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Raised beds using logs

 
Posts: 4
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Hi All,

I'm new to this whole planting berry bushes thing so I'm looking for some advice.

With spring arriving I'm starting to look at planting some berry bushes.
I want to plant some blackberries and raspberries and maybe honeyberry and some other fruit bushes as well.
the ground I have is hardpacked clay so I want to put in some raised beds.

I have some trees that I have cut down and I was wondering if they could be used to make the beds.
Trees are pine, poplar, and spruce.

My question is: can I use these trees to make a border and fill with soil?  Would I have to take the bark off the logs?
would keeping the bark on the logs put any bushes at risk of insects from the logs?

Just looking for advice so I don't waste time and energy on something that is not the best setup.

Any advice is appreciated.
 
steward
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Hi Wayne, welcome to Permies!

Using logs to make raised beds will work and lots of folks do this. There's no need to debark the logs. The logs will play host to all sorts of insects and fungi as well as providing some nooks and crannies for other friends like lizards and toads who may make a home next to them. Logs will provide habitat and help support greater diversity in fungal, bacterial, insect and other life. The life of the logs may vary and will need eventually need replacing to maintain a border around the beds but they will nurture the soil as they decay. Hope this helps you make a decision!
 
wayne Mall
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Thanks for the reply.
That will make things a lot easier, and cheaper.  I have a bunch of downed trees that I can use.
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Hi Wayne!

Using logs as edges for raised beds is a great idea.  I have done this myself and I do encourage others to do so as well.

However, there are a couple of points one must consider.  The most obvious is log longevity.  Those poplar logs sitting by themselves on the ground and next to some mulch in the inside of your bed simply will not last very long. I have 12” oaks and hickory logs left over from a storm about 10 years ago and today they are absolutely crumbling into nothing.  I am hoping to get one more year before they turn to dust—one already has.  How big in diameter is that poplar?  The other trees might last a little longer.

An option would be to char the outside with a torch.  Wood that has been charred first is much more resilient to rot and decay than regular wood.

In any case, I think it is great to use those materials on hand as resource as opposed to burning them.

Please, let us know how things work out!

Eric
 
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As you design the beds, keep in mind that you will needs to replace those logs at some point.  Consider how you will do that. There are a number of options including adding more logs to the top or tearing down the "walls" to move the material into the bed.  Your choice may influence your design .... especially if you are stacking logs or may do so in the future.
 
wayne Mall
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Hi Eric,

I do realize the logs will rot out but I don't think that'll be a problem.
If I have to replace them every few years with "new" fallen trees that should be fine.
It seems every winter there are trees that break off so getting more shouldn't be an issue.
the main thing is for now to get everything started.  I'll deal with the rotten logs later.

Thanks for the help.  Once I get everything done I hope to post a few pics.

Wayne
 
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Logs can make a great "bathtub" to fill with soil.  This is also a great opportunity to add the "hugel" factor and bury a bunch of the smaller trunks & limbs in the middle of the bed to act as a sponge and nutrient reactor.

I've previously dug out the center of the bed and piled woody debris in there, then covered again with the same soil.  Tightly!  You don't want air pockets.  Its also important to leave a good margin (1 foot or so) between the debris and your perimeter logs - the hugelzed debris will act like a sponge, but in dry weather those perimeter logs will evaporate moisture so you want to keep the water-logs from the perimeter logs.

There are considerations for adding nitrogen, and the bigger the logs you can bury the better.

Finally, consider Lincoln-Log style ... make the bed more than one log high.  You get a deeper bed which may or may not be helpful to work on, it has more volume to surface area, and it might be more favorable for some plants.  Depends on log size of course!
 
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When it comes to heavy clay, plants that go woody don't have much of a problem. You mention fruit bushes, and they should be fine with heavy soil. Once roots are established, they're established, and there's not the struggle that a lot of annual veggies will have to grow a decent root system.
What do you want to fill your beds with? Since you seem to distrust your soil, I assume you want to mix it up. I would only say you probably won't need an extensive soil transplantation.

I wouldn't make the beds very high, for fear of them drying out, although that would also depend on the climate and local situation, about which I know nothing. I would just be mindful with the honeyberries, as they develop very shallow root systems, so they won't be able to tap water from deep when the topsoil gets drier. Their native situation is alongside streams in the very far north, where they don't need to dig deep to have access to water. Blackberries develop much deeper roots, so they won't easily have a drought problem, although for all fruit trees and bushes it goes that the first season or perhaps two they may need watering, depending on your climate and weather.
 
wayne Mall
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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How will the beds be prepared?  Well, that is a question, isn't it?
Some say don't disturb the soil and plant on top of it.  others say dig/mix it up.

Should I till it with some compost or use a fork and just try and break up the soil a bit?
Maybe I'll try one bed tilled and one not and see what the difference is between them.

But I will be getting some straw to cover the beds with to help with moisture staying in the soil.

I also have a pile of wood chips from the last bunch of brush I cleared and had chipped.  I'm sure I can find a use for it as well.
 
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