Having planned out the space for our allotment garden and cleared most of the weeds, we were now ready to tackle the beds and fencing. Luckily our children were on hand to help…
Raised beds: To raise or not to raise, that is the question?! We knew right from the start that we wanted to build raised beds, mostly because our allotment garden sits on a heavy clay soil and raising the beds would help with any drainage issues, but also because they’re easier to weed, there’s less bending over (slightly!), watering is more efficient and we could fill them with top-notch soil to get our growing season off to a flying start. Although raised beds would be an extra expense, we knew we’d also get a longer growing season and that eventually the outlay would repay itself in homegrown veg! Plus they’re really fun to play on….
I did lots of research into what sort of wood would be best for our raised beds, especially as we garden organically and didn’t want any chemicals leaching into the soil. Hardwoods, like oak, would obviously last longer, but they were super expensive. Chemically treated softwoods would also last a long time, but they were unsuitable for our organic allotment garden. In the end we chose to use an untreated softwood, which wouldn’t last as long, but would certainly be good for at least 10 years. Perfect!
I checked out all sorts of softwood planks from various timber yards, but the thicker ones were quite pricey and we really wanted substantial looking beds. Solution?…Scaffolding boards. They’re super strong and really good value for money.
We were aiming to recycle as much as possible and researched loads of 2nd hand scaffolding boards, but the ‘recycled versus longevity’ issue cropped up (obviously the older boards wouldn’t last as long), plus many recycled boards had an unknown chemical history! In the end we went with new scaffolding planks from a certified FSC and PEFC sustainable source, which cost around £3.50 p/m including delivery.
We were aiming to build six beds of various lengths, all 1.2m (4ft) wide and chose a very simple method of construction. We used small pieces of 2″x2″ wood to anchor the corners and screwed the planks into them…strong and cheap. All beds, whether raised or not, have an ideal width of around 1.2m (4ft), so that you can easily reach all your lovely veg and do the weeding without having to compact the soil by walking on it.
All in all it was a pretty quick and happy part of the allotment garden creation and one that I’d repeat again if I had to….but not for at least another 10 years!
Fencing: Of course we could have gone for post and wire fencing (that would certainly have been the simpler and cheaper option), but we got a bit excited about pretty picket fences!
To keep costs down we opted to buy all the bits separately – wooden posts, planks, palisades (the upright bits), nails, gate, hinges and met posts – and built it ourselves. You can buy fencing ‘panels’ ready assembled, but it costs a lot more and you have less choice. Rounded or pointy palisades? Gaps between palisades? Height of palisades? Length between posts? Building it was a very time-consuming job, but painting it was even worse! Who’s idea was THAT?…..
I really wanted to use an eco-friendly paint for the fence, but was horrified at the cost and couldn’t justify it for an allotment fence. My ‘Farrow & Ball’ dreams came to an abrupt end and I settled for Cuprinol Garden Shades in Willow, which is water-based and has a low VOC content.
I usually like painting, but this was a LOT of fiddly fence, made worse by the fact that we’d put it all together and attached ‘rabbit-proof’ chicken wire to the lower part with an embarrassing lack of foresight! In hindsight we should have painted (or even better, sprayed) the wood, before building the fence. Ah well, there’s always next time……
Coming up: Sheds and rhubarb…..stay tuned!