Raised beds for veg

Discussion in 'Garden Projects and DIY' started by Graham B, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. Graham B

    Graham B Gardener

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    There's a kind of "dead" corner between our conservatory and the end of the house, so I'm building raised beds there. After a successful summer last year getting my son into growing veg, that's the plan.

    The area will be divided into quarters with a path in the middle, so we can reach over into the beds. My plan was always to build with sleepers for walls, on their sides for extra height. For bonus complexity points though, the boundary had to be curved to look right, which is going to be interesting. The lawn side of the beds is also lower (by one sleeper height) than the patio behind.

    Philosophically I object to doing things twice. So it's going to be done properly. :)

    I'll try to keep the thread updated as things progress...
     
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    • Graham B

      Graham B Gardener

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      20190331_180825.jpg
      Basic design on the ground, with most of the shuttering in place for the concrete footings under the sleepers. I'm going structural with this - I don't want it falling apart.
       
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      • Graham B

        Graham B Gardener

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        Sleepers bought. I've gone for oak, because I want it to last.

        I don't want to replace them too soon either, so some kind of treatment was in order. Doing research, there's actually very few good wood treatment solutions for raised beds where you want to grow veg.

        What kept coming up again and again though was linseed oil. Doing more research, mixes of linseed oil, turpentine and beeswax seem to have been traditional wood treatment. I found a beekeeper had a useful mix for exterior wood, so I'm giving something based on that a try. The mix is 5l of raw linseed oil (from a horse supplies site), to 4l of turps substitute (because B&Q do it in 4l bottles), to 100g of beeswax. Melt the wax, mix with warm turpentine, mix the results with warmwlinseed oil, and it all just worked.

        Top tip for this - the mixture works best when warm. It's a bit gloopy when cold, but it flows and soaks in beautifully when it's warmer. So I've developed the Back Yard Bain Marie. One cheap plastic bucket filled with hot water (topped up with a kettle of hot water every hour or so), and another bucket on top with your mixture in. Works a treat!

        One thing I learned ages ago was that if you don't get wood treated before you build, you can't get to the mating faces afterwards. So I've given it all a good first coat now, and it looks great.

        I covered 33 2m sleepers with a single coat, with a little left at the end. I'll try with 200g of beeswax for the next coat. I've no idea how it'll last, but I'll just have to see. Total cost, £20 for the oil, £5 for the turps, and £3 for the beeswax. Not bad compared to the cost of regular woodstain anyway.

        Before and after on the wood.

        20190414_154841.jpg
         
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        • WeeTam

          WeeTam Total Gardener

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        • Graham B

          Graham B Gardener

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          Thanks Tam.
           
        • Graham B

          Graham B Gardener

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          Everything I've read about linseed oil said people had problems with it leaving a sticky finish. I've no idea what they did differently to me, or whether they were applying it with a ladle instead of a bundle of rags. 24 hours later, my sleepers are ready for a second coat, no signs of any stickiness, and I'd be more than happy to sit on them. If I'd known it'd be that easy, I would have bought double quantities.
           
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          • Sheal

            Sheal Total Gardener

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            That's a good project you've got going there Graham. :blue thumb: I've not used linseed oil but I would imaging it's applied sparingly.

            Seeing the curves on the bed I presume you will have to mitre the sleepers?
             
          • Graham B

            Graham B Gardener

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            Thanks Sheal.

            Not that sparing with the mixture. I just smeared it on with the rags, dribbled a load down any splits (don't want it to rot from the inside) and then wiped over the surface to make sure there weren't any drips or puddles. Being warm, it ran nicely and soaked in nicely. Maybe other people have been using it cold, or just neat oil without the turps to pull it into the wood? Don't know.

            Yes, I'll be mitring the sleepers. Being an engineer, I'm on good terms with Pythagoras and his henchmen Sin, Cos and Tan, and I do have a circular mitre saw in the garage. The sleepers are not grade A so some have dodgy bits at the ends and a couple have a bit of a bend, but that just means I can use those ones for the curves and chuck the dodgy bits.
             
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            • LoveSunshine

              LoveSunshine Gardener

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              Hey @Graham B this looks excellent! Great you are doing a super proper job! The sleepers look great! Really lovely colour and most interesting how you’ve treated them! Can’t wait to see the finished project!

              Just a thought - sure you’ve considered this and like it more the way you’re doing it... what about having the path in a regular cross not diagonal?! You’d have bigger beds, need fewer sleepers no need to mitre anything! etc the curve looks great too
               
            • Sheal

              Sheal Total Gardener

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              Keep us posted on progress please Graham. :)
               
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              • Graham B

                Graham B Gardener

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                Thanks! My original plan was a normal cross, but my girlfriend suggested diagonal. It does reduce the area a little, but I do think it looks better, and we don't need that much veg. :)
                 
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