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raised beds - need sticks and dry material bottom?  RSS feed

 
                      
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Hi, I'm Yaniv. I built my first raised bed today at my parent's house. Me and my mother did a permaculture course together and in the lesson about raised beds (which I missed) they said you should bury sticks on the bottom, then leaves and only then soil and compost.

My question is why? Doesn't it make it harder for the roots to dig in? Also I live in israel where we don't get too much rain. Wouldn't the sticks on the bottom give TOO MUCH drainage for the hot climate here? I'm thinking of taking the sticks out tomorrow before planting because the soil on the bed isn't high enough, and to get slower drainage, do you think that's a good idea or i should just pile up a bit more earth and it should be ok?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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you don't HAVE to have sticks in a raised bed..most of the beds i have built i never used sticks in, i also live in a wet and cool country ..but i would imagine any good quality items to build up the beds will work just fine..probably the reasons for the sticks are for slow rotting and for drainage..but if you live in a quick drain area you probably would want to add things that will slow the draining..such as some clay and humus

nice to meet someone on line from Israel,  i have talked to people from several countries but this is my first with an Israeli, welcome.
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22345
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Can you upload a pic of your new raised beds?

Have you read the hugelkultur article?

Let us imagine that you made your raised bed one meter high!  And that instead of sticks, you used big logs!

Now, as the logs rot, they will capture teeny tiny bits of nitrogen that managed to not get consumed by your plants.  And the winter rains will get trapped there in the winter - making it a very soggy log.  Then, when summer rolls around and it has been dry for over a month, the log is still soggy in the middle and your plant roots manage to find that moisture. 

Plus, as the log rots, it releases that little bit of nitrogen it collected a long time ago. 

So, this is what you are doing, but on a smaller scale.
 
                      
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Hey thank you both, I guess I'll leave it as it is then, just make it higher. I'm excited about it, I'll take a picture when it's done.
 
Leah Sattler
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welcome!!! I love hearing bits and peices from people across the world! you could do a raised bed using the wood and one not using it. then you can find out if it is a beneficial practice with your climate and situation. I like to experiment and I also believe there are never any absolutes about the way to do things. everything is relative to each individuals situation.
 
Irene Kightley
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Location: South West France
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Using hugelkulture we wait a long time before we use a big heap.

This size of heap took about two years to sink, but makes a lovely rich damp raised bed.



This is the bed finished and surrounded by tree roots :



You could throw in uncomposted branches and leaves and still benefit from the goodness in the wood as long as the bottom isn't too dry and the wood rots properly.
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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Two things that can be useful for dry areas are light, dry, rotted wood, in the form of log chunks or dead root chunks, and waste paper (junk mail, old newspapers, etc).  These materials are like sponges that hold a lot of water and release it slowly.

For a bed, lay these materials on the bottom (or deepen the bed below soil level and put them in the hole) and cover with plain soil to the level of the ground.  Then add your planting soil with nutrients mixed in on top.  DO NOT MIX THE TWO!  Plant the bed.  Mulch the surface as the plants grow.  The mulch will help slow surface evaporation and will break down to feed the plants.  The stuff in the bottom of the hole or depression will act as a moisture reserve, which the plants will find.

For trees, dig a hole as wide as recommended, and twice as long.  Fill one half of the long hole with junk paper or rotted wood.  Fill the hole with water and let it drain.  Plant your tree in the other end.  Mulch on top over both.

Sue 
 
                      
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wow thanks again, this raises another question: should i mulch when planting seeds or only as the start to grow?
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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It depends.

If you are a perfect person that times everything you do perfectly and you have infinite time to be at the beck and call of your plants, then it is probably optimal to have some high carbon mulch over the seed area - but very thing.  And then when the seedling wants to push through the soil, move that mulch back a bit.  And then when the true leaves are out, add your mulches that have higher N to the surface around the plant, but keep those from touching the plant.

But there's more to consider:  once you start adding the mulch, you sort of insulate the soil from the warming rays of the sun.  So if your soil is not yet warm enough, you might want to hold back from mulching just yet.  Or, assuming infinite time:  mulch ever night and remove it every morning. 

I'm freaky lazy.  I won't mulch at all until I think the soil has warmed a bit and then I mulch once.  I might add some mulch later if there is a reason.


 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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"If you are a perfect person that times everything you do perfectly..."

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Oh, sorry, let me get back into my chair.

Here's my opinion, similar in some respects to Paul's:

Plant your seeds and cover with a very light mulch (dry straw run through a shredder is perfect, or crumbled dry leaves -- between your hands is fine) just to help keep the soil surface damp so your seeds don't have to deal with that wet/dry/wet/dry stress.  Once a sprouting seed dries out, it's dead. 

As the seedling grows, surround it with more mulch gradually, keeping the leaves clear of the mulch, and leaving a ring of relatively clear soil right around the stem(s) if you can.  Some plants are very sensitive to too much moisture right against their stems, so try to leave a little space there for ventilation.  The airier your mulch (straw) the less this is necessary as the stems get older and stronger.

A carrot bed of scattered seeds is an exception here.  I simply refuse to leave a little ring of space (using tweezers) around each plant.  Live or Die, is my motto.

Now here is where I'm going to depart from Paul's info of warm soil.

I always read of warm soil.  "o not mulch around your tomatoes or it will shade the soil too much"... "Keep the soil clear around your heat-loving plants, esp in cooler climates"...

I did that and still my tomatoes didn't do well here in WA.

So I tossed that theory into the compost pile, planted my tomatoes, and mulched them gradually to about 6" deep with straw.

TOMATOES!  BIG, RIPE, JUICY, SWEET/ACID TOMATOES!  I was eating tomatoes off the vine, giving tomatoes to neighbors, relatives, delivering to friends, donating to the local food bank.

So, I said to myself:  "SC%$W THAT WARM SOIL THEORY!"

Now I mulch.  And now I have a theory of my own.

As long as the plant gets enough heat on it's leaves, I think that's enough.  And I think what was stressing my unmulched tomatoes was the feast/famine problem of too much water, and then not enough water, back and forth, all summer.

With mulch from birth (well, transplanting), I didn't have to water so much, so many of the soluble nutrients that were washing away with all the excessive watering were still available to the plants.  (I was wasting water)

With mulch, the soil was protected from the sun, the wind, and competition from weeds.  And the plants loved it.

Now, how do you think the tomatoes would feel about being mulched, say, in Texas summers?

Sue

 
Leah Sattler
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I'm not in texas but I am close! mulch mulch mulch. the little seedlings get baked here. one hot day and they are cooked greens. I wait until thier heads poke up just barely so I know exactly where they are then push hay up as close as I can to them. I try to leave unplanted areas free of mulch for a while so I can identify volunteers but there is usually alot of mulch left over from the previous year.

by the way. can someone go ahead and please fast forward to about mid september now? once its regularly in the 90's I'm pretty much a hermit between 10am and 7pm. just a quick trip down to the garden in this heat and humidity warrants a shower afterwards.
 
Susan Monroe
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Send it up here -- 54F right now.

Still using three wool blankets.

Sue
 
rose macaskie
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Gosh an Israeli thats a really desert fighting place where the drip water system came from. Great.
  i would have thought that if you put lots of earth round the trunk it shouldn't drain too much as Paul said do it in autumn an dth etrunk will have time to fill full of water.
  I sometimes used corks at the bottom of my pots because i did not have anything else to use as gravel at the bottom of the pot and i found the plants sent roots all around the corks. They seemed to like them.
  I also put in walnut shells in pots for the same reason and water gets trapped in them. Hollow out your trunks and they'll catch water. Might be a bad ideayour roots will rot in the still water.
  I saw a documentary about some sort of special Japanese pine in  island and the seedlings grew on the old trunks, the stumps of old trees, they said that seed grew better there.
  I agree with Leah Sattler about lots of mulch to stop the humidity  in the soil from evaporating. to stop the sun heatring the soil and to put al lid on rising humidity, provide a barrier between the rising humidity in the soil and the open air.

    I made a cold frame, as a fender off of heat instead of a cold frame. A cold frame is a box, it  can be made of bricks or wood or brought and plastic, with a window on top that you can leave open at first for a short while and later for longer to harden up things coming out of the green house.
    I made it with a plastic net on top so the sun did not hit in to it too hard the sun being a problem in Spain and so that the water in the air inthe bos owuld escape less. It had to allow rain in, i am not there all the time and i need the watering to be automatic i am not going to leave the irrigation on all year.
      I imagine the soil in the box will take longer to dry than that on the ground when i water it because it won't have the surrounding dry earth drawing out the moisture.  I put delicate things in there, things i have just brought that don't have good roots, seedlings and seeds. it seems to work. I have a drip in it for summer. Mine is wood made by me and i am no great carpenter. I have a photo of a smart English one in brick.
     
cold-frame.jpg
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