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Raised Beds 1st timer

 
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I'm planning on building a raised bed to grow veggies next year so I thought I'd get advice and ideas.

I've got a design in mind that will be 4 feet wide, 8 feet long by 2 feet tall. The area where I'm putting it slopes so I'm planning on legs to level it so it will above the ground. Actually we really don't have any level land where there's direct sun.

It'll be unattended most of the time, so I'll be using wire fabric around it and over the top to keep the usual suspects out. The top will come in handy - I can put visqueen over it in case of frost - it's in northern Michigan where it can snow up til the end of April. If I were to leave the plastic on during the summer, it would prevent flooding from the intense storms we get in the summer.

For moisture retention, I'm thinking using a pond liner before filling it with soil with the appropriate drain holes. Unattended watering will be done via rainbarrels with an automatic watering system - still looking at the options.

My questions are about watering systems, soil and preparing the soil. I've been thinking of a combination of peat and topsoil and seeding it with red worms.
 
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Sounds like you have quite a design in the works!

I'm trying to imagine the design. Is any part of the raised bed soil in contact with the ground or is it all elevated?

If part of it contacts the ground you'll probably get worms crawling up from underneath anyway.

I don't know much about your climate, but I'd be worried about frosts more with air moving underneath the planter.

For soil in my raised beds I used sod mixed with sticks, leaves, and as much compost as I could make. The result was low cost fill but I have a lot of weeds. I probably still would do it the same way if I did it again though. You get weed seeds blowing in anyway.

 
max cottrell
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L. Johnson wrote:Sounds like you have quite a design in the works!

I'm trying to imagine the design. Is any part of the raised bed soil in contact with the ground or is it all elevated?

If part of it contacts the ground you'll probably get worms crawling up from underneath anyway.

I don't know much about your climate, but I'd be worried about frosts more with air moving underneath the planter.

For soil in my raised beds I used sod mixed with sticks, leaves, and as much compost as I could make. The result was low cost fill but I have a lot of weeds. I probably still would do it the same way if I did it again though. You get weed seeds blowing in anyway.



I should have included a diagram so I whipped one up. After looking at it, in the left diagram, the height of the posts is wrong. I can wrap the bottom so frost doesn't bother the seedlings. The wire fabric will be 1/4 inch on the sides and top. The top will be removable for access to the tasty crops.

My big issue is going to be the unattended watering. I'm willing to spend the money to do it so it works. I'm leaning towards a gravity feed/no pressure system but I'm also thinking a solar pump that produces pressure might be better.  My hangup with the no pressure/drippers is being able to filter out the gunk in the rainwater. We put up new gutters with leaf guard this year. I did a test on one of the downspouts and there's a ton of sand that comes down. Crap blows everywhere, even on the roof. I put the toe end of a pantyhose on the end of the gutter and it fills up and back into the downspout.

What I'm thinking for the watering is a few options. 1 & 3 would need pressure I suppose.

1. Flat misting hose.
2. Overhead drippers.
3. Black Porous Soaker Drip Line Hose.

I like your leaves idea. We have nothing but old growth Oak trees and believe me, we have leaves and twigs galore. Inches of leaves. You should see our roof after a storm. I've never fully counted our tree population but from the lake to the tiny home there's 28 Oaks. Way more towards the 2 track. I'm attaching some photos of the place - they're also what puts the damper on using solar panels.

Our property is on a lake, thus we have an ordinance about changing any part of the slope of the existing land as well as special permitting for cutting any live trees. And it's all fine sand. Horrible for growing anything and it washes away like crazy in the rain. It's a PITA sometimes but it keeps willy nilly land clearing people in check.
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Location: eastern cape breton, 6b
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That's a pretty elaborate design!!

What you intend on growing might affect you plans esp in regards to unattended watering.

you may consider NOT making legs and living with "leaning raised bed or even 2 smaller ones it would offset some of your challenges.

Hope this helps - cheers!
 
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Max,

I think your bed design is fine and propping it up seems necessary in this case.  What interests me is what you plan to put in the bed for bedding.  Since this is your prime bed it makes sense to use the best soil and/or bedding you can.

Eric
 
max cottrell
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Eric Hanson wrote:Max,

I think your bed design is fine and propping it up seems necessary in this case.  What interests me is what you plan to put in the bed for bedding.  Since this is your prime bed it makes sense to use the best soil and/or bedding you can.

Eric



That's why I'm posting about it - getting it right the first time is important.

I'm not seeing the container as something really complicated; the build should be straight forward with some glue, nail guns and deck screws. The hardest part will be getting the metal fabric mounted but can make a wood break for the bends. For the top, I'm going to use large 90 degree brackets and the top sits on those. Screw the lumber for the top to the brackets, build the top, unscrew it and volia'. I can put boards around the bottom to protect from frost as well.

Since this will be the first attempt, I'm not going to go wild on the crops, just Tomatoes, Peppers and Green Beans. Having grown up on a farm, I can grow in the ground just fine but this raised bed thing is new to me.

As suggested further up, leaves and twigs in with the soil, maybe weed block as well to help retain moisture.

I suppose my main question is should I use pre made potting soil like Miracle Gro or make my own mix. I can use top soil and mix it but I'm not a spring chicken so that would take a lot of work I'm not sure I can do. Whatever I use, I'll have a skid of it delivered from Lowes. I'm also leaning towards dumping red worms in too.
 
Eric Hanson
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Max,

Like you, I also grow—almost exclusively—in raised beds.  In my case my bedding is composed of wood chips that are broken down by Wine Cap mushrooms.  The resulting compost is amazing.  You can grow both the Wine Caps and veggies at the same time.  If you are interested, I can give you more details.  I found this option to be both more fertile and much cheaper than miracle grow mix.  If you are interested I can give you details.

Eric
 
max cottrell
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Eric Hanson wrote:Max,

Like you, I also grow—almost exclusively—in raised beds.  In my case my bedding is composed of wood chips that are broken down by Wine Cap mushrooms.  The resulting compost is amazing.  You can grow both the Wine Caps and veggies at the same time.  If you are interested, I can give you more details.  I found this option to be both more fertile and much cheaper than miracle grow mix.  If you are interested I can give you details.

Eric



I'd love more information about this. How broken down do the chips need to be ans what kind of wood?
 
Eric Hanson
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Max,

The chips get broken down to something like coffee grounds with some pieces being a bit larger but still breaking down over time.  As for wood species, Wine Caps will break down almost any non-conifer wood.  I have a lot of Autumn Olive that grows by a fence line and I cut and chip it every few years.  In addition I throw in a fair amount of oak and some hickory as my woods by my house is dominated by those two trees.  Further, if you wanted to speed up decomposition (but be prepared for some serious volume reduction—just keep adding in more material) you could add in some whole square straw bales.  The straw will colonize faster and break down more quickly than wood chips.

For the first round, I filled my bed with chips, dug fertile holes and backfilled with bagged topsoil (you could use miracle grow mix if you wanted).  I grew tomatoes in the fertile holes but feel free to experiment.  I have also tried fertile trenches for beans and gotten good results.  Wine Caps like to have some soil contact so the fertile holes/trenches help.  After the first season, you likely won’t need any more soil as the chips should be broken down.

This is just a starter and if you are still interested I can give more information and point you to some threads that can help.
 
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I can't help you with your watering system, except to say most plants don't like there leaves wet, and it can also in courage mildew, and fungal problems, so I would choose something that wets the soil, not the plants.  
You may consider filling the bottom of your beds with wood.  I layer my raised beds hugel beet style. I start with large chunks of wood, fill in all the cracks with native soil, to cover.  Then smaller chunks of wood, soil, then wood chips, then I Finnish the top 12" with mostly compost, mixed with a good quality organic soil.  My beds are 3' deep, so you may need to modify.  The wood on the bottom soaks up water like a sponge.  You may not even need to water in the summer.( It was actually the Migardener guy on YouTube talking about this process that led me to Permies looking for water saving answers). Not only does the wood soak up water when it's there, and release it when it's not, but it adds to the soil as it breaks down. You may want to add a little blood meal because In the beginning the wood will rob nitrogen from the soil, but this will reverse after the first year.  The wood also takes up space, so it doesn't cost so much to fill. I have been converting my raised beds to this system over the last couple of years, and it's produced my best gardens ever.
Since your asking, I just have to say you are better off staying away from miracle grow, and like.  It will seem like it's working wonders. The plants get big and green, and my even produce well. But,  the plants aren't really healthy, so any bump in the road can do your hole garden in.  They can't handle pests, are prone to disease. It's just not the best way to go.  Start with amazing organic soil, and compost, and you will have health productive plants. If you think your plants look like they need a boost, try, blood and bone meal, organic compost, or compost tea.  These things add to the soil. Healthy soil, healthy veggies.
I recently added red wigglers to one of my raised beds. It's too soon to know how it's working. I think as long as there's plenty of organic matter to break down they should do well. Time will tell.  Nightcrawlers want to go deep into the soil, so they aren't good candidates.  
Your bed design sounds great.  You may want to research the plants you want to plant.  Most will be very happy with 2'.  Some plants like tomatoes prefer 3'.  That's not to say they won't grow with 2', they would be a bit happier with 3'.  I hope you post pictures, and let us know what you decide to do.
Good luck, happy gardening.
 
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