Preparing to build a bed...


Long time no see! This week I’m here to talk about my preparations to build a raised bed and a bit about seedling starting.

As I mentioned last time, I have some tomato plants started already, but it’s about time to start a few others now as well. Most seed packets will tell you how long in advance to start them if you want to give them a head start before transplanting them outside (and some should just be direct seeded after the last frost, or earlier). Tomatoes, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and peppers can all be started eight to ten weeks in advance, which is what I did. Last week I should have started some cucumbers and summer squash. The last frost date here is usually around the third week in June.

I’ve transplanted my tomato plants into bigger pots, and they’ve grown pretty big! I happen to have two windows on either side of my seedlings, which means I can open the windows during the day and get plenty of wind blowing over them. This is important because it gets the plants accustomed to being blown over while still not getting the full brunt of the Newfoundland weather. They’ll grow stronger and won’t suffer as much shock when they’re transplanted outdoors later on. If you don’t have a setup like mine, you either need to have a fan blowing over the plants, or start bringing them outside during the day and bringing them in at night. Putting them outside is ideal, I’d think, but impossible for me.

Linseed oil and wood.

I’ve started preparing to build my raised bed… I wish it was done right now! If it was, I’d have lots of cool-weather crops going, like kale and Swiss chard. They can survive the frost. Alas, I’m still behind. I couldn’t find any used wood to make a bed out of, so I went to buy some new lumber. Pressure treated wood is not considered safe for gardening, and you also want to be careful of lead based paint if you happen to be using recovered wood with paint on it. I bought some untreated cheap (I forget which kind) wood and treated it with raw Linseed oil. It’s cheap, you can find that at a home hardware store (lots of places seemed to be out of it, though), and it doesn’t have any harmful effects. I have also read about people using boiled linseed oil, but I’m not sure of the difference in protection of the wood. Read the directions concerning flammability on the Linseed oil bottle! I payed for some 2"x10", and ended up with 2"x12" by accident, but you only need your bed to be 6 inches high, as that's as high as the soil needs to be. Mine is a little overboard.

I also picked up some weed barrier to put under the bed. There’s quite a few weeds in the garden I’m using, so I’d like to keep them out of the bed if possible :). You just lay it underneath the bed and soil. Some alternatives are about 15 layers of newspaper (vegetable based ink), or some layers of cardboard. This can also protect against absorption of lead if you have lots of lead in your soil.

I’m planning on gardening with the Square Foot Gardening method. It’s a method that emphasizes raised beds, organizes your plants within square foot sections instead of in rows, and results in higher yields per square foot. The original book on square foot gardening was written by Mel Bartholomew. His website, with tons of information, is For a workshop on square foot and container gardening come to the first St. John’s Farmer’s Market this Saturday, June 6th. The market is from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM at the Lion's Chalet (behind the Curling Club, Bonaventure/Mayor) and Costa Kasimos will be giving the workshop at 11:00 AM.

Ok, I’ll be back to detail the building of my raised bed, soon!