Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Instructions for a Gopher/Mole/Vole Proof Raised Bed

- by Linday Del Carlo, Renee's Garden Trial Garden Mgr.

1. Choose the site where you want your raised bed to be located. The site should have at lease 6 hours of sunlight. Measure the area where the bed will be and mark it with stakes. The bed can be as long as you want, but make sure not to make it too wide. The bed width shouldn’t be more than 4 feet. It should be just wide enough to reach into the middle without difficulty. You never want to have to step into the bed. The bed that we are making here is going to be 7 ft.x 4 ft.

2. Next, buy the materials for the bed. We are using:
-6x6 redwood/cedar/rot resistant lumber
-24 inch long x 5/8 inch wide steel stakes to hold the bed into place
- Galvanized steel 1/2 inch hardware cloth to line the bottom of the bed. You can buy hardware cloth in 3 ft. wide rolls. Do not use “chicken or gopher wire” – it will not work.
-Heavy duty staples to fasten the hardware cloth to the sides of the bed.
Tools needed: a shovel, drill, mallet, hammer, and wire cutters.

3.  Set the lumber on level ground matching up the corners to make the border of the bed.   Then drill the holes all the way through the lumber to set the steel stakes through into the ground.  The stakes will secure the lumber to the ground.  With the mallet, pound the stakes through the wood and into the ground until the top of the post is flush with the wood. 

4.  Now that the lumber is in place, remove soil to a depth of at least 18 inches so we can line the bed with galvanized hardware cloth.  The hardware cloth needs to be set deep enough to be able to dig in the bed without damaging it.  The hardware cloth will prevent critters from entering the bed and eating the plants.
5.  You will need to cut 2 lengths of hardware cloth so that they can be joined in the center to form one large sheet that will stretch from the bottom of the bed up to the sides.  The length of the hardware cloth needs to include enough for the length  and depth of the bed. Overlap the 2 pieces by a few inches in the center ,  then  sew the strips together to make a secure seam (use thin, flexible wire to do this and make a tight seam).  Then lay the hardware cloth into the bottom of the bed and form it to the bottom and sides.  
    Once the hardware cloth is in place, fasten it to the lumber with heavy duty staples every 3 inches.  This will prevent hardware cloth from moving and creating gaps for critters to enter. If the hardware cloth is  still too shallow to reach up the sides because your bed is deep, cut  extra strips that overlap at least several inches and "sew" up a seam with thin flexible wire so gophers can't slip between the pieces.

6. Now the hardware cloth is fastened, and the bed is ready to be refilled with the soil that had been previously taken out.   When refilling the bed with soil, also take this opportunity to amend it with compost at the same time.  
7. The new bed is ready to plant.  The lumber that we used is thick enough to last for many years without decomposing.  It is protected underneath with hardware cloth which will prevent gophers/moles/voles from getting in.  We have added compost to enrich the soil for the plants.  While it is true that an occasional invader will jump into the bed from outside, it is easy to trap them when inside, as they have no way to escape!
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