Garden Time-Saver: Quick Raised Beds with M Braces


cropped-spring-marin.jpgI love this time of year. Winter’s chill has finally given way to spring wildflowers and hills wrapped in blankets of verdant green. The days are growing consistently warmer promising the arrival of summer days to come. There’s no mistaking the signs: it’s time to get out in the garden!

I’m going to be blatantly honest. I have a love-hate relationship with my yard. I am totally enamored with the concept of “foodscaping”–the latest trend that incorporates edibles into traditional landscaping–but I am challenged. The rest of my family does not share my enthusiasm for gardening. They are happy to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but can find any number of  reasons to excuse themselves from yard work.

Despite their lack of interest, I always approach the season with high hopes and lofty ideas. I devour the pages of Sunset Magazine and diligently draw out a garden plan. In my mind’s eye, I envision raised beds brimming with organic tomatoes, squash, peas, carrots, onions, lettuce and more.

In reality, life is full, time is limited, and this year’s garden has yet to materialize.

When our kids finally outgrew the trampoline that occupied a big part of our long, narrow backyard I knew it was time to reclaim the space for my garden. I dismantled the massive jumpy and set to work digging up what was left of a neglected lawn.

I wish I could report that my yard now bears some resemblance to those pristine magazine examples. Nearly a year later, the space still lies barren–waiting–with another growing season looming.

So, with failure not an option, I searched for a solution to help me transform my “garden in waiting” into the bountiful foodscape of my dreams.

MBRACEphoto[1]I found the answer during a recent visit with my friend, Lisa Marvier. Lisa’s the gardener everyone strives to be; the kind of person who can literally shove a stick in the ground and it grows. Her immaculate, beautifully manicured yard could easily grace the cover of Better Homes and Gardens–yet exudes a kind of effortless charm where scattered wildflower seeds blend with natives and trellised roses bloom with wild abandon. I noted with envy that her beautiful raised beds were already well on their way to producing this season’s harvest.

As is often true of those who have a gift, Lisa has her secrets for taking the effort out of achieving garden greatness.

One of those short cuts involves using M braces: a set of decorative welded metal corners that make short work of building a raised bed. With M braces, you can construct a planter box of any size or shape in about 10 minutes tops–no nails, screws, or tools required!

The idea is brilliant in its simplicity. Just layout and measure the size of your bed, placing one M brace at each corner. Line the bottom of the footprint with a fine gauge wire mesh to keep rodents at bay. Have your local lumber yard cut eight lengths of lumber to size (four are used for the sides of your bed and four for the top/bottom; see specs below).MBRACEphoto[2]

Stack two lengths on top of each other to make each side, easily sliding the boards into the slots on each M brace corner. Stack two more lengths in the slots at each end and VIOLA! Instant raised bed! Fill with topsoil and compost, plant seeds or starts, and you’re on your way to a garden your friends will envy.MBRACEphoto[3]

This short YouTube video shows just how easy they are to use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Repux9Kbxgc&feature=player_embedded

In addition, raised planters made with M braces are quickly and easily changed. Want to move your beds? No problem. Just pull the wood out of the brace and relocate. And when the wood wears out, you can replace with new lumber in a cinch. Over time the braces will weather, developing a light rust patina that is also lovely.

Lisa was so taken with this ingenious product that she started selling the braces for the manufacturer. I picked up two sets of four and will soon be foodscaping like a pro.

To purchase a set, contact lisa@artofthegarden.net, marvier@comcast.net  or call 415.730.6917. If you live in the North Bay, you can pick up your order in Novato and save yourself shipping costs.

Following are the different sizes and price points. *Four (4) “M” braces to a set.

13” M Brace (Discontinued) CLOSE OUT priced at $95. (originally $139.99).
*Stack two 2”x8” lumber, one on top of the other for each of four sides.

10” M Brace priced at $89.99
*Stack two 2”x6” lumber, one on top of the other for each of four sides.

7” MINI M Brace priced at $69.99 – color/$59.99 – no color
*Stack one 2”x4” on the bottom and one 2”x6” on top, for each of four sides.

For ideas and design options, visit the manufacturer’s website at www.artofthegarden.net .

Categories: "How To" tips, Organic Gardening

2 comments

  1. Wonderful method for gardening. Now, if I could only figure out, how to keep the native animals from devouring it all.

    • That’s always part of the challenge Jovina! For me, our dog is as much of a garden mooch as the rodents! She will nibble every single strawberry off the vine before I know it. I’ve got to explore some kind of barrier . . .will let you know if I discover any gems!

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