Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paved paradise?

One of the non-building structures in the garden is a set of raised beds to be placed along the fence on the north end of the lot. Raised beds have been a part of the plan since the very beginning, primarily because the lot drains so poorly thereby preventing early spring gardening.

However, I still had to decide how to make the raised beds. Apart from being elevated, the other thing I wanted from these beds was enclosure, both to keep out pernicious grass and to enable 3 or even 4 season gardening. Here in Oregon it's entirely possible to grow some things year round using a simple cold-frame or greenhouse setup.

To facilitate the extended season gardening, I determined to tilt the raised beds up at an angle of about 15 degrees toward the south so as to take advantage of the winter light. That's a very old practice actually.

So, we're raised and tilted. Here comes the hard part: concrete.

I deliberated long and (um) hard about materials to make the beds. I've used wood in the past, but it either has to be treated (not very nice!) or will rot. At 46, I tend toward longer lasting things and less back work, so the prospect of replacing wooden beds every few years is not much to my liking.

So, I started to consider concrete and eventually opted for it despite the fact that I have reservations about adding more concrete either to my small paradise or to the larger wonderful planet we're so lucky to live on.

In my case, however, it was actually the permanence of concrete as a building material that swayed me. One of my goals in doing the garden was to create a long-lasting set aside for growing things. In my neighborhood, there's currently a lot of pressure to increase housing density, often by adding smaller houses in the back portions of larger lots. The site for my garden is in fact a corner lot: prime real-estate for plopping in a duplex rentable to nearby college students.

That's exactly what I don't want to happen to that lot.

So, several cubic yards of reinforced concrete my way of locking in the garden aspect of the lot...hopefully in perpetuity. I recognize that it's sort of a blunt approach. Ultimately my ability to make it a beautiful and enjoyable space may prove the most effective deterrent to urban encroachment. Nonetheless, I'm sure the concrete will slow them down a bit. And, there are side benefits such as its thermal mass (good for heat loving plants), durability (see above regarding my back), inertness (better than treated wood), etc.

And, I promise that as I set about paving paradise, I'll do my best to make it handsome.