealing and painting. Marco is apparently doing all that as I write. Will upload photos of painted and planted gardens when i get them!