Q. I’m trying to avoid pressure treated wood, but cedar is so expensive. What kind of lumber did you use?
A. Yes, please avoid pressure treated wood, which contains toxic chemicals that leach into the soil, and your plants. We used rough-hewn, 2-inch-thick, local hemlock from a nearby lumber mill. We know we’ll have to replace our boxes as the wood breaks down, but their thickness should stave that off for quite a few years. They’ve held up so well through the first three winters that we’re already planning on being buried in them (eventually.)
Q. How tall are they, what are their dimensions, and did you use any internal braces to keep the boxes from collapsing?
A. They’re 18 inches high, 4′ X 6′, and no, they have no braces. With the thick wood and heavy nails they can withstand leaning, kneeling, and the occasional frustrated kick when the cabbage moths show up.
Q. What did you use for weed suppressant ground cover?
A. Well, confession time….we used landscape fabric under the gravel pathways between the beds. We know, we know, it’s not the most environmentally conscious choice. If we were re-installing today, we’d probably forgo the fabric. The detritus from spilled soil and decaying plants builds up quickly anyway, and the weeds sprout just fine on top of the fabric (as weeds will do.) Lately we’ve looking at investing in a flamethrower. Seriously. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and trying to keep things tidy for visitors isn’t easy. One other option is to simply allow just enough room between beds for a push mower to pass, and let the grass grow.
Q. What about irrigation?
A. We sank a few 4X4 posts into the ground and mounted sprinklers on them. They are connected to hoses which run to a pumped well. Overhead watering isn’t good for all plants, though, and can lead to fungus and mildews on tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squash and others. So we plant those varieties out of range of the sprinklers and rely on soaker hoses for them. We use a timer since sometimes we’re in the city for extended periods. (If not easily removed, all hoses must be drained completely for winter storage.)