Home & Garden 2012: Freeze, Gopher
Why raised beds are paramount to a well-tended – and well-defended – garden.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
here’s nothing quite as frustrating as spending hours of diligent work and fists fulls of cash on a humble home vegetable garden, only to see the literal fruits of your labor nibbled, stripped or – in the worst case – utterly devoured.
It was precisely this scenario that had me cursing, then launching a watering can skyward in absolute fury during a routine backyard garden visit. The salad mix I’d planted weeks before had been the star of my humble plot, and now there was nothing left but light green nubs where wide, healthy leaves once shone against dark soil.
Small pawprints throughout the bed were all the perpetrator left behind, and that was all I needed to finger a culprit. After all, I’d been warned about the crop-killing critter months before.
“Raised beds” was all the advice a seasoned gardener and friend had given me when I mentioned starting a vegetable garden. “And make sure you cover the bottom in gopher wire.”
Mitsugu Mori, owner of Seaside Garden Center, verified my friend’s sage advice on a recent visit. And he explained the other benefits of planting in raised beds (other than keeping produce safe from ground-dwelling rodents.)
“It’s just easy,” Mori says. The process of turning soil and changing the garden during the growing season is much easier in a raised planter.
Any serious gardener will agree that “feeding” plants is one of the most important aspects of a healthy and productive vegetable-growing operation. But in order for the plants to feed, they need soil loaded with properly broken down, ready-to-use nutrients. According to Mori, a raised bed gives you more control over your soil, which gives more control over your plants’ nutrient intake and results in higher yield.
Beds also facilitate better water drainage, are aesthetically pleasing and are invaluable to older, infirm or handicapped gardeners who may not have access to plants low to the ground.
It’s the last of these examples that prompted Warren Knox, then 16, to build his first garden box for his aging, garden-loving grandfather. When he saw how much his invention helped, Knox started building the boxes commercially.
Now in his late 50s and based out of Scotts Valley, Knox is still building and selling raised garden boxes in conjunction with his roofing business.
“The whole idea is proper ergonomics: gardening off the ground and making it easy,” Knox says.
The boxes range in size from a small 1-by-3-foot “Prince” all the way up to a sizable 4-by-8-foot “King” and can be broken down and shipped anywhere. Knox says his boxes are also a great learning tool for children, and has installed Knox Boxes in elementary schools throughout Santa Cruz.
His company builds the boxes on stands that lift them completely off the ground, meaning gardeners in wheelchairs or using walkers can easily tend to their plants. But the cost can be prohibitive. The 2-by-6-foot “Balcony” box runs just under $500.
A driven do-it-yourselfer, on the other hand, can buy all the materials for a lower-standing, 3-by-5-foot raised bed for under $60 and have it assembled in an hour with just a few simple tools.
“I got into roofing in 1980, which is a mainstay, but my passion is the box,” Knox says.
And budding gardeners, it could be yours, too. A raised bed will save you backaches by bringing the garden up to you, and heartaches by keeping unwanted rodents from dining buffet-style on your hard-earned crops.
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