We have chunks of yard at our place, some of which the kids play around in, but most of which we complain about mowing more than anything. In particular, the fenced in back part where the former dog used to stay was a big waste of space. With the dog having run away, the canine treasures returned to earth leaving us once again with usable space.
Digging a ditch builds character…do well in school kids!
As with most of our projects, we decided to go big, heavy and expensive! Actually, we just went with big and heavy but I like the added drama. Anyhow,we decided to turn a mess of a yard into garden space using railroad ties to build raised beds. We spent a few days digging up the apparent underground rock garden that existed before we decided to make a garden in our yard. I leveled out space and added gravel for drainage under the railroad ties and we began to set them. It turns out that our railroad ties are 8’6″ and weigh around 200 pounds each. We used around 17 of them for our space so you can imagine how sore and tired
my mule Emily and I were just moving the pieces into place.
Abigail drilled a few of the holes we drove rebar through to bind the ties together. We used a lot of rebar to make sure they stay in place!
I laid cardboard boxes over the existing ground to keep weeds down and we lined the edges with plastic to minimize the leaching of creosote from the ties into the soil. The plastic does not cover the entire basin of the garden so water will still drain fine and worms can still navigate upwards without impediment.
The cardboard will eventually rot away but not before killing weeds and stuff from coming up through
I read a bunch about creosote and railroad ties before undertaking this effort. Creosote is pretty bad stuff and eating it would not be a great thing. I read a number of opinions on the subject and came to a few conclusions. First, used ties have probably leached out the worst of what is going to leach out already. Secondly, I didn’t have my soil tested for contaminants to start with and most people do not. That fact makes it apparent that we don’t really worry about our garden soil anyhow. Finally, my soil is still almost assuredly better than soil somewhere far away on an industrial farm and my food is not likely to pick up any more contaminants that what food that travels by train car and truck picks up. I added the plastic liner and have determined that I will not worry about it any further.
Those rocks were huge and buried. I suppose the digging was easier but only because the rocks took up so much space!
So, we had to buy a bunch of dirt (56 bags of .75 cubic feet top soil to be exact…plus 6 bags of manure) to fill in the space. It looks awesome and will hold a bunch of vegetable plants. Isaac, Abigail and I planted it over the course of a few days. We added marigolds for decoration and because all gardens are supposed to grow marigolds. We also have tomatoes, jalapenos, brussel sprouts, broccoli and bell peppers. It looks so much better than the yard that used to be there plus I get to eat all of my favorite vegetables right out of my back yard!
I cut the angles in the ties where they ended using a chainsaw. Creosote sawdust down your back will leave a rash!
For now we have some of the rocks I dug up holding the liner in place. I will eventually top it with more wood and make it look better, but for now, our new garden space makes me smile every morning when I see it…both for the veggies growing and for the fact that I do not have to mow that space! Yeah gardens!