Locust Planter Beds

Redoing the organic garden with raised planter beds was an important goal for the farm.  The garden beds had been outlined with river rocks, but over time, the rocks sunk down and the gophers just built dirt mounds to climb over the wire.  Last year, most of the river rocks were removed and placed in other areas in the perennial garden. In the winter of 2016, all the Irises were dug up and removed to perimeter areas. We were planning for a major garden redesign.

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Permanent ways to build raised planter beds with milled redwood lumber or cement blocks were costly options.

Coincidentally, three Black Locust trees leaned themselves over in the winter rains from December 2016 – February 2017.  An idea came to mind to build all the planter beds from locust limbs.  Why not?  All the fencing in the garden was made from split locust limbs and the perennial beds were lined with locust stumps.  It was an exciting revelation to know that the garden beds would be started in the summer of 2017.

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All the limbs and thick branches from the three locust trees were strategically cut into 9 foot lengths when possible.

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In addition, two other locust trees were removed and all the wood was saved for projects, including the wood chips.

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On June 10, Rich and Rick spent four hours building the framework around the Hugelkultures.  These two mounds required the thickest and longest locust limbs.  Also, it was great to learn how to build the planter beds.  It look longer than expected because the wire was laid flat and soil had to be removed to pull up the wire.  We also had to fit branches on top of each other and they were not straight, it was like a puzzle.

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Laying down the first piece after the wire was pulled up to keep out the gophers which are a huge problem.  I purposely bought a thicker hardware wire since gopher/aviary wire rusts within a few years.

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Using redwood 2x4s to attach the locust limbs together; the locust is hard as a rock so using an impact driver is the easiest solution with 8″ self-driving screws.

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Rich uses a chainsaw to cut off the edges of the locust before adding the side pieces.

DSCN3122Rick hauling over a big limb as the base of the Hugelkultur.

DSCN3128Both Hugelkultures framed in and look great, very organic, rustic, and sturdy.

After learning the building technique from Rich, I recruited Will to help me build the third raised planter bed.  Our box is a little more artistic with more gaps between the logs because all the large limbs were used for the Hugelkultures.  Surprisingly, the thick limbs from 5 locust trees are not enough to finish the garden.

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Our neighbor kindly gave me permission to cut some small locust trees, and my friend Lisa cut four trees in October, 2017.

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Using the thin, smaller trees enabled Will and I to build a few more planter beds.

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In December 2017, we had one more locust tree cut down because it was leaning over the creek and ready to fall.  It wasn’t too big so most of the trunk could be used.  This tree produced enough wood for 3/4 of a planter bed.

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In January 2018, four huge Black Locust trees fell in our neighbor’s front yard.  They again let us have the wood so I asked a friend to cut the pieces that we needed to finish the garden.

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After bringing the pieces over to the farm, we decided to build the next bed which I had measured to 13 feet.  We had four limbs that were huge, and it took three of us to carry them into the garden.  Before building the bed, the soil was removed and the pathway was dug out in preparation for wood chips.

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On Saturday, February 10, 2018, the bed was filled with wire, soil and compost.

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Looking great using this wood resource:

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The last third of the garden was left to tackle, and we continued to work on building the planter beds.  When the neighbor’s tree fell down, and after we scavenged some of the limbs, I asked the tree company to bring me over some 1′ round trunks about 10′ long.  These were used to build another bed.  It took three of us and a dolly to move them into place.

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The final section to build was borders around three fruit trees.  For two of the trees, I used clay tubes to bring in the clay to this side of the garden.  I had a few small limbs and two redwood branch doors to use around a one year old pear tree.

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The locust planter beds are done, April 2018!  It took a year, but well worth it.

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