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Interesting Raised Bed Design

 
gardener
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I have been considering adding some raised beds, and was debating what materials to use. Ruled out treated wood or railroad ties.  Have heard some say galvanized metal may leach toxic gick over time. Untreated wood probably wouldn’t last more than a couple years. So this video from YouTube caught my eye ~ raised beds using cattle panels!  What do you all think about this method?

 
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My first impression was that it would need more water than a raised bed that already needs more water than a ground level bed. That is a factor in my area.
 
pollinator
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I think it would work well, provided it holds moisture long enough for you to get there to water. If you want to avoid galvanized metal, you may have to redesign. Hardware cloth is galvanized. Pretty sure cattle panels are, too. Bamboo and rope would work, short term, but probably wouldn't last. Black locust limbs w/ grape vine might be suitable.
 
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Generally, I prefer to use what is readily available, rather than being locked into anything purchased. I would look at what I have on my property first, then what are people locally giving away (like Craigslist etc.). I currently have raised beds that are lumber framed (already here), cinder block framed (gathered around the property), on-site rock and tree rounds. I would rather spend my money thinning my forest and then building hugelkultur beds, than purchasing off-site lumber.
 
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If vines and such are unavailable, perhaps basalt fabric or mesh to form a giant planter/gabion of sorts?  Seems the fabric could hold more moisture if needed.

https://basalt-fabric.com/

https://basalt-mesh.com/

Basalt Mesh is available plain or resin coated. Window size 5mm x 5mm. 10mm x 10mm. 25mm x 25mm. 50mm x 50mm. Each roll is 1 meter wide by 50 meters (total 50 square meters). Purchase by the roll, square meter or square yard.

 
gardener
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Artie,

I use regular 2x10 lumber, but I coat in drylock first.  Drylock is a masonry coat available at Home Depot and it goes on like a very thick, gritty paint.  Drylock does not so much penetrate the lumber like PT lumer, but coats the wood in a hard, impermeable barrier.  I had a Drylock Bed last year that was heavily infused with wine cap spawn that really broke down the woodchips , but the lumber was untouched.  

It was recommended to me by Redhawk and I can highly recommend it.  If you use it, you won’t believe how white your edges will be!  Of course, you could always use cinder blocks.

Eric
 
Artie Scott
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Interesting idea, thanks Eric!  I take it the drylok is inert when it drys, and won’t leach into the soil as it breaks down?  Not really sure what is in it.

Wayne, was thinking maybe the wood chips mitigate the drying issue?  Also, I suppose one could put some punky logs at the bottom to hold moisture like a hugel?

Good point about galvanized Metal - I guess it is zinc, that eventually might leach into the soil?  Anyone aware of any studies about plant uptake of zinc from soil?
 
Eric Hanson
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Artie,

The drylock is very stable once dried.  In fact, once dried it is a strange “paint”.  It is hard stuff—exactly what you would expect for a cinder block.  It does not work like a toxin the way PT lumber works.  Instead it forms an impermeable barrier.  Fungi reach out to touch it but lose interest because the surface is not wood.  I recommend buying in the 3-5 gallon containers if you plan on doing more than one bed.  Being so thick, it does not spread like latex paint does.  I just painted an 8’x16’ bed and it took about 3/4 gallon to do so.  I have just a couple places to touch up, but that’s not a problem and the paint cleans up very easily, much like any other latex paint.  It works very well.

Eric
 
gardener
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I recently used the same concept with a piece of old, plastic lattice I got from the neighbor's dumpster &  bended it to make a ring where I was keeping some half- done leaf mold. Since some of my store-bought potatoes were sprouting, and it's potato planting season, I shoveled some soil/rabbit manure mix on the leaf mold & put the potato pieces on it mulched with more leaves so that way, if they had any potato diseases, at least they wouldn't contaminate the garden soil.

It hasn't been long enough to really tell anything; and for all I know they potatoes could have already rotted in there, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try since potatoes would be pretty much done by the time it gets hot enough to dry the bed out. 🤷🏼‍♂️

Like the other comments, I feel it is a neat idea if one already has access to materials and has the right climate for raised beds. I suppose one could always cover the ground with small logs/sticks for water holding, then compost on top of them for a year to build soil.
IMG_20200303_094846.jpg
Leaf mold potato project
Leaf mold potato project
 
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It looks nice, but it seems like a lot of work.  You loose the planting space the wood chips take.  I also wonder about the wood chips, since they are fresh seems like they would leach nitrogen.  It's about how it functions and how it looks.  This person seems to think it functions well, so it it's what you want go for it.  Maybe just start with 2 and see what you think.  It's gardening, so there will be some kind of problem with anything you choose, but there will be a solution as well.  Good luck.
 
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I build beds similar to this to build soil.
Mine are made of heat treated pallets, but the principal is similar.
Instead of woodchips as a perimeter, I just build a compost pile and plant into it.
I add a pocket of soil if need be, so the ratio of soil to carbon is inverted in my model.
I usually grow sunchokes in mine,  but last year I grew gourds.
This year I will try potatoes, both sweet and white.
I find them to stay pretty moist,  even through the dry summer,  probably due to the carbonous material.
 
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I use this style bed in a couple of different ways.

I have some that are made from 4 ft welded wire fencing cut in half to be about 24" tall.  The fencing is just wired together to make a circle about 3 ft in diameter (but you can do any size you like).  Mine are temporary in that I move them around each season and use them for a bunch of different tasks.  When not in use they are easy to take apart and flatten or roll up tight for storage.   I've been using them for 4-5 years now and they are still going strong.  A bit of rust and a few bent wires but then they started that way as I made them from some salvaged fencing that had been on my property and half knocked down, trees landed on, and left in a heap by previous owners...

I set them up in a different area each year, partially because my yard and garden have been in a state of flux since we bought the place.  Everything is overrun and sun is at a premium so each year a clear a bit more, take down a few more of the large spruce that shade everything, make a new bed or two, plant a few more berries and trees, build a new chicken run, and so on.  My gardening space for annuals changes.  I'm slowly building out my plan but for now having temporary/movable beds works really well for me and I'll probably keep some aspect of this going even as I build out more permanent beds because I like the versatility and freedom.  I use these wire rings to make temp compost piles and build soil in areas I want to plant the next year or to hold piles of leaves, garden refuse, woodchips, etc as staging area when I'm accumulating materials for lasanga beds, etc.  They protect vulnerable young plants from chickens and ducks.  Throw them over plantings with a sheet cover to protect against those early/late frosts.  

Drying out could be a problem but is actual a benefit for me.  I live in a coastal rainforest in SE Alaska so my climate is cold and wet, wet, wet. The ground is constantly saturated and much of my property is a type of peat bog with the water table just a few inches below the ground surface.   So pretty much everything is in raised beds and we want them to dry out and warm up as much as possible.  If you live in a dry area I'm thinking you'll do better with something with a solid side to retain moisture and cut down on wind related evaporation.  

Potatoes do really well in them. I do mine in a new spot each year.  I lay down a few large piece of cardboard and place the ring on it.  Fill the bottom with a few inches of compost and seaweed mixed together (potatoes do really well in seaweed) then a few inches of garden soil.  Potatoes go down on that and get covered with a bit more lighter soil (usually some mix of compost and purchased soil mix).  The inner sides get covered with straw and/or leaves To hold the soil.  As the potatoes grow I mound up with a bit of soil/compost right next to the stems and all the space between plants filled with more straw or leaves.  It does settle some as the leaves/straw breaks down so I usually end up with about half to 2/3 full of soil.  The rest of the height of the wire actually works nicely to help train the stems upright and keep them from flopping over as much.  In areas where I want them even more contained (not falling across pathways) I'll add a second ring on top the first.  A couple of garden stakes and a few wire ties is all it takes to keep them reasonable stable.  When it comes time to harvest the potatoes I just remove the ties and pull the fencing circles away.  I'm left with a mound of dirt and partially decomposed straw I can just sift through to harvest the potatoes...no digging required.  This also doubles as soil building as the remaining partly composted straw, seaweed, soil mixture is a great fill for the next raised bed I'm building or to top off and existing one.

I've done other veggies in this type of setup.  I've had ok luck with broccoli and cabbages.  Some hardier greens like kale and swiss chard.  

I've also have experience with wire beds in a more permanent setup.  The pic below shows a new bed created by stacking two commercial crab pots on top of each other.  Pots are rebar rings with wire mesh sides.  They are lined with felt-type landscape fabric that allows water and air to penetrate.  We have a bunch of them in our school garden going on 8 yrs now.  They are filled completely with soil which the landscape fabric holds in (not with straw or wood chips like the ones I use seasonally at home or in the OP video).  we have them both one pot or two pots deep.  The deeper ones have dwarfing fruit trees and shrubs.  Shorter ones have grown all types of veggies.  After a few years however they look like the second picture.  They are really hard to keep weeded.  Weed seeds lodge in crevices and grow up around the wires grasses send shoots both into and out of the beds.  I'm forever pulling them and it's impossible to get them all from behind the wire.  I would assume the first year or two the woodchips might not support much for weeds but I expect after a few years as they start to break down they would become a nice grow medium for every weed seed that gets blown on there.  I actually completely emptied and dismantled a number of the short ones last season because I lost the battle with encroaching grasses and all the root/runner systems had taken over.  I have thought about ways to turn the problem into a solution and plan to try to use the taller ones as vertical planters for strawberries.  I'm going to cut some small slits in the fabric and insert strawberry starts. Once they become established I'm hoping the strawberries will shade out some of the other weeds.  
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Eric Hanson
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William,

I really like the idea of building and planting straight into compost.  I have said many times that my compost rarely turns into dark, crumbly perfection, but I don’t care.  The compost itself does wonders for the soil beneath.  And eventually it Will decompose, but along the way it will be feeding crop roots.

I do something similar in my woodchips.  I dig a little fertile hole for the first year just to get things off and running.  After the first year, the chips are decayed to the point that they act like soil any way.

Eric
 
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I thinks there's a spectrum between "Ease/cost of construction" and "Longevity" when building raised beds.

Have you considered just building inexpensive and simple beds that are intended to wear out in a year or two? (Dr. Redhawk's square hay bale beds come to mind.)
Or perhaps making mud bricks that require more work but last longer?

I suppose if aesthetics is important to you then these options wouldn't work.
 
Eric Hanson
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Jordan,

For years I had raised beds made of fallen logs.  They have lasted a little over 10 years but by now they are falling to pieces.  I would use more but I don’t want to lose any more trees.  The trees that fell were heartbreaking as it was.  But for a decade they did make good raised edges.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Jordan, everyone,

So of my 3 garden beds, all did have log edges, but 2 of three have lost them altogether.  Those two now have 2x10 Drylock edges.

The remaining bed still has logs, but the logs are in terrible shape, collapsing under their own weight.  One log is in a highly advanced state of decomposition, being only about 1/4 the original width, riddled with large holes and crumbling into sawdust.  It needs replacing now.  I do have a solution but only a temporary solution at the very best.  I have a neighbor who has a left over landscaping straw mat that is about 12” in diameter and just the perfect length.  

So my plan is to replace a rotting log with straw!  I don’t expect the straw roll to last more than 1 year (and that might be pushing it—that bed has wine caps and I am planning on adding oyster mushrooms!).  But the straw is free and I need an edge now so a straw roll edge it will have to be!  I will be putting in a more permanent edge next year.

Maybe it is clever use of resources, maybe it is desperate and doomed to fail.  We will see which one.

Eric
 
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