Landscaping With Raised Beds

By saying "3D" I don't mean that we are going to landscape overhead and on the walls, I simply mean if your landscaping consists of different heights and shapes, it will appear to be "3D".  If  you are overlooking a mountain range, you may feel relaxed because of distance you are able to view, the contour of the earth, and the sensation of being free.  If you were standing on the great salt flats, you might feel small and have little to no sense of where you are in relation to your surroundings.  This is why I feel it is necessary to add interest to your landscape in the form of shape, contour and height.  It is so relaxing to walk through a garden or across a lawn that has been well thought out and prepared with interesting features.  When the trees and bushes move as a breeze blows through them, it makes me relax and enjoy life.  However, I am not the kind of person to just relax.  Instead, I am compelled to start a new project.  Many times I work hard through the weekend and have to go back to work on Monday to rest.  Lately I have been so relaxed that I almost dug up the whole yard.  I learned some new tricks that I want to share.  I have always wanted my lawn to be the most beautiful lawn in the world, so it seemed almost like a sin to start digging it up just as it was coming out for the spring.  Of course I didn't dig it all up, it just seemed like it as I saw one clump after another being removed from it's resting place.  By losing some of it in the right places, I gained more of something else even better.  
I do my landscaping after a rain so the ground will be soft Be careful of phone lines and cables.  Beleave me, they are there!

Picture one

Picture two

  Already having trees planted, I simply expanded an area for them to live.  If you have a yard that is primarily grass with some plants or trees already in place like I did, try this experiment.  Take your garden hose and position it around your trees and plants to create an effect like the one you see in picture one.  This will help you imagine how it will look before you dig it up.   Make big, flowing curves that will allow your mower to  maneuver around everything with ease.  As you can see, my trees are small.  As you lay out your bed, make it a little bigger than it you feel necessary as to allow for future growth.  Of coarse you can always make the bed bigger but it is harder to make it smaller and get the grass to grow back.  In  pictures one and two, there is a ditch dug around the bed.  One of the reasons for this is to separate the grass from the bed.  I put the dirt over into the middle of the bed to raise it up.  If your beds are raised, you can see them much better and so can individuals driving past your home.  Raised beds are much more beautiful than a flat place in the yard.  You don't need to haul in dirt unless you really want to.  The dirt that you remove from the edge will amount to more than you think.  Dig your edge (ditch) about 4 inches deep with a flat shovel like in picture two.  After you have done this, slope the inside of your ditch to about 45 degrees.  All of this dirt goes to the inside of the bed.  Smooth out all of the big clumps so that everything is smooth.  Shape the bed to be as round and flowing across the top as you can.  There is no need for any landscaping fabric.  Grass can grow on top of it.  I did not remove any grass in the center of the bed.  The dirt will kill out most of it and a little Roundup will take care of the rest as it tries to grow.  It appears at this point that we have created a raised bed that is partially sunk into the ground.  And that is exactly what we did!  You see, when you add mulch to your bed, you will fill the ditch about half way up and add about two inches over everything else.  Two inches of mulch and two inches of dirt makes a 4 inch raised bed.  Then when the mulch in the ditch starts out 2 inches below ground, it looks like you have a  6-inch raised bed.  The drop from the grass to the ditch and then up the rounded hill to the center of the bed is "3D".  When the grass is green and the mulch is in place, it is beautiful.                   Landscaping With Raised Beds

Look at the before and after pictures of this tree.  In the before picture, the mulch is in the grass and as I mow around the tree, some of the mulch will be scattered by the mower.  With the ditch separating the grass and the mulch, and the mulch being 2 inches below ground, the mulch won't be scattered by the mower.  Another benefit is that the ditch will hold rainwater, and the tree will like that!  
This way the lawn mower always took some of my mulch This looks much better in real life

Before

After

 This project was done during early spring and the grass was not completely out yet.  In the 'after' picture the mulch is darker only because it is just fresh.                               Landscaping With Raised Beds

This landscaping looked real good after the grass got green

Half is mulched, the other half is not mulched

 This picture better illustrates of how the 45 slope on the interior of the ditch defines the curvature of the bed.  The mulch covers everything and plants can be added later.  Though this picture shows a project in process, I did finish it.  The grass looks beautiful and the plants are installed.  I used plants from an overcrowded flowerbed and the labor was free.  I purchased one small truck load of mulch at a cost of $15.00, and that is all.  Now I have less grass to care for - so the grass that I do have, I can give more attention.  Is it Monday yet?  I'm tired!
If you like this story, look at my section on how to learn astronomy  Try my section on compost.  There is always something to do when you visit www.projectsandhobbies.com 

Warren Yates                               

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