Making the Bed — A Raised Bed, that is!

We have a grand experiment in gardening going on over here at Wildefern Farm. Tomatoes, basil, pak choi, kale, and lettuces are growing in containers — out front in full sun and out back in the kitchen patio garden. We’ve built gardens filled with flowers, gardenia bushes, rose bushes, more lettuces, pak choi, kale, and tomatoes in the front dooryard. This week, we tilled a 42′ x 9′ swatch of land for vine-grown vegetables and wildflowers. And we recently built a raised bed garden which, if you stick with me, I’ll tell you more about…

Making the bed!

We had ordered cedar boards for the bed with other lumber we needed for the farm a few weeks ago. However, the cedar never arrived. Because our builder left us with partially used boards, posts, plywood, etc. (at our request), we decided to “make do” with what we had on hand. These boards are heavier than the cedar would have been, but I think that’s going to turn out to be a blessing with all the soil I’ve packed into the bed. Bill even found enough scrap lumber from our picket fences that he recently built, to add a shelf below the bed — perfect for pot storage along with other doodads one uses when gardening. If nothing else, this time in quarantine has allowed us to focus on getting projects done around here!

Landscape fabric lining

Once the bed was built and ready for planting, we lined the bottom and sides with landscape fabric which will help contain the soil, but will also let water drip through so that our bed does not become a swimming pool when it rains.

The soil here on the farm is clay, clay and more clay. There are times that it feels like we’re living atop an earthenware platter. However, there is a pile of topsoil that our builder also left behind that, once we dug deep within its core, contains dark brown, semi-rich soil.

Topsoil added first

That topsoil was the first layer to be added to the bed. Next, I added a layer of compost. Day One on the farm, I started a compost pile. However, it hasn’t had a chance to “cook” much yet, so we had a truckload of compost delivered from a local landscape supply company.

Layer of compost

Speaking of compost (and who doesn’t enjoy a little poop talk?), about a month ago, we got a free truckload of horsesh*t (er…manure) from a farm nearby. The owner loaded it into our truck bed with his bucket loader, and I shoveled the pile into my compost heap when we got it home. That rich, black manure makes up the top layer of this new raised bed. And even better, it’s wriggling with earthworms!

Top layer of horse manure

Once the soil layers were built, I tucked two tomato plants, three pepper plants, a basil plant, and four or five bulbs of wild chives safely into the bed. I purchased the plants recently from Honey Bee Hills Farm at the Fearrington Farmers’ Market. The grower was filled with pride as she handed me the box of seedlings, telling me she hand-picked each one for me.


These plants started out life on a loving farm, and they are now snuggling their roots in my hand-formed soil. Each morning, the warm North Carolina sun shines down on them until just after midday, when the farmhouse shields them from the blazing afternoon sunshine.

Yellow Pepper

I can’t wait for these plants to bear fruit. The love that was put into them from farmer to me will surely make them taste all the sweeter.

Park’s Whopper Tomato

What are you growing this year? Any tips you’d like to share? Any questions you have about gardening? I’m no expert…by far!…but I am enjoying this grand gardening experiment!

Happy Growing!

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