Gardening..raised vs old traditional

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by celina, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. celina

    celina Well-Known Member

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    ok my mom always gardened in the groud, never heard of raised beds till this forum..could i have some pros and cons, and pics would be such a help...

    i'm in northern ontario canada if that helps...winter here, means winter, -40C and LOTS OF SNOW!! from november to march....summers are june to august with planting late may and harvest early sept....if that helps....find out tonight if we may go ahead with our 6.41 acres...and want to plan my garden out....
     
  2. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    raised beds are nice for small gardens. helps keep things contained and easy to access... especially if your back or knees aren't what they used to be. but for gardens over a certain size it can be prohibative. can't really get equipment such as a rototiller or fertilizer/manure spreader on a raised bed. i have used both. for my needs, the raised beds worked very well. kept the soil off the paths and provided a nice anchor to attach hoops for covering rows; netting to keep birds off berries and plastic to start plants sooner.
     

  3. Chris in PA

    Chris in PA Well-Known Member

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    Remember, a raised bed is in the ground growing. Some raised bed gardeners do not put an actual "wall" around their raised beds, they make sure that they rake up the edges so that are more rounded. The reason why the beds are called raised is this is were we put our compost, our mulch, etc. and we keep this soil light. We try very hard not to walk on it. We walk on the paths around the beds. Most beds are not wider then 4 feet so you can reach the center from either end. You can make them as long as you like but I like to keep them less then 10 feet so you don't spend the day walking around a long area. Because the dirt is "soft" from no compaction (walking, wheelbarrows, machinery, etc) it gives the appearance of being higher - consequencely "raised". And, each year, as you add more compost, mulch,etc. the area does get higher.

    We have a lot of rock in our ground so we actually did make a frame and fill it full of soil, compost, and such so that the roots of plants have a good soil to work through before they hit the more rocky soil.

    So, when you plan a raised bed garden you are planning like a city. The streets are the paths that you walk on, the "inside" the blocks is where you grown. Just make sure your streets are wide enough for the mode of transportation you use to move mulch, etc. Not so wide if you only use a wheelbarrow but much wider if you use a lawntractor with a wagon. They should be at least 3 ft wide.

    Orient your beds to take full advantage of the sun and drainage.

    Some of my beds are set up for herbs only. Some hold strawberry beds. The rest are large enough so I can rotate my crops both inside the bed and between beds.
     
  4. FrankTheTank

    FrankTheTank Well-Known Member

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    I wonder when looking at yields if there is any benefit? I've always used wood chips, but after reading so many negatives, this year i'll be doing something different. I have a new spot to garden so i'm open to ideas. I really like the thought of raised beds, but the money/effort might not be worth it to me. I've just got to figure out how i'm going to get rid of the grass where i plan on having my garden...

    rototill VS. other method????
     
  5. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another difference and benefit to boxes is that you plant more densely, and the yield is greater per square foot of box space than traditional row type gardening. Instead of following the package rules of, say seeds every 2 inches in rows separated 12 inches, you can plant the rows 2 inches apart.

    Water is conserved, however, since the planting is more dense, the box will use more water the a row the same length.

    You don't really need to get heavy equipment into the boxes because you don't walk on the soil. I used to dig each box deeply before planting, but the last two years I have taken advice from others on this forum and just broken the surface with a pitch fork -- no turning. I've noticed a big increase in worm populations and the soil hasn't compacted much at all.

    I have heard of some large box gardens -- like 20 boxes. But it may not be appropriate for large scale farming or certain crops. If you grow feed corn or wheat, it would be better in a conventional field. If you are feeding your family and maybe selling at an open market, boxes could save a lot of space and effort.

    One of the biggest benefits is being able to sit down and work the garden. Even if you don't sit, the surface of the boxes are closer and you don't have to bend so far.
     
  6. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    i'd never heard of a distinction between "boxed" and "unboxed" raised beds. in my mind, a raised bed inherently had a wall around it. interesting!
     
  7. Ramblin Wreck

    Ramblin Wreck Well-Known Member Supporter

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    From my reading, I think the biggest advantage to raised beds is the yield for the space alloted. With proper "boxing", you can also limit the amount of stooping you do. I grew up on a "row crop" farm, but the garden space I'm building will be a raised bed set up that will allow me to roto till with a regular farm tractor as necessary. It will be interesting to see other responses on this thread.
     
  8. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    Raised beds will be of particular help to you in the Spring to help the soil dry out and heat up. You have lots of sunshine hour in Northern Ontario from April, May, June into July, August so if you can't get going early because the soil is still frozen deep or still too wet then you are throwing half your season away. Things might seem warm and dry in September but the days are getting shorter again anyway even if you do beat the frost. Best to focus on an early start and raised beds will allow that. Where you are you should try beds 4' wide and a full 2' off the ground, so you will need sides. To get them dry enough for peas and perhaps even warm enough and frost protected for other stuff you can do various things. Row covers. Cold frames. Hot beds. You can also fill the beds with compost and cover with plastic over the winter and retop with topsoil in spring. You can also thaw the beds out and kill seeds with boiling hot water immediately before planting.

    With 6.4 acres that would be alot of raised beds. The other approach is to use raised bed and row covers for starting things early and then transplant to fields with wider spacing, possibly as companions to hardy grains and covercrops. High narrow furrows should help the fields warm up and dry out. Not all vegetables lend themselves to such transplanting and interplanting to fields, but many do.
     
  9. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Aside from less digging and tilling- if not walked on, soil doesn't compact- soil amendments also aren't being strewn over a whole area including the spaces between rows and the weeds on the edge of the field, just in the growing area. And closer planting reduces space for weeds to set up shop.

    Me I would liek them so I can garden from a chair.... and in AL they say you need drainage.
     
  10. vicker

    vicker Well-Known Member

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    I use both methods. I have 3 double dug raised bedsn 5'x20'. Will be adding a few more this year. You will definitely get a earlier start in the beds. Mine are 100sq' so that makes it easy to figure for suppliments. you can grow much more per area in the beds and the soil only gets better as you use them. I grow mainly corn and potatos in the row garden, mix sqaush melons and beans in the corn. In one 100sq' bed you can grow much more than you think. One of those beds will grow as many bush beans as over 100 foot of row, and no hoeing. I have a small walk way between each bed. This winter I put a hoop house over two of the beds, and am growing greens and herbs in them.
    It takes a good bit of work to double dig a bed, but then it is done. Beds save you time work and money.
     
  11. Haoleboy

    Haoleboy Active Member

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    I'll throw in my two cents. I vote definitely raised beds because they allow intensive spacing which reduce weeds and increase yields per square foot. Mountain people I've worked with who live off of sweet potatoes and manioc/cassava/yuka use raised beds though they are mounded and the soil is not held in by wood or rock. Others have commented on this technique already. Quite a lot of land can be cultivated this way, but it takes time to build them and amend the soil. Also, you can build simple greenhouses over the beds with pvc and 4mm plastic, which may help you in your climate.

    An agricultural economist after WWII named Mittleider developed a grow box system that is intriguing, though he was the opposite of organic. You can find out more about him through Google. Back then everything was the miracle of petrochemicals and modern science over indigenous knowledge.

    Finally, raised beds tend to be managed by human labor and hand tools (horticulture). If you have farm equipment at hand, you might build a few raised beds and use furrows for the rest with the equipment (or draft animals). Regardless, 6 acres would be a lot of beds and a lot of produce.

    Let us know how it works out.
     
  12. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I prefer raised beds because you have some control over the soil conditions. In this part of Texas we have very alkaline soil. In the raised beds I have some hope of changing the alkalinity more towards neutral. In the ground its a lost cause.
     
  13. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    As people have pointed out, raised beds dry out. This is an advantage in wet areas or in northern areas with heavy snow cover when you want an early start. I used them to good effect in th UP of Michigan.

    In dry areas though, drying out quickly is not a good thing unless you have access to lots of water. Raised beds were not good thing for me here on hilltop in NW Arkansas.

    In desert areas, people actually make sunken beds to conserve water and slow drying.
     
  14. celina

    celina Well-Known Member

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    cool, i'll likely do a combination..as i'm all for an early start...the whole 6.41 acres is not to be cultivated, over 4 acres are wooded....and we're finding out soon about whether or not we can buy this place....i was just dreaming about my garden....

    thank you so much for the great info......
     
  15. Wannabee

    Wannabee Foggy Dew Farms

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    Last summer was the first time we went raised beds.....I will never go back. In my mind, raised beds are the "greatest thing since sliced bread." We had more tomatos than we have ever had before - bigger onions, radishes, etc. Our yield was a whole lot higher, less back-breaking work, and no working on the tiller when it breaks down, replacing batteries, etc. It was outstanding. Not to mention we produced all we had been producing on about 20% of the space. Yes, it cost money to do it, and yes we had to work to set it up, but now it is all done, and next spring I don't have to worry about the mud being a factor....

    Oh - and on the topic of walls - we simply used scrap 2x4's - not treated. Yes, they will rot out. When they rot, I will replace them one by one.

    All we had was 4 - 4x8' beds. They were wonderful!

    Read gardening by the square foot for more direction, or better yet - watch the videos!!!
     
  16. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

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    In 4x8 beds, how many of what kind of plants did you put in each? I built one big box for a sort of raised bed/container garden/lasagna approach--it is 3'x3'x6'. I'll probably try to put together at least one more before spring. I don't want to overcrowd it, but I'm not sure how densely I can plant things in it and have them still get what they need to be very productive. I know it can be denser than the ground, but how much denser? Thanks!
     
  17. celina

    celina Well-Known Member

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    what is the lasagna approach
     
  18. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

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    lasagna gardening is a type of raised bed gardening, basically. I'm basing it on the books by Patricia Lanza, but I'm sure there are other ways. If you do it on the ground, you put cardboard or several sheets of newspaper right over the ground/grass, wet it, then begin to layer organic stuff over it--leaves, compost, manure, soil, straw, more leaves, etc.--so it is like lasagna. The idea is that you can plant right in that pile of partially broken-down stuff the first year, and it will compost in the bed as the season progresses, and by the next year and year after that, you will have an even better bed. You can do the same thing in a container, which is what I'm doing for the most part. The benefit is that you don't have to do things like till or double dig the ground first, and that you don't really have to wait until all your compost matures before starting to plant in it. Otherwise, I think the benefits are pretty much the same as a regular raised bed.
     
  19. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    Lasagna Gardening , by Patricia Lanza

    Weedless Gardening , by Lee Reich

    These are must read books for anyone contemplating gardening--even on a fairly large scale.

    Raised beds can have sides or not--they are just beds piled as high as needed. As said eloquently above, they have many advantages. They can get quite elaborate. I remember reading about a woman in SoCal (where else?) with too much money on her hands. Her beds were made with 2x12 redwood plank boxes with hardware cloth bottoms. They were works of art including a 2" band of copper halfway up the outsides and all the way around each bed to keep slugs away. Paths and fencing were of similar caliber quality. Soil was carefully mixed, etc. I don't think she was growing for market!!

    I put 2x12 beds (of rough-cut cedar in WWA) in my hoop house and found them quite convenient to sit upon for bed maintenance or picking. A 2x4 on the edges would have made them more comfortable. I had unfettered raised beds outdoors, along with a little rolling cart. That worked, too.

    For large scale farming, there are machines that are built to work bed systems. That's a whole 'nother subject.

    My current garden is 50x50 with 4' wide beds, no sides. I will probably build sides as I can afford it with 4"x8"x16" concrete blocks primarily for the purpose of having an edge to sit on. The beds were built with layers: newspaper, 4-6" mushroom compost, 4-6" municipal leaf compost. It is rotting away in the winter weather and will be planted in the spring. There are many large earthworms busy doing the plowing for me. Piles of leaf mulch and/or mushroom compost await mulching opportunities. There is a tall fence around the garden. We have had a much smaller garden for a few years and have put a lot of food into the freezer from it. This larger garden will grow food for us, but also flowers for cutting and propagating. The garden is expandable to about 100' long, by the simple expedient of building more beds as needed, using the lasagna method.
     
  20. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I currently have 6 boxes. I use one for chives, oregano, sorrel, and another perennial called "kings salad." Another has horseradish on one end, and rhubarb on the other. I grow potatoes and a few other greens in that box.

    The other four boxes get rotated every year. I do a lot of companion planting, but have a basic recipe for each of these four boxes. I plant tomatoes and peppers in one box. This box gets a lot of early season greens before the weather is warm enough to bring out the tomatoes and peppers. I also like to put tomatillos in this box, as well as garlic, basil, etc. I occasionally put snap peas in with the early greens. I limit the tomatoes to 8 or 10 at the most so I am not overrun. Usually get about 30 pepper plants.

    Another box gets the brassicas. I change the types all the time. Mustard greens, collards, and cabbages. Brussel sprouts occasionally, and I keep trying brocolli, and cauliflower, but without great success. Another box gets cucumbers, onions, garlic, spinach, and a bunch of greens.

    The last box gets squash or melon, and whatever else strikes my fancy for the year.

    I rotate the four main boxes so I don't plant that recipe in that box for 3 more years.

    I do great at early spring crops, but since my work has been heavier during the summer, I usually neglect the garden for the bulk of the summer. By the time the hot weather hits, I have mulched heavily, and water a couple times a week. This has worked for me and my schedule, but I know I can improve quality and production with more attention throughout the growing season.

    I made trellises that I can move around with the different crops. I used a sheet of cattle fence to make the tomato support. I cut it in half and it looks like a pup tent. The fence is supported on cedar slats and held together with tie wire. I use a half sheet of cattle fence for cucumbers, squash and peas. I made an arbor of cattle fence for pole beans.

    I also plant zinnias and other flowers in the boxes each year.