So hey, it turns out that setting up raised beds is pretty easy.
In the name of expediency and availability I bought three 2x4' raised bed kits from Home Depot, and got a total of 10 cubic feet of soil. Combined with the cardboard and paper from my move and using a modified version of the “lasgana method” (where you layer paper, cardboard, and green waste to make an in-place compost pile that degrades into soil) this was enough to mostly fill the boxes.
Each box only took a few minutes to put together, although in retrospect I wish I’d done a few things differently:
- I should have opened all the boxes and picked slats based on appearance to face forward, as one of the beds unfortunately had some black markings on all of the slats, while another of the beds was markings-free
- I should have assembled all three boxes and laid them out first, rather than assembling one and then filling it in place, as the middle one ended up being too close to the Easternmost one and I don’t think my lawnmower will fit between them
- I should have bought two more bags of soil
The first issue is pretty minor (and I mean, who gives a crap?) and the third one is easy to fix. For the second one I have a plan on how to fix it, though; it should be easy enough to shovel the soil out onto a piece of cardboard (which I still have plenty of), move the box into position, and then refill it.
With the lasagna method you’re supposed to wait a couple months for the matter to decompose until it’s planting-ready, but since I cheated and filled two of the three boxes with just soil and cardboard, and the Westernmost box is mostly soil on top, I went ahead and also planted a rosemary start there, with a plan to eventually transplant that onto the slope by the driveway anyway (so it’s actually a bit advantageous that the roots won’t be able to go down very far).
As far as other planting goes I plan on starting out with things in my refrigerator that are ready to be given a new life, such as spring onions, Romaine lettuce, and some red potatoes. The potatoes will probably not be happy with the cardboard though, so I might want to wait on planting those. (They haven’t sprouted yet anyway, at least.)
I don’t expect these boxes to last all that long; they’re made of cheap pine wood, and will probably decompose after just a few years. But that’s fine, my longer-term plan is to get some metal raised beds and when that time comes I can just plop them in place around the existing beds and use them as some starter biomass. Mark Valencia, who recommends those specific beds, also recommends using wood as cheap fill anyway, which is a lot cheaper than starting out with soil to begin with and also gives some better starter biomass, so I mean, decomposing wood beds are just as good as anything else, right?
Meanwhile, yesterday I bought a barely-used lawnmower off my neighbor Rick (who upgraded to a sit-down tractor mower) and found it surprisingly enjoyable to get my yard in some sort of livable condition. I also have been slowly filling my composting bin, and while it’ll probably be a couple of months before I have usable compost from it, it’ll be awesome when I do.
I still feel like I made some very good choices, here.
And, hey, my condo is back on the market (after a brief delisting to retool it and change the asking price); given that another unit in my building went on the market and sold within days I’m feeling a lot more hopeful about this now.