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Raised beds

Last post Wed, Mar 17 2010 10:01 PM by Andrea3. 6 replies.
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  • Fri, Mar 5 2010 10:41 PM

    Raised beds

     Hello, everyone,

    As I posted earlier, my garden was dug up by a backhoe and leveled by a bulldozer, so I now have on subsoil they turned up (my own soil now buried 4' deep). It is clay, silt, and some sand, totally unfit for planting anything.

    I can't afford much, so can't bring in topsoil. I thought raised beds would be best, with new soil in them, if I can get the soil.

    Yet, the woman who heads the Master Gardener program wrote (to another gardener) that "raised beds are never good, since they do not drain into the soil".

    As far as I've read and heard, raised beds are very good indeed. Has anyone used them - or had a bad experience with them?

  • Fri, Mar 5 2010 10:48 PM In reply to

    Re: Raised beds

    I built my own raised bed, because when I bought my house Colorado was experiencing a drought - it's worked beautifully for vegetables.  I built the outside out of cinder blocks (treated wood is very expensive, and all the types I found said "Do not use near small children, pets, or edible plants"), lined it with 10-mil plastic, and put in new dirt.  I've never had a drainage problem, and my vegies have liked it for 5 years.

  • Fri, Mar 5 2010 10:51 PM In reply to

    • Pat
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Tue, Mar 6 2007
    • Colorado
    • Posts 14,463

    Re: Raised beds

     I have two raised beds that I'm very happy with. I don't understand why she would say that they don't drain into the soil, unless she thought there was a barrier of some sort between the bed and the soil underneath. Raised beds are just that - soil built up and usually contained with walls or some sort of structure around the perimeter. I have had mine three or four years and the soil has progressed to where I no longer need to till at all, but just drop some seeds in and cover them. I am very happy with them.

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  • Fri, Mar 5 2010 10:57 PM In reply to

    Re: Raised beds

    Seems to me that that particular Master Gardener may be mistaken. One of the primary reasons for building raised beds is to accomplish better drainage. I cannot speak of a raised bed that is lined with plastic. Both the last place I lived and this one have poorly-draining soil. This one also has LOTS of rocks. The obvious solution is raised beds. My front landscaping beds are edged with native rock gathered from around the place. My veggie beds out back are edged with concrete blocks. In both cases, I put in lots of vegetative matter and plant. It decomposes in place and I add more, now called mulch. One problem I don't have with them is drainage. AM
  • Sun, Mar 7 2010 10:10 PM In reply to

    Re: Raised beds

     Thanks, I thought thus. I don't know where she got this information. She occupies mostly an administrative position, so she may not garden at all.

  • Sun, Mar 7 2010 10:18 PM In reply to

    • babs
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Mon, Apr 2 2007
    • Vermont
    • Posts 10,988

    Re: Raised beds

     Seaturtle, last year, I made one raised bed with my daycare kids. It did really well. I grew cherry tomatoes, bush green beans, cukes, cabbage, brocolli. The cukes and tomatoes did really well. Actually, that was the only tomatoe plant that didnt get hit with the blight. I did the square foot gardening in the raised bed. I grew the cukes up a wire trellis so they were growing up not on the ground. Babs

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  • Wed, Mar 17 2010 10:01 PM In reply to

    • Andrea3
    • Top 500 Contributor
    • Joined on Mon, Oct 26 2009
    • Posts 58

    Re: Raised beds

    I had raised beds when I lived in Virginia, & they gave me the best crop of lettuce I ever had!  My only problem came after about 3 or 4 years, when the plum tree roots worked their way into the soil.  Couldn't get rid of those darn things.

    I'm in upstate New York now, and put in a couple simple beds last year.  (Our "soil" here is  just rocks that the glaciers left behind, with a little token soil thrown in to tease us, so tilling was way too much work).

    All I did was lay down cardboard and newspaper on the ground, then top it with compostable kitchen scraps, a shovel of "soil" & some grass clippings every so often.  Eventually, when the beds got about 8" tall, I capped them with an inch of top soil/peat moss/sand mixture.  Then I planted pepper and tomato seedlings right into the pile.  No rototilling, no turning the pile, just plopped 'em right in.  They did super!  We had enough to eat, and froze about 40 quart bags of peppers to boot.

    Not long ago I was reading about a German way of making raised beds that sounded even better.  They call them "Huegelbeete".  They're about 4 feet tall and quonset-hut shaped. 

    The layers start with branches at the very bottom, then they build up the bed with manure, leaves, grass and so on. The ideas are:

    (1) the bed takes about 6 or 7 years to break down, so you get a lot of "mileage" from your initial work; (2) it's high enough so that older people or people in wheelchairs can still garden, because they don't have to bend over; and (3) it's super efficient, because the quonset-hut shape gives you more actual square footage to plant--that is, you're planting up both sides of the "hut" and on the top, not just in a rectangular shape like you do when you plant flat on the ground.

    I don't have any trees around, so no branches to try this out, but the technique sounds pretty cool.  It reminds me a little bit of the old "hot beds" from years back, when fresh manure would be used to heat up the soil so you could garden in the cold months.

    Maybe that Master Gardener needs to rethink things a bit!

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