All About Raised Beds

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:12 am on Monday, January 27, 2014

savvyhousekeeping all about raised beds

I put in raised beds because I have a well-documented vole problem. When we installed them, I considered them a permanent addition to the yard, so I thought long and hard about what I wanted.

In the end, I put in 24-inch beds made of redwood and filled them with soil from the local landfill at $16 a cubit square foot. It cost quite a bit, but since I grew $1,300 worth of vegetables last year, I figure the raised beds have paid for themselves already. The rest, from now on, is gravy.


Raised beds keep voles, gophers, moles, and other pests out of your vegetables. To make sure this is the case, you need to lay gopher wire on the bottom of your raised bed and thoroughly staple it in. This will keep these destructive critters out and let your plants grow unmolested. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

As you can see, this bed is using gopher/galvanized wire, not chicken wire. Never use chicken wire to keep out pests–they go right through it.

FEWER SOIL PROBLEMS. If you have clay soils, sand soils, or concrete, it doesn’t matter as much because your raised bed has good soil. If your plants start in good soil, they will be healthier and produce more overall.

INCREASED SOIL AERATION. You don’t walk on raised beds, so the soil remains fluffy and it’s easier for roots to go through them. The plants waste less energy on trying to push out roots and are free to produce awesome fruits and vegetables for you.

MORE EFFICIENT SPACE USAGE. Since plants are packed together, you can harvest everything quicker. In addition, you waste less water since you won’t be watering any space that’s not directly affecting the plants.

DECORATIVE/EASY TO WORK WITH. You don’t have to bend over to plant, you can harvest easily, and raised beds look pretty and organized.



The raised beds above are not going to accomplish much other than to mark off where the plants are supposed to go. A 6″-12″ raised bed will work fine for lettuce, but if you want to grow tomatoes, zucchini, melons, cucumbers, or any other big vegetable plant, you’ll want to go deeper than that. A big plant needs a lot of space under ground as well as above ground. Think 18 or 24 inches to start.


Pressure-treated wood is wood that has been infused with a liquid preservative to keep it from breaking down in wet soil. They commonly include poisons like chromated copper arsenate or alkaline copper quat. You don’t want these chemicals in the soil where your vegetables are growing. Everything you put in that soil gets in your plants (and your body) one way or another.

Scoring is a sign of pressure treated wood.

Some pressure treated wood is marked as well.


Which brings me to my next point: I see a lot of posts about building raised beds out of pallets or reclaimed wood. It’s true that this is a cheaper option. However, within a few years these raised beds will rot and you’ll have to build them all over again. In the end, this is wasted effort. If you’re going to go to the trouble of installing raised beds, pick something that will last.


savvyhosuekeeping all about raised beds

NATURALLY RESISTANT WOOD: Redwood, cypress and cedar are more termite resistant and will rot at a slower rate than other wood. Unfortunately, these woods can be expensive, which is something to consider if building beds from scratch. Here’s a list of naturally resistant wood.

CEMENT BLOCKS. You can get these blocks for free if you look around, and they seem like they would make good raised beds. They can be as deep as you want and they won’t decompose.

As a bonus, you can grow strawberries or other small plants in the holes.

TUBS. I’ve seen raised beds out of everything from a wine barrel to a bathtub. Just make sure there is adequate drainage in the bottom so that the water doesn’t collect and destroy your plants.

OTHER MATERIAL.There are a host of other metal or plastic materials that might work for a raised bed. Check out this raised bed made of metal roofing material.

Looks great!

What are your raised beds made out of?

My 2014 Garden Resolutions

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:43 am on Friday, January 24, 2014

savvyhousekeeping 2014 garden resolutions

Somehow this didn’t make it to my blog, but in 2013 I took out my concrete slab in the backyard and replaced it with a garden patio. I also had a huge vegetable garden and finally finished converting the shed into an office.

This year, I want to make my backyard an inviting place full of birds and flowers. And I want to make it fun for Savvy Jr.


1. CONSERVING WATER. California is experiencing a major drought. It’s scary—I’ve never seen so little rain in the winter before. So I’ll be using drip irrigation even more than normal and collecting what rainwater we do get this year.

2. FRUIT TREES. I mentioned this before: I’m putting in a grapevine, apple tree, mulberry tree, and some shade berry plants—huckleberries and thimbleberries, to start.

3. FLOWERS. For the first time since moving to our house, I‘m thinking about planting flowers to add color, beauty, and fragrance, as well as attract birds and butterflies. I know for sure I’m putting in a camellia, hydrangea, gardenia, and two rhododendrons, and I’ll also be adding some kind of vine to the back fence—clematis or jasmine?

4. VEGETABLES. I’ll have another large vegetable garden, similar to last year but not quite so intense.

5. CHICKENS. I’ll be adding two new chickens to my flock. One chicken, Penny, died in 2013—we don’t know what killed her—and that cut down the egg supply enough to make us decide to get more chickens.

6. KIDS STUFF. I’ll be putting in a jungle gym for Savvy Jr. A relative has offered this as a gift, so we just have to pick out what we want. (No, not this one.) I’m going to try putting in a bean teepee or a sunflower house for Savvy Jr too.

What are your garden goals for 2014?

Turning A Shed Into An Office Part 2

Filed under: DIY — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:20 am on Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our shed is now an office!

In Turning A Shed Into An Office Part 1 I talked about how we were going to add an office to our house by converting a shed. It took us over a year to finish it, but it’s done.

Here’s the inside.


    * Painted the outside of the shed to match the house.

    * Wired the shed for electricity.

    * Installed a light and power outlets.

    * Insulated and sheetrocked the walls.

    * Painted the walls.

    * Laid down a wood floor.

    * Put trim on the doors and window.

    * Installed floorboards.

And we’re not quite done. We still need a step, a path leading to the new office, and some landscaping. Part 3 coming soon!

Amazing Outdoor Playset

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:58 am on Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Check out this incredible Outdoor Playset.

I mean…


Well, I don’t think Savvy Jr. is getting one that fancy, but I envy the kid who does.

Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:37 am on Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How cute is this Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub? It’s a good way to conserve water and keep your baby safe during a bath. For ages 6-24 months. $12.

Lessons I Learned From My 2013 Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Monday, January 20, 2014

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013  vegetable Garden

It’s funny how you can be in the middle of things and not realize how they appear from the outside. When I planted my vegetable garden, I didn’t realize how huge it was. I was so focused on the individual plants, I couldn’t see the forest for trees… or the vegetable garden for the tomatoes, let’s say.

Some of these pictures of my 2013 Vegetable Garden are really something, if I do say so myself.

Because I kept a garden tally, I was able to calculate that my garden produced about $1,300 in food.

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned from 2013 vegetable garden

This is far (I just accidentally typed “farm”) more than we could eat. My freezer is stuffed to bursting and I donated a lot of food to my local food charities. So lesson #1 is: I can relax a bit in 2014. No need to grow a plant on every stamp of dirt just because I can.

Lessons I Learned From My 2013 Vegetable Garden:

Favorite Plant In 2013:

Dragon’s Tongue Beans. These beans have purples streaks in the pods that turn white when you cook them. They are vigorous producers and so pretty to look at. They can be frozen, canned, and dried, just like any other green bean.

Plants That Seemed Sort Of Pointless:

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden colored carrots

Multicolored carrots are okay and all, but I prefer sweeter varieties.

Weirdest Mistake I Made:

See that mound of plant trailing on the ground? That is all one butternut squash plant.

I mislabeled a butternut squash I grew from grocery store seeds as a melon and put it in my melon bed. It took over the entire bed and we ended up with 30 butternut squash from this one plant! I’m getting tired of butternut squash–I even made butternut squash pie for Thanksgiving.

savvyhousekeeping butternut squash pie

Most Successful Experiment:

Zucchini Plants

I tested whether steer manure helps the productivity of zucchini plants. The answer was a resounding YES. The plant with steer manure produced 3 zucchinis to every 1 zucchini from the plant without steer manure. That’s a lot of production for just a bit of extra fertilizer.

Second Most Successful Experiment:

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden

I tested whether pinching the first flowers off a pepper plant makes it produce more peppers. The answer was yes. Pinching the flowers makes the plant redirect its energies into growing bigger and stronger, which produced more peppers compared to plants where I didn’t pinch the flowers.

Biggest Producer:

My lemon cucumber plants went INSANE. I counted 759 lemon cucumbers by the end of summer. I pickled them. I made cucumber cocktails. I fretted about other things to do with them. Finally I donated buckets of cucumbers to the local food bank. Man, am I sick of lemon cucumbers!

Pest Victories:

savvyhosuekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable fruit garden tanglefoot ants

I got ants under control on my fruit trees and in general, and I figured out how to kill boxelder bugs.

Pest Infestation I Caused:


Spinach and Beet Leafminer. Leafminers are fly maggots that burrow into the leaves of your plant and eat them from the inside out. I created this infestation by planting spinach and beets side by side, right beside the chicken coop. This created the best environment for the fly to lay its maggots, and so I had quite a battle on my hands.

That’s right: a battle with fly maggots. Nature!

Disease Situation I Caused:

I learned the hard way not to trellis tomatoes together. One plant was diseased—I think it came from the nursery that way–and by the end of the summer, all three plants were sick because they were planted so close together. I’d never dealt with a diseased tomato plant before, so it was never an issue. Still, I picked 754 tomatoes this year, so I can’t complain too much.

Biggest Thing I Need To Improve On:

Trellising! As showcased by this sagging hop plant, almost all my trellises were overwhelmed by the plants by the end of the summer. I’ll put in better infrastructure next year.

Read more about my 2013 vegetable garden (with lots of pictures!) here:

Garden Update 1
Garden Update 2
Garden Update 3
Garden Update 4

Cabbage Patch Kid Inspired Wig Hats

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:57 am on Friday, January 17, 2014

Haven’t you always wanted your baby to look like a Cabbage Patch Kid? You haven’t? Well, this is awkward, because you can buy a custom-made Cabbage Patch Kid Inspired Crochet Wig/Hat for your baby. And then make the baby wear it. [Geekologie]

5 More Organizing Tips

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:00 am on Thursday, January 16, 2014

I love all these helpful household tips I’m seeing around the Internet. There are so many clever ideas floating around out there these days.

Here are 5 More Organizing Tips found from around the web.

A decorative way to store your towels: use a hanging wine rack.

Organize your junk drawer with Altoid Tins.

“File” your clothes in a drawer so you can see them easier.

Spray a candle holder with cleaning spray for easy cleaning once the candle burns down.

Keep shoes off the ground with an artfully placed coat holder.

Have you tried any of these? Let me know how they worked.

The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:57 am on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LifeHacker has a handy guide for The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year. Good to know!

Click for a larger version.

From Patio Umbrella To Garden Trellis

Filed under: Recycling — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:03 am on Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Here’s a great idea from Flickr: when your patio umbrella gets worn out from exposure, as they are wont to do, don’t throw it out. Instead, strip off the material and use the frame as a trellis for beans, cucumbers, or other climbing vines.

« Previous PageNext Page »