Raised Beds

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by SweetSarah, Jun 26, 2006.

  1. SweetSarah

    SweetSarah Well-Known Member

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    Hubby and I are thinking of adding some raised bed sections to our garden. We are thinking of installing them later this summer or maybe even in the fall so we can have a head start on next spring. I would appreciate any and all tips you have on raised bed gardening and pictures too. My husband is unfamiliar with them in general so if anyone has a good ppic or two of some, I'd love to show them to him.
     
  2. SweetSarah

    SweetSarah Well-Known Member

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    Come on now people! ;) 12 views and no replies, surely one of you out there must know something about raise bed gardening:
    -What grows best in raised beds?
    -Is there anything you wouldn't recommend planting in one?
    -Are railroad ties a good choice for a border? Even if they are treated?
    -Should I put some kind of mulch down this fall if not planting till spring?

    I am completely new to this so any tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
    :)
     

  3. Dixielee

    Dixielee Well-Known Member

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    I'll give it a shot. We have about 20 raised beds and love them. My husband built them with landscape timbers stacked sort of log cabin style. They fit closely together and the dirt does not come out. Most are 4 timbers high. For comfort, you can nail a 2x6 across the top of one side or all sides. It really gives them a finished look and gives you a bench to sit on to do your weeding. Our garden is my favorite spot to just sit and look anyway, so it makes a nice sitting area.

    Most are 8x4 altho some are 16x4. Much wider than 4 feet makes it hard to weed. We started by filling them with old straw or hay, grass clippings, leaves, anything that would compost mostly. Then we filled with good topsoil. We have a pond that nerver really dries out but gets mushy. It is a great place to get rotting leaves and mucky stuff for the garden. We also have a big compost pile so we used stuff for that. It takes a lot of stuff to fill one up and as it settles you have to add more for a while.

    Some of the beds have cattle panels cut to fit across the longest part of the bed and secured with t posts. We put them where he panel does not touch the dirt, but sits on top of the wood. It is easier to weed that way and we never have to take the panels down. We plant anything that can climb or needs support near these. Beans, cukes, some squash, melons, tomatoes, etc. all go next to a panel. We have some panels running down the middle and some on the edges. The panels make it a lot easier to conserve space.

    You can plant tall plants near the edge on the panels and depending on where the sun hits your garden, you can have shorter plants in front of the tall ones in the same be.

    You can divide a panel with various products into squares for small amounts of herbs. When you do things in small sections it does not seem so overwhelming and there is no waste.

    We have used a variety of things over the years to put between the beds. Give yourself enough walking space between them but not much wasted space. We started with old carpets we put upside down and covered with mulch, we used landscape fabric, newspapers, etc and weed seemed to come up anyway. Now we just mulch heavily.

    We always have a good return on our work. Easier to weed, less critter problems and they save your back. I will try to post a picture but have never done it, so we will see.

    Hope this helps give you some ideas.

    Edited to add. I don't have the pictures on my computer, will see if my husband has some. It may be tonight before I can get them.
     
  4. rocket

    rocket Well-Known Member

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    I would first ask what is leading you to want to make raised beds? What do you plan to use for the soil in your raised beds? What is your existing soil like?

    For instance, my soil is such heavy clay that it won't drain. So I pretty much have to build my beds up above the existing grade. If your soil does drain, you might want to double-dig and add compost to the existing soil underneath the raised bed. That will let your plants grow deeper roots.

    I think everything grows well in raised beds. But taller crops, like corn, may blow over if you get strong winds.

    I would say no to railroad ties. I built my 12'x4' beds out of 2x10 Douglas Fir. They won't last forever, but they're still in good shape after 4 years. Just about any timber will work, but be careful about treated wood. Check to see that it won't contaminate your soil. You can also use rocks, cinder blocks, retaining blocks... or use nothing at all and just mound the bed up.

    Mulching or green manure will add organic matter this winter while surpressing weeds. So, yes, you should! Mulch after you plant in the spring too!
     
  5. Woodroe

    Woodroe Well-Known Member

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    Stay away from the treated lumber and especially railroad ties that have the creosote.
    Older cinder blocks or brick are good choices. Basically what Rocket has said I would second the motion.
     
  6. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    My "raised beds" don't have sides. They're really only raised because after all the work of digging and amending my soil, I couldn't bear to walk on all that good growing stuff so I shovelled the dirt out of my paths and onto my beds.

    I have some pics on my blog here . That was back when I was planting stuff. I need to take some more pics. You can click on those to see a larger view.
     
  7. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    Oh heck I completely failed to address your questions.

    -What grows best in raised beds?
    Anything, as far as I know. Better drainage, faster warming in the spring. Nice!

    -Is there anything you wouldn't recommend planting in one?
    Something that spreads like mad and that you can't train up a trellis. Melons, or a bushy (not vining) squash. You don't want the plant spilling out into the path and choking your walking space.

    -Are railroad ties a good choice for a border? Even if they are treated?
    I wouldn't use them but many do. If you use railroad ties line your bed with plastic (that's what I've heard recommended).

    -Should I put some kind of mulch down this fall if not planting till spring?
    Yes put down mulch or better yet grow some green manure. You want something to keep the soil in place and to prevent weeds. The green manure will improve the tilth of the soil if you are going the no-till route.
     
  8. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    This place has a vast repository of information for exactly what you are asking. Just poke "raised beds" or "square foot gardening" into the search engine. Saves a lot of typing and repeating ourselves.
     
  9. vicker

    vicker Well-Known Member

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    Another good idea is to make the sq footage of your beds a good even number. For instance, I make my beds 4'x25' so they are 100 square feet. It helps when figuring how much ammendments to add. This fall, take a soil sample to your extension office. They can tell you exactly what to add (most will give recommendations for organic).
     
  10. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I organically garden. I agree that everything except spreading squash will do well in a raised bed (because of it spreading all over the paths). Even so, I have them and try to train them to go down the length of the beds. You could plant them on the outside edges and just let them go over on the grass. Mine are planted amongst the asparagus and keep the weeds down after the asparagus goes to rest.

    I also recommend cattle panels secured with wire to tposts. A garden your size planted intensively will grow plenty.

    Here is my only reservation about how high the beds are. In zone 6, they would dry out faster like that and ground would be hotter (a consideration in the deep south). I don't try to mound that high because of that. But I do only amend the beds and stay off them by walking on permanent paths. We started with red hard pan clay and now have beautiful almost black soil, very workable full of organic matter and worms (after two years).

    Another problem that I would have with beds raised so much is that I mulch with newspaper and all paper products (cracker and cereal boxes, etc..)and things would just fall off. My mulching technique really helped this last drought spell we had. I didn't have to water really except for the bucket we collect from the shower every day. Worms as well as plants don't like dry soil.

    I'd have two trellised beds so that you can rotate the beds year to year to cut down on bugs. I like turtlehead's pictures and blog. Is that Sweet Sarah's other?