My desire is to go all out and create raised beds. There are several reasons for this. One, I have tilled in portions of my yard before, and fighting the weeds is quite a chore. Two, I can be confident that the soil is free of contaminants if I add it myself. Three, raised beds are visually appealing, and I desire for the backyard to be an enjoyable oasis.
If you are like me, the idea of creating a bunch of raised beds is rather intimidating and expensive sounding. Well, I’ve done some researching and the cost is not nearly as expensive as I feared. If I’m doing my calculations correctly (always a risk with urban farmer types like myself), I will need 77’ of lumber for the borders. In order to stay away from chemical leaching into the plants, I want to use untreated lumber. Sure, it will decompose over time, but conventional wisdom says that it will be at least 5 years before any noticeable deterioration occurs. If I swallow the jump in price and purchase cedar lumber, it may be closer to 10 years before the rotting begins. However, I can purchase fir, pine, or spruce for less than half the price of cedar, so the difference in the time it will last is not worth the difference in price. I can get all the lumber I need in the cheaper, untreated woods for only $50 total (and that’s assuming I can’t salvage any recycled woods). The other cost is in the top soil. I should be able to fill all my raised beds with 2 cubic yards of topsoil. That’s only $44 from a local farm. So, for less than $100 dollars, I can build all raised beds and ensure that the soil is uncontaminated.
Now, that doesn’t take care of the fact that the task of building raised beds is rather daunting. For around $30, I can rent a sod cutter, get rid of all the useless grass (arguably just a bed of weeds) that is in my backyard, throw a bunch of mulch down for paths, and get down to the business of planting. This is very tempting, especially considering that I won’t be able to begin everything until late May. And since I don't live on a site that is likely to have large levels of soil contamination, the risk is really very low. Sure, it may not be certifiably organic without paying for all sorts of soil tests, but it will be more organic than what I would purchase at the supermarket, as I will tend to the soil and plants organically from here forward. However, the sod cutter is a two person job, which means I would need to enlist another member of my household to help…which could be a bigger task than building the raised beds! Hmmm…I’ll keep you posted on this one.