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  #1  
Old 05/23/07, 10:05 PM
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Lebanon PA
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building a 3 ft high raised bed garden

I am getting a bad back. I want to buld a raised bed garden that is 3ft high so I don't have to bend over to tend a garden. I am thinking of building several boxes that I could grow a variety of vegetables. My question is first of all is this a bad idea?
Second, can I put rocks in the box as a base to secure it and then only use about 12 inches of topsoil and compost instead of filling the entire box up with dirt?

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  #2  
Old 05/23/07, 11:12 PM
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Eastern N.C.
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I think its a good idea and am thinking about doing the samething because of my back. I think the soil 12 inches deep would be enough for most veggies, purhaps not corn. I think the rocks are ok, but will cause the bed to dry faster, thus more watering, but more watering is a lot easier than stooping with a bad back. Hope it works good for you. If secure is what the rocks are for, why not drive stakes around bed and nail to the sides of the bed.

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  #3  
Old 05/23/07, 11:40 PM
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Location: Louisiana
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I think if you used pea gravel it would provide good drainage maybe

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  #4  
Old 05/24/07, 12:03 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Colorado
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The idea has merit. I have always garden in boxes. I have seen a couple as you describe built on television. I did not like their design because of my own experience. The problem was they just used long screws to assemble the box. That approach will have a much shorter life span because the soil contains organisms that will gradually break the screw loose. I used an aluminum angle bracket with holes. I drilled holes in the wood and bolted the brackets into the corners so the bolts washers and nuts clamped the brackets in place. Then I protected the wood using a heavy guage plastic to keep the soil off the wood. I used those boxes for 14 years and sold the house.

The first boxes I built were like the ones I saw on TV and they were falling apart in 4 years.

I am intending to build new boxes this summer. They will be thin shell cement. I will use a stucco mesh or window screen and use 1" plastic tubing to shape the shell. I made a 55 gallon barrel this way. The cement is 1/8 inch thick and it is light enough to pick up. It will hold water so something similar will also hold the dirt. I just wont need the bottom.

Considering your back, and your location, you have missed this year's main growing season. Of course if you build one any time it can be quickly put to use. I do have some photos on line showing the construction details of my former wooden boxes and the sprinklers I made for them. Just ask and I will post the link.

One thought on box design is the width. My next boxes will be only 3 foot across. I had 4 foot boxes, but I had to work both sides because it was not comfortable trying to reach across 4 feet.

18" is probably better than 12" for depth just because a few plants like the deeper soil.

Another design thought is to make some structures that fit on each box. I used cattle panels to make a trellis for tomatoes, a cold frame, places for peas, beans, squash, melon, and cucumbers to climb. They worked great and I could move them around each season. Some of these are visible on the photos I mentioned above.

Good luck.

Gary

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Last edited by gobug; 05/24/07 at 12:06 AM.
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  #5  
Old 05/24/07, 02:59 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Tennessee
Posts: 273

Have you considered growing in discarded, food grade plastic barrels (like you can get from the soft drink bottlers)?


Part of my garden is made up of half barrels that I got from a soft drink bottler. You can saw them in half with a regular circular saw, then place one half on top of the other (one half literally serves as a "table" to hold the other half - the half with the soil in it), and this places your growing surface about three feet above the ground.


Or, your other option is to build something (a shelf or something) that you can place the half barrels on so that you are growing at the desired height above the ground.


I use cinder block "towers" that I build just buy stacking one cinder block on top of another, till I have three of them stacked one on top of another. I place the "towers" eight feet apart, then run two 8' landscaping timbers spanning between the two cinder block towers, with the timber's ends placed in the holes in the cinder blocks.


This also raises the soil level in the barrels up to about three feet above ground.


You would be surprised at just how many crops can be grown in a simple half barrel.


I have successfully grown lettuce, cabbage, strawberries, mint, bell peppers, potatoes, carrots, and even full sized tomatoes and Sugar Baby variety watermelons in half barrels.


I have a rather expansive half barrel garden: about 20 half barrels of strawberries, around 12 to 16 full sized tomatoes, 6 Sugar Baby watermelon, 12 potatoes, 2 mints, and 2 carrots.


I love my half barrel garden. It is so easy to grow and to tend plants that are your height.

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  #6  
Old 05/24/07, 08:42 AM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 8,561

One idea that I would like to offer:

My MIL has a raised bed garden. She has one of those little wagons, make for gardening. You sit on the top, can roll it with your feet, and it has a storage area under the seat. Seems to be a back saver for her!!!!

I second the idea for container gardening.
Clove

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  #7  
Old 05/24/07, 08:50 AM
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Rural N.Texas
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I use old tractor tires for raised beds and they work great. You can sit on the side of them to weed, pick, etc. The local tractor repair place gave them to me and even delivered them for free.

Nancy

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  #8  
Old 05/24/07, 09:20 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Alabama
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsPacMan
Have you considered growing in discarded, food grade plastic barrels (like you can get from the soft drink bottlers)?


Part of my garden is made up of half barrels that I got from a soft drink bottler. You can saw them in half with a regular circular saw, then place one half on top of the other (one half literally serves as a "table" to hold the other half - the half with the soil in it), and this places your growing surface about three feet above the ground.


Or, your other option is to build something (a shelf or something) that you can place the half barrels on so that you are growing at the desired height above the ground.


I use cinder block "towers" that I build just buy stacking one cinder block on top of another, till I have three of them stacked one on top of another. I place the "towers" eight feet apart, then run two 8' landscaping timbers spanning between the two cinder block towers, with the timber's ends placed in the holes in the cinder blocks.


This also raises the soil level in the barrels up to about three feet above ground.


You would be surprised at just how many crops can be grown in a simple half barrel.


I have successfully grown lettuce, cabbage, strawberries, mint, bell peppers, potatoes, carrots, and even full sized tomatoes and Sugar Baby variety watermelons in half barrels.


I have a rather expansive half barrel garden: about 20 half barrels of strawberries, around 12 to 16 full sized tomatoes, 6 Sugar Baby watermelon, 12 potatoes, 2 mints, and 2 carrots.


I love my half barrel garden. It is so easy to grow and to tend plants that are your height.
This is a great idea. I think we might try ity next year!
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  #9  
Old 05/24/07, 09:21 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clovis
One idea that I would like to offer:

My MIL has a raised bed garden. She has one of those little wagons, make for gardening. You sit on the top, can roll it with your feet, and it has a storage area under the seat. Seems to be a back saver for her!!!!

I second the idea for container gardening.
Clove
A platform designed to hold the containers at a level that's easy to reach from the wagon would be perfect.
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  #10  
Old 05/24/07, 09:24 AM
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You think you have a bad back now! Just wait until you start moving the three feet of rock and soil to fill up those boxes!

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  #11  
Old 05/24/07, 12:11 PM
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Location: a state in the 21st century
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My husband built a 4 ft wide, 8 foot long not quite 3 foot high bed at our old house. He reinforced the corners and a couple places along the 8 ft sides. He also built a ledge that was appr. 1 foot wide which allows one to either sit (I use the term loosely) or you can place tools, drinks, etc. To reinforce the exterior, he used RB&B (and painted it). Filling it wasn't bad as he used his skidloader to move the dirt from a load of black dirt we already had. Filling it via wheelbarrow will be a good workout. Purchasing the dirt and seeing if they or a neighbor/friend with a 'bucket' might be an option worth investigating.

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  #12  
Old 05/24/07, 12:20 PM
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Eastern N.C.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cabin Fever
You think you have a bad back now! Just wait until you start moving the three feet of rock and soil to fill up those boxes!
Thats the truth,me and a friend loaded enough aged sawdust to hopfully fill a 3x12x10 inches deep box, we filled it half way and decided that was enough or we wont be around to enjoy the harvest. AND THAT WAS SAWDUST.
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  #13  
Old 05/24/07, 01:30 PM
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Location: Texas
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Due to my back issues, when I moved to Houston (ugh) my hubby built a 4 x 8 bed to my specs. We bottomed it w/3/4" plywood w/drilled holes (about 3 per sq/ft), lined the inside bottom and sides w/nursery cloth (the black 'screen looking' stuff), put 'legs' at corners w/4 x4 posts to my height choice. It works great. But then... my husband builds everything he makes 'industrial strength'.

OH... I also remember that we (I) painted it w/Kilz to make it last longer.. (I know,,, I know... CHEMICALS leaching.... ahhh.. ) I just decided it was worth the 'risk'.

See also: Sq. Ft. Gardening

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  #14  
Old 05/24/07, 01:54 PM
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Here in Oklahoma I've seen every kind of container gardening and I've tried a few and liked it. I like the platform idea with barrels.

We have horses and my husband feeds protein tubs in the winter--they make great garden tubs. I've also used old metal trash cans and grown the most fabulous tomatoes in them.

A little trick I learned is to fill the container about half full with old aluminum pop cans and beer cans. They don't recycle around here, so it's easy to find a whole bunch of them. Just crunch them up a bit. They're light weight too.

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  #15  
Old 05/24/07, 04:54 PM
 
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Before I get too old to do it (many many years from now) I hope to put together growing tables, using concrete block legs and 4x4 bench tops. I figure small buckets/containers of soiless mix at a table height would be easy to work with. Add brackets to the outer 4x4 and you can add trellis, shade cloth, plastic covers. Set it up on a concrete patio and even wheel chairs could access it.

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  #16  
Old 05/24/07, 10:36 PM
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Saw this the other day:

http://hgic.umd.edu/

Salad table/salad box link.

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  #17  
Old 05/25/07, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brownthumb
Second, can I put rocks in the box as a base to secure it and then only use about 12 inches of topsoil and compost instead of filling the entire box up with dirt?
I'd say probably not, but of course it depends on what you want to grow. Definitely not root crops. Although the carrot or turnip is only 6" or so long, the roots actually extend 3 feet or more into the soil.

Tomatoes also have a large root structure. I'm not sure about brassicas, cucurbits, beans, or peppers. Lettuce is probably okay. Corn has a surprisingly shallow root structure but takes so much space it's probably not well suited for containers.
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  #18  
Old 05/25/07, 01:15 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Alaska
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I started a garden with boxes a few seasons ago. I went to one of the local lumber mills and picked up some 2"x10" culls. I'm in the interior of Alaska so the boxes help me get a jump on the season without a greenhouse. I also make tents using clear 6 mil. pastic over the boxes for a greenhouse affect. This gives me a full month of early growing time. I don't use the plastic for any brassicas's as they like cool soil. My potato box is 18" tall and 4' wide x 10' long. I create 8" hills above the 18" board and get great potatoes. My carrot and onion box is the same size. The 4' wide does force a walk around to maintain things where as 2' or 3' wide would be more managable. Preping the 18" deep boxes in the spring is alot of shovel work if you want to get a good turn of the soil or add fresh compost. The cheap lumber shows no signes of falling apart .....yet. I think a 3' deep box is a bit too deep for most growing needs and would be harder to work (back issues). I guess it's something that you will have to experiment with in order to find the best height for you.

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  #19  
Old 05/25/07, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turtlehead
I'd say probably not, but of course it depends on what you want to grow. Definitely not root crops. Although the carrot or turnip is only 6" or so long, the roots actually extend 3 feet or more into the soil.

Tomatoes also have a large root structure. I'm not sure about brassicas, cucurbits, beans, or peppers. Lettuce is probably okay. Corn has a surprisingly shallow root structure but takes so much space it's probably not well suited for containers.
I've grown corn, tomatos, and carrots successfully in 6-8" of soil mixture in my sq.ft. bed.
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  #20  
Old 05/25/07, 09:26 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Virginia
Posts: 167
Straw Bale Gardening

[http://www.carolinacountry.com/cgard...de/straw.html]

Are you familiar with straw bale gardening?

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  #21  
Old 05/25/07, 09:47 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Florida
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here is what i did

Got a wooden crate used to store tiles during shipping at the home depot, for free. it allowed me to put 2 plastic containers side by side which i got at goodwill for a dollar each, in which i built two self watering containers, w/ a water reservoir at the bottom of the container, and potting mix on top. my tomatoes and peppers and eggplant are looking beautiful. to beautify and keep the plastic containers cool in the florida surface, i wrapped chicken wire around the container and covered w/ tuffa. It is very convinient and easy to maintain.

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  #22  
Old 05/26/07, 12:06 AM
 
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Location: Western WA
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There was someone who posted on here once that was using old chest freezers for growing veg. in. It looked really neat from the pics they posted. You could also use bathtubs. I grow my salad stuff in half barrels and I also use stacked tires.

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  #23  
Old 05/26/07, 07:10 AM
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I've also heard of using 2-liter plastic soda bottles as filler for the bottom part of container/raised bed gardens.

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  #24  
Old 05/26/07, 09:17 AM
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I work for a company that provides support for disabled adults. We have a day program where the people we work with go to do activities, socialize, et cetera. One of the fellows that works for the company built a wheelchair friendly "garden". It's made of four 4x4 post set in concrete with a box made of pt 2x12's and plywood mounted at a level that a wheelchair bound person can work in and get their legs under while in their chair. The box is lined with landscaping plastic and filled with topsoil. There are drainage holes drilled in the bottom. It's been up for a couple of years now and seems to be holding up well. It is pretty small. Three feet wide by 8 feet long, but it works well.

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  #25  
Old 05/26/07, 10:07 AM
 
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type raised bed gardening into GOOGLE then hit the images button in the top left hand corner they will pull up all sorts of cool looking raised beds. I use concrete cinder blocks to grow in and it works fine. I would not use saw dust as once wet it clumps bad and it can be acidic and depending on where it came from could have chemicals in it from treated wood.
I use horse manure its free from most horse owners and we have a stables near by that will even load it for you.

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  #26  
Old 05/26/07, 09:06 PM
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Southern CT
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Sewer pipe

I love growing things in containers, and I grow lots of things in sections of sewer pipe.

They are double walled which here in CT is a good thing because they hold the heat in. I put one around my fig tree with some hay around it, cover it and it survives the winter. It also makes them very strong (no warping due to being filled with soil), and they last a long time since they are designed to be underground and wet. They can be cut to any length you need with a chain saw. They come in many diameters. I even have one that is several feet wide. I use that for the fig in winter, and grow pumpkins in it during the growing season. The bottom is open so you don't need to worry about drainage. I have picked most of mine up as scraps that I get from the construction companies installing sewer lines. You can buy them though and I don't think they are that expensive.

Hope that helps someone.

cathryn

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  #27  
Old 05/26/07, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gobug
I do have some photos on line showing the construction details of my former wooden boxes and the sprinklers I made for them. Just ask and I will post the link.



Gary
I would LOVE to see your photos!
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  #28  
Old 05/26/07, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmerwilly2
Before I get too old to do it (many many years from now) I hope to put together growing tables, using concrete block legs and 4x4 bench tops. I figure small buckets/containers of soiless mix at a table height would be easy to work with. Add brackets to the outer 4x4 and you can add trellis, shade cloth, plastic covers. Set it up on a concrete patio and even wheel chairs could access it.
That's similar what I'll be doing soon..have planned it now for over two years and cannot wait to get started..mine will ( hopefully) have wheels so that it'll be able to be moved from one place to another.I'm even going for corn this way..1 row facing another..why not? LOL
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  #29  
Old 05/30/07, 12:37 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Colorado
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Ravenlost,
Sorry for the delay. I just have not been getting on line as much lately. Spring you know.

This link is a few photos of my former garden boxes, and cement obsession.

http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/...ndFNIS?start=0

I hope it works, let me know if not, or if you have questions.
Thanks,
Gary

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Old 05/30/07, 04:31 PM
 
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gobug, quite impressive.

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