With the success of my front garden and metal feed trough planter, I began thinking about how nice it would be to have a large garden where I could plant many kinds of flowers. I realized that we already had the perfect spot, it just needed some work to prepare: our abandoned raised bed, originally built years ago for a one-time vegetable garden.
Above is a side view of our 20' x 20' raised bed. Split into three long beds, I am able to easily reach to the middle of each section. The retaining walls were made with bamboo poles. They aren't fancy but they work very well and didn't cost anything extra. The perimeter is fenced with 7.5' x 100 poly deer fencing, very durable and strong.
Transforming the Weed Patch into a Raised Bed Again
In order to have a large garden, I would have to return the raised bed to a pristine, empty plot again, and the mere thought of all that work had me running in the other direction every time I considered the idea. 20' x 20', choked with weeds? Are you KIDDING? I could think of a billion things I'd rather do. No, a zillion things.
Tricking Myself to Do a Hateful Chore
I devised a sneaky plan for myself. I ordered too many spring bulbs. I did it on purpose because I'd HAVE to pull some weeds out of the raised bed to plant some of those bulbs. You know that saying about washing a clean spot on something that's completely filthy? "Oh no, I've made a clean spot. Now I need to clean the whole thing." Well, I know that if only I could get started, I might find out that it wasn't impossible. And that's just what happened. I was forced to pull weeds from a strip down one side of the raised bed. I hated every minute, but I didn't have a choice, and in the end, it only took a couple of hours. However, after the experience, I was convinced there was no way in the world I'd do the other 90% of the bed. Not a chance. Did I mention how much I loathe weeding?
Wildlife: 1 Planted Bulbs: 0
Well, Spring eventually rolled around and the bulbs began to sprout...and one by one they were eaten. Not that I was surprised, since I've never had a single tulip or crocus survive, but it was still annoying. I thought about the deer fencing that lay on the ground in heaps around the perimeter, and remembered when we'd had it in place many years ago, and how it kept all the deer out. I wondered if we could put the fencing up again, but by that time the bulbs were all gone, and I was left with two allium bulbs and several shriveled tulip leaves.
More Sneaky Plans
It was March now, and I couldn't stop thinking about planting flower seeds. I'd already tossed some more poppy seeds in the front garden and the metal trough, but they were already full of plants and I wanted different kinds as well. I felt frustrated, so I teased myself by going to ebay and looking at all the seeds for sale. So many listings for flower seeds and so inexpensive! I let myself get completely crazy with excitement over all those flower seeds, and then I told myself, "If you weed a section of the raised bed, you can buy seeds to plant there. But, you can't buy them until you've cleared a space."
Every Challenge Begins with the First Step
The next day I went out to the raised bed to take a serious look. What a horror…it was the stuff of nightmares. Mats of grass and weeds of all kinds, solid and forboding. Totally impenatrable! Ok, well…maybe not that bad. I looked over at the area where I'd planted the bulbs. There were some weeds I'd missed, but I could see the dirt. Trying to psyche myself up, I thought, "If I can clear that much space, I bet I could clear a patch that size on this side. And if I can do that, I could buy some seeds!" I could give it a try. "Just pull weeds for 15 minutes and see what that gets you." I sighed and started by grabbing a clump of grass and yanking. Out came the grass, and an enormous clump of dirt. "Oh no...I can't just throw away this dirt, I'll empty the bed!" I wacked the clump on the bed, and some of the dirt dislodged. Good enough. Over my shoulder went the grass. I spent the next 15 minutes pulling weeds, wacking clods of dirt and roots, and then chucking them over my shoulder. Finally, I stood up and looked at what I'd done.
A small, ragged rectangle of dirt, about two feet by four feet, was clearly visable, looking like someone had taken a pair of rough scissors and cut out a piece of the weed carpet. "Hmm, that's pretty cool! I cleaned a spot!" Laughing, I stood back to see the whole bed, and then groaned at the reality in front of me. "It's just so BIG. 15 minutes and I only got that far..." Sweating in the heat of the afternoon sun and feeling discouraged, I shook my head and went back inside.
The next day, I started in the morning when it was cooler, and I brought my ipod with an audio book to listen to. I marched over to the spot next to where I'd pulled weeds yesterday, turned on my story, and started yanking weeds. It was exhausting after a while, but I enjoyed the story I was listening to, and as I worked, I started figuring out better ways to remove the dirt from the clods, and how to be faster and more efficient. After 20 minutes I had to stop. Pulling weeds is just so awful! But this time I stood back to look at what I'd done and well, I actually made some progress! I'd cleared a space about 2 feet by about 8 feet and was getting close to finishing that side! I smiled and thought to myself, "You know what? I might just be able to do this. I don't know if I can, and I'm not making any promises, but it might actually be possible."
For the next couple of weeks, I went out every day for at least 20 minutes and pulled weeds. I figured out a good way to get the dirt out of the clods efficiently and I moved along at a pace that made progress without making me crazy, and I stopped when I'd had enough for the day. I showed Steve one day and he was totally stunned at what I'd accomplished. He hates pulling weeds at least as much as I do and was really proud of me for taking on this task.
Finally, the day came that I cleared the last spot. Pulling the last clump out and removing the dirt, I tossed the nearly dirt-free weeds out of the bed, took a step back and just stared. What a monumental pain in the behonkus. But what an achievement! I did it!!! 20' x 20' of cleared bed stared back at me and I smiled from ear to ear. I knew there was a lot more to do, but the hard part was done. I had beaten the Weed Monster!
Next: Preparing and Deer-Proofing the Raised Bed