Raised bed question

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Topaz Farm, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. Topaz Farm

    Topaz Farm Well-Known Member

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    Finally after living here for 7 years we have decided where our permanent garden will be. We would like to make a raised bed garden, figure it would be easier on our backs and knees.

    What is a good size for the beds and how deep? Does one size fits all work? I was thinking about using cinder blocks, is there any reason why I shouldn't?
     
  2. BertaBurtonLake

    BertaBurtonLake Well-Known Member

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    Topaz,

    Raised beds are great! You can use cinder blocks, if you like, but water may drain out of them TOO fast because the blocks are porous. Raised beds drain faster anyway. Tou can seal the outside with masonry paint to keep moisture in longer. Plus, if you cap the holes part of the block with stone or lumber, it provides a nice place to park your backside while working your beds.

    Raised beds can be as long as you want or space allows, but they should not be any wider than 4'. This width allows you to reach 2' to the center from each side. You can plant your raised beds in traditional rows or by the square foot method (google "square foot gardening" for more info on this). Place your beds with at least 2' (preferably 3") between them so you have room to walk between them. Bark mulch looks very nice between the boxes and keeps weeds down as well.

    The beauty of raised beds is you can put them anywhere without disturbing the groundand weeding the few stray weeds is quick and easy. If you are putting them where grass is, mow low to the ground and lay down 10 to 12 sheets of newspaper in the bottom of eash bed, wetting thoroughly, before adding your soil to the box. This gives you a biodegradable weed barrier and decomposing newspaper is an earthworm magnet!! Just be sure your newspaper prints using soy ink (most now do and you can find out by making a phonecall to the newspaper office) and use the black and white pages, not the slick colored pages.

    As to what to fill the boxes with, we used well composted cow manure mixed with leaf mold (composted leaves) and perlite.

    In the fall when your garden is done, pull up all spent plants and top you bed with sheet compost (layer of straw, layer of green manure, layer of shredded leaves or paper) and cover with woven commercial grade lanscaping cloth (we get ours cheap by the foot at our local garden center). In the spring, all that raw material will have composted down to rich, friable compost to mix into the base material before planting.

    Good Luck and I think you will enjoy gardening in raised beds!

    ~Berta
     

  3. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    I have one raised bed with cinder block sides that works great. 4 feet across, and 20 feet long. Height to suit the gardener. Mine is a comfortable height to sit on the edge.

    As Berta said, you don't want them over 4 feet wide, so you can reach the middle without stretching. As for the length, though, you can make them as long as you want, but bear in mind that you have to walk around them to get to the other side. 20 feet is my limit. I'd also make sure I have wheelbarrow space between them.

    I use intensive gardening, (Here's a short website on that for you. http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/intensive.html) and companion planting in all my beds. It helps retain moisture well, along with the mulching. Since I'm in the South, my beds will never be 'done for the fall', and shut down. Spinach and lettuce and such grows all winter here. So, I continually mulch, side dress with rabbit and goat poo, or composted chicken poo and whatever. I constantly feed all my beds, which sounds like work, but isn't. It's just when I clean out the rabbit house, the poo must go somewhere, so it goes in the garden. Ditto for everything else.

    Meg
     
  4. Topaz Farm

    Topaz Farm Well-Known Member

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    Thanks so much Berta and Meg. I am going to copy and save your information. I think we will start now for next years garden. I have 5 horses so have plenty of fertilizer, and some really good leave compost in our woods.

    I just can't do the bend, stoop and squat anymore. :)

    Forgot to say thank you for the links.
     
  5. BertaBurtonLake

    BertaBurtonLake Well-Known Member

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    Not trying to insult your intelligence, Topaz, but just make sure any manure you are using on your garden is WELL composted. Green (fresh) manure is very high in nitrogen and can burn the roots of your plants if in direct contact with them. If you use green manure, you can side dress with small amounts of it on top of the soil to mitigate any root burn. Well composted manure will look and smell like rich soil with no evidence of what it once was and no "barnyard" smell.

    For any kind of gardening info, try: http://www.gardenweb.com

    They have forums for every imaginable type of gardening or gardening related thing including, soil and compost, raised bed and squarefoot gardening, veggies, organic, ad infinitum. It is a very comprehensive source of information.

    All the best!

    ~Berta
     
  6. Topaz Farm

    Topaz Farm Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again Berta, like I said in one post recently, my main interest are my 5 horses. :D DH does most of the gardening, but it has been a long time since he has done any serious gardening.

    The tomatoes are planted in some compost that is about 6-7 years old. I have another pile that is about 3 years old. And have started two new piles. Don't worry you didn't insult me. I need all the hints, suggestions and reminders that I can get.