The next step on my way to Square Foot gardening was to prep the garden plot to ready it for the raised beds. It was a very wet spring and it rained a lot during this preparation work. The soil was saturated and very gummy. I chose not to till the soil. I simply used a hoe, spade and rake to hack away at weeds and to roughly level the plot. Once I had the plot weed free and level, I covered the plot with weed barrier, pinning it down with U-shaped wire staples made for the purpose.
I already had purchased my materials and on rainy days I assembled the 3x6 boxes in the garage. These boxes would fit in my SUV so they were built in the garage and installed in the garden to help anchor down the weed barrier. These boxes needed a little extra consideration, since the material was 5/4 and had channels molded into them. To reinforce the corners and allow material for screws to bite into, I bought composite balusters and cut them into 6 inch pieces. You can see the details below. This method produced sturdy boxes that for a 6 foot length were adequately rigid and did not bow.
Five of the six 4x4 boxes were built from 2x6 fir framing lumber, not pressure treated lumber. The 4x4 assembled boxes would not fit into the SUV, so partial assembly was done in the garage, with final assembly at the garden. Eight foot lumber was sawed in half, then the ends were marked with a square. Three pilot holes were drilled and decking screws were installed until flush. Components were hauled to the garden, then assembled on the lawn outside the garden. A tip is to bring along a small sheet of plywood to provide a flat and square surface to assemble the corners of the boxes.
After being assembled, the beds were placed in the garden on top of the weed barrier. In his book, Mel recommends placing a square of weed barrier under the bed. Since I had covered the whole plot with weed barrier, I did not do this. Hindsight says maybe I should have stapled another square of landscape fabric to the bottom of each box, just to keep the precious Mel’s Mix from leaking out of the box.
The pictures above detail activity that took place in early May. At this point, I had to leave on a two week trip to Missouri to visit family and attend a college reunion. I did not install the Suncast box I purchased because it was too light weight and costly enough that I thought it might "disappear.” When I returned, I installed the Suncast bed in the garden in preparation for installing the Mel’s Mix and getting on with planting the garden. The paths between beds were then covered with wood chips.