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Discussion Starter #1
I had planned to buy cedar planks to construct raised beds in my large veggie garden, but the initial expense of the boards on top of soil amendments is prohibitive, at least for now. Meanwhile, the area that we've fenced off for the garden is full of bermuda grass (ugh, been tilling and weeding sections for months, but I am resisting the use of grass killer--now I know why they call this region of southern Alabama "the Wiregrass") so that is why I plan to dig it in, lay down cardboard, and then replace some sifted soil with Black Kow, peat moss, compost, etc. to make up the raised beds.) So after some research, I decided to try making wattle raised beds, instead. We have a huge supply of brush that needs to be cleared towards the back of the homestead, anyway. Hopefully, it will look something like this:
upload_2019-1-3_21-31-13.jpeg

(Photo from Home Guides.)
Has anyone done this? Any tricks or tips I should consider? I'm starting the project tomorrow, and will post progress.
 

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Four considerations:

How will you make it waterproof enough? So the nutrients won't leech out, and so it won't have to be watered constantly to replace moisture.

How long do you want to use it? So the wattle won't rot away too early.

Will any of the brush in the wattle re-sprout?

How will you keep out the Bermudagrass rhizomes once they find an opening, or when the cardboard decomposes?

Just some thoughts....

geo
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Four considerations:

How will you make it waterproof enough? So the nutrients won't leech out, and so it won't have to be watered constantly to replace moisture.

Hmm, I suspect some nutrients/water will leech out due to the porous nature of the wattle. "Good drainage." I suppose I could use landscape cloth to line it, but again that's expensive. However, I'm not as concerned about moisture loss in this area (we are blessed with plenty of rainfall, and the added organic matter will hold in moisture for a few days at least before watering from the well). If we were in Arizona or anywhere west of the Mississippi, that would be a bigger problem I think.

How long do you want to use it? So the wattle won't rot away too early.

Again, good question, and at a minimum I'd say a couple of years (or the effort isn't worth it). Will woven branches and tree whips last that long? Not sure. I know four or five months ago I layered some branches on the ground in one corner to try a hugelkultur section, topped with manure and grass clippings/leaves, and now those branches look as fresh as the day I laid them, no decomposition at all lol. In a couple of years I hope our initial startup costs will decline and we can afford to go with cedar planking if necessary. Maybe build just frame in the wattle beds and leave the rotting wattle frames inside as added organic matter lol.

Will any of the brush in the wattle re-sprout?

No idea. Maybe. I'm not going with a particular brush type, but just selecting anything that is relatively straight and a minimum of 5' long and flexible. If it roots, it could be a problem, so that is a good point. I'll make sure to place the cut ends so they kind of stick out into the air instead of bury them in the bed.

How will you keep out the Bermudagrass rhizomes once they find an opening, or when the cardboard decomposes?

That bermuda grass is insanely tenacious, and I have a feeling I'll be fighting it for years. I actually did put in some rows of winter veggies in the fall (tilled 2' wide swaths, spent many days on my knees pulling out the rhizomes, then carved out a 4" deep and wide trench in the middle and filled it with my Black Kow/peat moss mix into which I planted single rows), and I was able to harvest a pretty good amount of lettuce, kale, greens, and even carrots before grass overran everything. I suspect a lot of the grass that is coming up in those rows is actually sprouted seed rather than growth from rhizomes, because it pulls out easily when I go after it (and yeah, if I sift the soil through 1/2 inch hardware cloth to pull out rhizomes, the seeds will still get through, so I know I'll have to keep after that. ) However, I do plan to use some kind of mulch top cover on the beds after my veggies are a few inches tall. Maybe strips of newspaper with some shredded wood on top; just enough to suppress the grass and not too much to just turn back into the gardens when it's done. As for the cardboard decomposing, I am aiming to have six inches of soil on top of that (going for about 8" tall wattle). Hopefully any rhizomes under that will be decomposed themselves after being buried that long. I just don't see any easy way around those rhizomes. If I weren't newly retired and in relatively good physical health (I've lost ten pounds in the past six months working on this garden!! Booyah!) I wouldn't be so optimistic about my garden's future, that's for sure!

Just some thoughts....

And thank you for them!

geo
 

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been tilling
Every little piece of Bermuda Grass root can propagate on it's own.

In fact, it's often planted by tilling in "sprigs", which are nothing more than chopped up bits of turf.

It has be be killed before tilling, and it's better to remove and burn as much as possible before tilling.
 

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Those things are cool looking. Bit of labor and I'd think that you'd need fairly straight sticks, depending on bed size. As far as the soil drying out, I don't think it would be too much of a problem. I've built compost piles using old 3 inch oak fence posts crib stacked which means 3 inch gaps and only a few inches around the sides dried out. Soil will fall out as my compost did once it broke down. To fix that, I started putting leaves around the edges as I built the pile and that fixed it as the whole leaves won't break down that quick. Plastic sheeting would really seal it as would burlap or multiple layers of card board. None of it is going to last all that long, even cedar although that would last longer. The heart wood(red) lasts a long time but the sap wood(white) goes quick. Cedar would last some years though.

I've thought about casting my own thin concrete panels with something cast in them to attach the panels to one another and that you could pound some rebar through into the ground to hold them in place. They make those concrete molds for sidewalks that have a stone pattern. That would look cool and last forever but would take some work and one would have to have some mechanical/building abilities to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Every little piece of Bermuda Grass root can propagate on it's own.

In fact, it's often planted by tilling in "sprigs", which are nothing more than chopped up bits of turf.

It has be be killed before tilling, and it's better to remove and burn as much as possible before tilling.
Well dang, that explains why I'm still getting the grass. I was thinking of getting one of those torch weeders, and that sort of clinches it. I guess I'll torch it first, then till again, then dig and sift into the wheelbarrow, where I'll mix with amendments before replacing it into the raised beds. I've got asparagus crowns and strawberry starts coming in mid-February, so I've got about a month to get the beds ready.
 

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You do realize Bermuda grass roots can go feet deep in the soil? Torching won't work on Bermuda. I used to torch weeds. Doesn't kill the deep roots.

Wattle is nice - for fences. The time and energy you'll put in to build one raised bed will not be worth it.
 

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I am jealous, I've wanted to do those types of raised beds for years. Unfortunately, the desert I live in doesn't provide much in the way of usable material (why does everything I *could* use have to have thorns?!).

Having read all of the negatives people think could happen, I just keep thinking, why not try it? Your major "cost" is going to be in labor, and if it doesn't work out, you've learned something and can replace the outer edges with better/sturdier/whatever material. If it does work out, you have beautiful raised beds at very little cost.

Do it! At least on a trial bed or two...and post pictures! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
OK I've made some progress. It's slower than I'd hoped (of course, it always is). But I got some brush cut and started working on the beds. For the strawberry patch, it's going to be about 4' wide by about 18' long. I took these photos this morning...

Below, I made a frame of 1/2" hardware cloth to fit over the wheelbarrow, and used it to sift dirt from the bed area. This actually worked really well... I had tilled this area in the fall and covered it with cardboard, and when I shoveled out four or five shovels full and then just kind of pushed it through the hardware cloth with gloves, the good soil went through and the roots stayed up. Easy peasy. Tomorrow I should be able to finish sifting the strawberry bed; I've got it on a tarp now and will mix it with Black Kow and peat moss before shoveling it back into the area for the bed.

upload_2019-1-10_19-50-52.png


I'm not sure how to upload images on the forum, so bear with me if I have to try this a few times.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
upload_2019-1-10_19-54-6.png

Above, you see the early stages of the berry patch. On the left, my guinea atrium :)

I'll be starting the wattling for the raised beds in a couple of days and will post that progress. I am happy to report that most if not all of the roots/rhizomes are within the top six inches of soil. So hopefully digging out, sifting, and replacing will eliminate most of the grass problem.
 

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Good prep. Labor intensive yes, but if your making progress and having fun, that's a big plus. Can you see the pies?

It looks like a focused fun happy clean work space.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I'm thinking about placing some cardboard on the outside of these stakes in order to hopefully keep out grass. It would only be about 6" panels. I know it won't last forever, maybe a year or two. But at least those first couple of years will be more productive. OK, no cost because I have the cardboard (thank you, Dollar General!!!) so will do.
 
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