Raised Beds

To clear pasture we are removing trees by the dozen, and fortunately for us it is a new forest with the vast majority of trees being less than 6-8 inches in diameter. When we cut down and buck a tree, we separate the wood into four categories:Mulchable – branches and really small saplings (no bigger than an inch or so in diameter) go into the wood chipper and provide us with an abundant source of mulch. We purchased an affordable electric wood chipper and have been using it the last two weekends. Despite it’s low price tag so far it has more than met our expectations and will soon pass the point where it would have paid itself off in terms of how much we would have spent on purchasing bags of mulch (while you can get it much cheaper in bulk, for those of us without a vehicle that can handle such hauling bags would have been our only option).Pole Sized – saplings and straight branches too big for the mulcher but too small to use as sides for raised beds (more on that in a bit). We get a good many of these. The larger ones will make borders for things like flower beds and such while the thinner ones will be used to make trellises at a later date.Raised Bed Sized – these are our true prizes. We make our raised beds 5×10 so without these we would have had to spend a fortune on lumber. We leave the bark on and cut them to the correct size then lay them down directly on the ground and prop them up behind with stones we get from digging out dirt for the raised beds.Rest of them – this is our category where we lump all the wood that will not (for whatever reason) make it into the other three categories. Mostly these are branches that are twisted into strange shapes or too big for even raised beds. The rest of them pile will be saved, stacked, and will be eventually used for firewood.

With a source of mulch and logs at hand, we have so far constructed two raised beds. Here is a picture of them so far:

As you can see, they are pretty rustic looking. As to how we fill them, without buying potting soil and not having found anyone to provide free fill dirt we have worked on filling them with two things we have in abundance – red clay and mulch. Normally red clay wouldn’t be the best option (not even close really), but after we apply the first layer of red clay we add a layer of mulch and mix them up a bit. After the first layer of mulch has been mixed up, we add a second layer of red clay and rake it to loosen it up as much as possible before laying on a final layer of mulch. In years to come we will add compost and more mulch until they are filled with nice dark rich soil.

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