I love my raised beds. As soon as the idea of a potager began to emerge, there was no question that raised beds would be a major factor. There had not been many raised beds in my prior gardens, but even that very small bit of experience had already convinced me that raised beds are much easier to tend and keep tidy. In addition, they can easily be much more productive (mine produce three times the produce in less than half the space and work of traditional row gardens.)
Raised beds allow me to work in the garden much earlier and often, because the soil thaws and dries out much quicker in spring. There’s no tilling and very little digging except to harvest root crops. And, as I’m aging it is readily apparent that the raised beds are much, much easier on backs and knees. I can work longer in my raised beds than I can in my “normal” in-ground gardens. If I were doing my garden over I’d definitely do raised beds again. I’d probably do 8′ long beds rather than 6′, because lumber comes in 8′ lengths so it would be more economical to do 8′ beds. However, there has been one problem with my wonderful raised beds…
Broken corners! Yes, broken corners are my biggest headache. No matter what wood glue is used, no matter how many nails or screws are used, after several seasons Old Man Winter with his freezing and thawing and heaving pulls the corners apart. And as soon as the corner slides open, the soil begins to move. Every spring there are a few corners that need to be dug out and re-screwed. It’s a real bother. The only good thing about it is that it gives me a purposeful job to do before I can really “garden.” Any nice day when the soil in the beds isn’t frozen I can be out playing carpenter. But, after seven years some of the corners are getting so rotted that re-screwing is no longer an option. They just won’t hold together. Thankfully there is a solution!
In researching possible solutions, I found these sturdy metal brackets from Plow and Hearth. (Note: I did not get any reimbursement or discount for mentioning this product!) They are exactly what I needed. They are easy to use and I think quite attractive! They not only hold the boards securely, but they have a “lip” that goes into the ground to keep the bed in place. I believe they will add several years to the life of each bed. And, when the boards do eventually need to be replaced, the screws can be taken out and the bracket can be re-used on a new bed or to repair another corner on an older bed. They aren’t cheap (about $10 per bracket) but with the price of lumber these days, and the hassle it takes to repair a corner, and the additional years of use they will provide, I think they are well worth the price.
I had calculated that I would need to replace six beds this spring. And there were several corners on others that had parted. However, with the new brackets only two beds really require replacement and all the corners on the others can be repaired with a bracket. Four brackets are much less than the cost of the lumber for a bed so I’m feeling like a winner.
I love it when a problem gets resolved, don’t you?