Hopefully my trailerstead is temporary. I have designed a small home that uses the rear patio of my trailer as its front entry patio. I also need skirting for my trailerstead to lower my heating bills. Winds are fierce and keep ripping my standard skirting off when it is coldest.
I ordered 4 pallets of concrete block for dry stack temporary skirting. I will be able to reuse them once my house is built. I started on the east side by building a 2 by 2 by 17 raised bed on the back patio and adjacent to the mobile. It is dry stack but I filled the voids with gravel from a large pile thar came with the property. I also inserted 4 by 4 posts along the back for a trellis.
The 2′ high bed acts as skirting with the the added benefit of 2 feet of soil which works like earth berming for additional insulation. 8″ concrete blocks on both sides filled with gravel make it sturdy.
I filled the bed with compost and put my blueberries in. Concrete blocks are alkaline but it is working. The blueberry bushes are Top Hat and are only 2 by 2. They are happy in the bed and make a nice hedge along the walkway to the back door. They only get late morning sun because the mountain shadows early light and the trailerstead blocks afternoon sun. They will also be well placed enclosing the front patio of my new house.
Raised beds warm up sooner in spring and help extend the growing season, a big help in my short season mountain garden. Because it also backs up to the mobile, it will stay warmer in the winter, absorbing some of the lost heat from the home. I enclosed the entire patio with more dry stack blocks and a higher wind baffle on the north, creating more protection. My guess is that this bed will have a microclimate of zone 6, increasing the types of plants possible.
Note: the trailerstead already has an existing concrete footer all the way around. Dry stacking is very easy. There is a compound that can be troweled to the outside but I expect to reuse instead.
I continued around the base and am at the northeast corner. It has gone slower than I like due to time constraints, still, I am pleased with the results. If I choose to stay in this building, I would make beds all the way around.
Raised beds with improved soil… and I suggest composting in them for fill… are the instant fix for gardening where soil is poor. In a cold climate, putting the bed against the house creates different microclimates extending the kinds of plants you can grow. Even one or two zones is a big difference for tender plants. Even hardy plants grow and fill in faster with a microclimate.
As I get older, raised beds are easier to garden. Not the same knees as when I was younger!
Raised beds can be expensive to build, and this one’s dual purpose as skirting helps, since it came in under the skirting budget.
I prefer to compost in place for a new bed. In the fall I cover the area with cardboard, then pile a foot or two of leaves and whatever material I have available to me (chicken manure, worm castings, horse manure, vegetable peelings) on top. In town, I sprinkle pine bark mulch on top and it keeps the leaves from blowing around and looks neat. In the country a net will do. In the spring, I can garden this bed with a hand shovel. No digging and no chemicals, just plant seeds or small plants. Worms are incredible, they aerate the soil and do the heavy lifting. I had enough winter rain to keep it moist but always wet it down with a hose to get started. To keep the bed rich, I keep it mulched with compost.
Start small. A 4 by 8 bed will grow a lot of vegetables if it has rich soil. I admit that I filled my first bed with asparagus! The deer and rabbits don’t like them, but I do. No asparagus from the market economy equals asparagus straight from the garden. It also appeals to me since you plant once and harvest for years. I put wildflowers in front. Very pretty.
My best first bed in poor soil is filled with perennial herbs, many of which come from Mediterranean soils that are poor. It gives easy success to a new gardener. Put it close to the door and even 3 by 8 will produce well. The heady scents along a sidewalk as you enter is relaxing at the end of the day and you can pick herbs for dinner as you come in. Many herbs are beautiful bloomers and I add daffodils or tulips for early spring kickoff. The herbs cover up their fading foliage after blooming. If the bed is deep enough I put evergreen German irises behind the herbs. They add structure for the billowy herbs and have beautiful blooms that are also good as cut flowers just like daffodils and tulips.
The composting process is slower in the mountains because it is colder and has a shorter summer. The ground freezes deep. Extra nitrogen in the form of chicken or horse manure improves composting here in the mountains although it wasn’t needed in Texas or Seattle. Manure makes a hot compost pile. Luckily, manure is available for the shoveling around here. Manna.