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Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

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Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby sampson » Jul 22, 2012 7:04 pm

Hello,This will be my first post! :) My name is Neoma, I live in Telegraph Creek, British Columbia. I will say, my thumb is not green- I have just started getting into gardening/flowers the past couple of years, I do kill some plants easily, others do really well with me! :lol: I guess there is alot to learn, and well, here is a bit of history...

.... this summer is our second summer doing a garden(potatoes, carrots, cabbage, squash, ETC..easy stuff)- our soil is NOT very good at all; very rocky/sandy, defiantly not really meant for gardening! I am wondering if Raised beds would be the best for me? I am a fairly busy person- and spending the past week in the garden, picking rocks, weeding, tilling, and hilling just doesnt seem to make to all that thrilled... :shock: !

I have been doing alot of reading up on Raised beds, and it sounds like the first year(setting it all up, etc) might be the hardest part- but after that, you'll be glad you did it!? I would like to hear some advice/info on some people who have experience in this area. The things I would be growing would be:

-Potatoes
-Carrots
-Cabbage
-Cauliflower
-Broccoli
-Flowers, of course :)

Those are all pretty simple things to grow and easy to take care of.

Any information and advice would be great, what I am wondering is, what are the PRO's and CON's of doing Raised beds for your vegetable garden? I have also heard that growing potatoes in buckets, and in tires work fairly well... has anyone tried this? I guess I am trying to make it easier to garden, and not such a pain- and something I can enjoy. I find the look of raised beds very pretty, and very neat and organized looking.

Thanks so much... Looking forward to talking to some of you! :) ( and I can't wait to learn more!)
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby B_BQ » Jul 22, 2012 7:17 pm

I'm a fan of raised beds! I have two, about 20" high, built for me by my husband and two adult children. (Two back surgeries and back still bad!).

They are awesome. For several years I grew potatoes in one bed and tomatoes in the other. Over the years the variety of potatoes in supermarkets has improved, so I don't grow potatoes any more, but I do grow heritage/heirloom tomatoes. I also grow carrots, cucumber, squash, hot peppers and tomatillos.

The raised beds make it all possible for me. Over the last 6 years I've constantly enriched the soil with compost, manure, grass clippings and leaves.

They're so easy to weed. Really easy to take care of. Wouldn't be without them.
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~BBQ
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby sampson » Jul 22, 2012 8:27 pm

Thanks BBQ! Your raised beds look lovely! :mrgreen: I think my main concern right now is that, we have so many rows of things(2 rows of carrots, 14 rows of potatoes, 1 row of squash, 1 row of cabbage & cauli. ETC) - am I going to beable to build enough beds for all of my plants? But, I guess when I think about it, all of the carrots can be put closer together, and its not like the beds have to be made in rows just like they are in rows now, I can make lots of smaller boxes like yours! And I am thinking about the future as well- I do have a bad back(many horse accidents and my work involves heavy lifting) so in the future, I want to have a nice set up- and still beable to enjoy gardening... :)

I also read that it is recommended to lay down black plastic- so the grass/weeds do not grow up through your beds- is this correct?


Thanks again.. :)
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby B_BQ » Jul 22, 2012 9:23 pm

I think a lot depends on how deep your raised beds are. Obviously with mine, being as deep as they are, I didn't really have to worry about weeds or grass growing up from the bottom! We made these raised beds directly on top of lawn. However, as we'd just moved we had lots of cardboard boxes around, and I put a very deep layer of cardboard, a few rocks and a few logs into the bottom of each one.

I then lined all the sides with landscape fabric before those with the strong backs started putting all the soil in!

If you're not going to be making the raised beds quite so deep, then you probably do need to put a layer of something down first. Several thicknesses of cardboard, or layers of newspaper would work.

As you've probably gathered, I think raised beds are marvellous! lol

There's always going to be weeding, but weeding a raised bed is so much easier.

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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby Dumbo » Jul 22, 2012 10:44 pm

You have to look at the pro's and con's of each thing.

I've never done raised, but, I'm heading sort of that way and it is a lot of work starting off, and money, of course.

I decided to break it up over a couple of years.

This year I bought some very good quality earth. I even had it analyzed. For a raised garden 2 feet up, you are looking at quite a few cubic yards with the size of your garden being trucked in.

Then you have to decide how you want to raise it. Will it be cedar ($), or will it be like what BBQ posted which looks like patio stone and brackets bought at Lee and Valley ($).

I tilled mine (rented a rototiller) and almost lost a lung doing it. Then the un-ending shoveling of the earth into the wheelbarrow (unless a truck can dump it right where you want it).

So this year I had earth trucked in. Then in fall when I have more time I'll likely add a foot or 2 feet (or less) of cedar around it.

Then next spring another truck load to top it off.

Doing it this way (splitting it up) costs a bit more since you pay extra for the truck. In my case I took the truck. I could have done it by trailer load.

But yeah, lots of work.

However there may be some pro's and con's. Off the top of my head I see this:

Pro:
-Earth should heat more & faster in spring leading to earlier planting.
-Easier on the back/body.

Con:
-Earth should dry out faster requiring more watering.
-Should freeze/chill faster near fall.
-If you're a midget/dwarf veggies will be too high up. ;)
Topping up the earth is harder. Instead of dumping a wheelbarrow you will have to shovel it in. Unless you build a long ramp to go up on.

There could be more pro's and con's but i'm not at that point yet in this stage of the game.

I'm not really sold on raised gardens just because of the added work of shoveling in more quality earth that you aren't going to buy in a bag. Maybe I'll go a foot high.
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby sampson » Jul 22, 2012 11:34 pm

Wow! you guys are great! So much great info- thanks so much! I guess the benefits of living in the north, I have an endless supply of nice black top soil, and even equipment to move it to where it is needed... as for the supplies to build the raised beds, I also have a large supply of milled wood that can be used, and I think I would use alot of recycled materials from the refuse sites! it is just the time and effort to put this all together, with the help from a special DH, of course! ;)

I am still unsure of a height- I would definitely not go lower than 1 foot. Perhaps I would mix it up a bit.. I think that maybe the under ground plants require more earth underneath, so I would go a bit deeper then- but for cabbages and other plants like that, maybe only 1 foot? I will have to try to find some raised beds and check them out in person and see what I would like best!?!

Its all very exciting to plan... I guess planning is the fun part, and lets hope actually building it is fun as well! I think I will try for next spring, and see where it goes... I am pretty excited about all of this! :P

Here is a Q, between all of the raised beds, what is the best to put down to walk on? I was thinking wood chips maybe, or maybe just plain dirt? Sawdust? I know I will be laying plastic down, because where I will be putting the raised beds is very weedy- lots of dandelions, Shepard's purse, grass, you name it... and I DONT want to be messing with that!! :shock:

And I can even go as far as creating a little miniature green house out of a raised bed, using some tubing or wire, and plastic- and have one end opened, for tomatoes! The possibilities are endless.... Wowzers! I am glad I have all winter to plan... :)

thanks again!

And any pictures of your favourite raised beds, or even YOUR own raised beds(Like BBQ posted) would be awesome for idea's! :)
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby Dumbo » Jul 23, 2012 12:53 am

Untreated standard wood (pine??) will work. Should last 5-7 years (+/-) before the rot will make you want to change it. For sure it's less expensive. But you will have to perform a redo in 5 years (+/-). Cost savings in nice. But work involved.

2 feet high or more, just doesn't appeal to me due to the added work, as mentioned.

Also, everything you read, even Canadian Gardening articles are full of it. They act as if the laws of thermodynamics don't exist. So when they state it as a plus due to the raised bed heating faster, they negate to tell you the opposite is true. Come fall your raised bed will be colder faster and freeze faster than a non-raised bed.

So *NO* it does not extend you growing season no matter how many times they try to tell you this. That doesn't even make sense.

So when they say, "you extend your season", I think it's pure baloney and who ever is writing that should read a book on heat transfer and thermodynamics because what they state doesn't even make sense.

But, you could always heat the raised garden, or any garden for that matter, as you mentioned. And a raised garden *will* lose heat faster.

You have to realize that gardening is a lot of old wives tales and voodoo and nothing to do with the real world and how the real world works.

I am eventually going to a minimally raised bed, but only for the look, aesthetics. To make it look more cut and clean. The rest is baloney (aside from being better on your back).

As for recycles material, and you mentioned further up (ie. tires). Tires when mulched will leech chemicals into your soil. Do you want this? More surface area = more decomposition.

I haven't found anything (yet) in regards to growing food in a used tire, but that doesn't mean it should be done. The exposure to elements should break down some of its chemical composition and where do you think that will go? In your food stuff.

I'm not a fan of this. I would find better alternatives. But each to their own.

I have seen both Garlic and taters raised in big wooden barrels though. 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Must be very pricey to get those.
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby Mygrandmeresgarden » Jul 23, 2012 1:08 am

I started three raised beds this year after doing extensive research. Not sure I like it. Yes less weeds but a lot more watering. I find the potting soil I filled it with flies away with the Saskatchewan winds. Not really convinced things grow better this way. If I mulched it, the mulch would have all blown away by now. I just don't have much luck with container gardening in general. I'll probably try it again next year with major modifications. Still got weeds in the raised beds due to weed seeds being blown in.

For me the jury is still out on raised beds.
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby sampson » Jul 23, 2012 1:56 pm

I like how you can start things earlier in the spring- I start all of my little seedlings in April- so they have a couple of months to get going inside before I put them out! So that is a bonus, and I can have everything all ready, and like i said, I can put plastic over some that are more sensitive!

I found a quote:
"You can also devise easy ways to attach row covers and hoops over raised beds to extend the growing season into fall and to get an early start in the spring."

I think this is true- I mean, if you leave it uncovered, then yes, it is likely to get a frost but having a little added protection can go a long ways!

I dont think I said anything about mulching tires- I dont even know if that is possible? Well you can probrobly do it, BUT I dont think thats for me.. I am thinking Gravel, or just more top soil on top of the plastic that I lay down, or a combination, just so I am not walking on plastic! :)

I like the idea of wooden barrels- but they are hard to find, and if you go to buy them they are are expensive.. They look nice, thats for sure!!
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Re: Doing rasied beds... is it right for me?

Postby Dumbo » Jul 23, 2012 3:12 pm

sampson wrote:I like the idea of wooden barrels- but they are hard to find, and if you go to buy them they are are expensive.. They look nice, thats for sure!!

I saw some guy do this. Uses it for both potato and garlic. He made it out of cedar. At the end of the year he pulls up a sliding side and everything just falls out that he then picks up.

As for the barrels, they are pricey. Rona had some (half a keg) roughly 2 feet across. They were going for around 40$. These were the lowest cost I ever saw.

Could have sworn I saw someone mention growing in tires. Guess I'm seeing things. But yeah, they sell tire mulch. They advertize it as heating the ground since it's black and being good for the garden. :shock:

In terms of heat loss and raised beds, this is of course very dependent on the height of your raised bed. The higher it is, the worse it is. Even with a dome or plastic over it. If you start looking into cold weather crops, i think you will see them at ground level. The sides of a raised garden is where your heat would dissipate to. The higher the raised bed the great the thermal transfer.

Traditional gardens don't have thermal transfer on the sides (of course), but rather a thermal transfer from below ground. Trapped heat will slowly rise as it gets colder. You don't get this in a raised bed of significant height. Heat will just transfer out the sides. Thus at night as temp dips, plastic or no plastic, heat loss is at a maximum with a raised bed unless you start insulating the sides of the raised bed along with your plastic cover over the plants.

Raised beds would also be more prone to being nutrient deficient since this type of setup would flush nutrients. Again this is dependent on height. The higher it is with less clay the more you lose. Since it dries out faster/more you have to add more water which in turn compounds the flushing out effect. So this is an added cost to replenish which is more than the traditional garden.

The only pro's I can see is less bending (height dependent), easier upkeep (height dependent), the neater look, starting earlier (but traditional will go on for longer. It balances out) and reduced soil compaction. If you are real fancy, you can have different pH's in different raised beds matched exactly to a plants optimum pH which should generate a better yield.

The rest of the pro's, to me, that you read all over is pure baloney.
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