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Ferrocement Raised Hugel Beds

 
pollinator
Posts: 419
Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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New garden beds finished so I thought I would post some photos. The previous owner had leveled an area for building which was hugely taken over by thistle and mullein. The soil was comprised of very heavy clay so we decided to mulch the area and put in raised beds for our annual garden. We had some experience building ferrocement garden beds attached to the house so we decided to go this route so that we could have some nice deep beds that would last our lifetime and be simple and cheap to build. The longest bed is approximately 45'x3.5' and 1.5' tall.

We did experiment with making these hugelkultur beds and buried some old rotting firewood at the base of some, did strawbale hugelkultur in some of the others.

I realize that I might get slammed if Paul looks closely at the photos and sees we put cardboard down in one, but it is too hot to light the rocket stove up and I really didn't want those bull thistle to come up among my bok choy. Though knowing thistle, they will probably make their way up anyhow.
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beds.jpg
completed beds
completed beds
 
pollinator
Posts: 829
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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That is some beautiful work you’ve done there. I have no suggestions to make it better. I believe you have it covered!
 
gardener
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I love those organic forms and curves.  Very pleasing.  That's going to be an amazing space once you've got it planted out and it all grows in.

And I use a lot of cardboard in my gardening as well --- anything bad, I let the fungi take care of.

Thanks for sharing those pictures.
 
Posts: 83
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
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That makes my best work look very crude!  That's Awesome!
 
gardener
Posts: 1401
Location: Westbridge, BC, Canada
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Great job Daniel! May your vegetables and flowers grow abundantly!

I have never worked with furrocement before and was wondering if you could explain the details in making your retaining walls?
 
Daniel Ray
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Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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Thanks Gerry. I am going to post a more indepth with photos of the process on my website which is my signature, but have not done so yet so I will post a smaller version here.

I cut rebar stakes at 3 feet and spaced them in the shape of the beds I wanted every 2 feet. I pounded them in about halfway and then used diamond metal lathe typically used for stucco work to make the wall shape. The lathe is 8' x 26" so I was able to fold them in half to create a more rigid form. These I secured to the stakes using six inch cable ties and then trimmed the tails of the ties.

I made ferrocement plaster which was 4 parts sand to 1 part portland. I mix it with water to the consistency of toothpaste and then would use my hands to trowel it onto the walls. It takes two coats to get a good layer over all the metal. Then I make a slightly thicker mix of cement material and make a ridge on top of the walls about 3 inches thick. This makes a nice round cap and lifts the height a bit too.

I then make a portland paint with pigment, portland, and water and paint it on. These beds still need a finish coat of linseed oil on the outside.

Basically that is all--makes fast beds that are basically indestructible. I backed into one with my truck and only chipped the top off 4 inches wide.

Some of the portland mix tends to fall off as your are coating the mesh, but you can just smooth this down at the base and it creates a really nice stable bottom to the bed as well as a flare to keep weeds out too.
 
Gerry Parent
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Thank you for the description Daniel. Love the work that you and your wife do. Haven't been to your site in a few months so I'll be sure to check it out again.

 
pollinator
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What is ferrocement?

Also, very beautiful garden
 
Daniel Ray
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Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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s. lowe, ferrocement is the application of thin coats of cement over a metal skeleton. It is a technique used around the world for water cisterns and was even previously used in the United States for bridge building. The higher ratio of metal to portland creates extremely strong structures with very little material. It also tends to have higher portland to sand ratios 3:1 or 4:1.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 2087
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Very nice. Looking forward to seeing them planted & growing!
 
Yeah, but how did the squirrel get in there? Was it because of the tiny ad?
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