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raised beds

 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 698
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I was not very happy with my huegelculture beds. I built them on the top of the "soil" or compacted clay layer on fill or however you want to call it, it's awful.
While it was very wet they worked and when it was dry they didn' hold the water at all. I think the main reason is that I build everything on the top and I did not water
while building the material in. I had problems that the soil would not "stick" on the sides of the hill, maybe the classic huegel is not suitable for every soil and climate.
When I watered the water runs off the sides much more than with a usual bed.

I am pondering around what I will do with the beds and my idea at the moment is to build raise beds as follows: get secondhand roofing sheets (they seem to be reasonably cheap) and star posts.
I might even buy longer starposts for easy netting and trellising. The starpost are more expensive than the sheets. The beds will be about 4 meters long and 1.20 wide.
The only ugly part is cutting the sheets. I would simply wire the sheets to the posts.
I would build the beds in the same way, chuck wood in first, then dirt and then whatever organic material compost muck and the like (the very scientific approach).

I try to get sheets which are not painted because they might contain old lead paint.
The nice thing is that it is pretty high and I don't really get younger.
Does anyone has experience with this type of bed? How long until the sheets rust away?

 
Justin Deri
Posts: 79
Location: North Yarmouth, ME
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I wonder if a drip irrigation would work better for establishing the beds. Yes, I suspect water would run of, unless you put "texture" (as Paul calls it) to the beds. Instead of a straight slope down, you'd have microclimates where water could pool and absorb. If it's smooth sided, then drip irrigation might work because it would absorb quicker than it gets emitted. Also, drip works great with clay soil because it balloons outward under the soil.

Personally, I'd avoid the roofing panels. Toxic materials galore. If you must build up sides, is there a local lumber mill? Around here (Maine, USA) I have a local mill that does a lot of hemlock. It is quite rot resistant.

If you're just going to make raised beds, why make them with sides at all? Why not just mount it? What are you planting in those beds? In my heavy clay soil, even a bed raised just 6" (15 cm) makes a huge difference in drainage. Also, I'd look at using mulch on whatever you're doing. There is no magic in mulch. Just put down whatever you can. It'll help with moisture absorption and retention and be a boon to the biology. Think forest floor. The mulch can even be used to stabilize the soil on your hugelkultur beds by pinning it to the sides with sticks.

Justin
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 698
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Hi, I'm in Australia and the soil is generally poor and our soil is one of the poorest of the poor soils. The "good" soil we have is sandy/clayish.
Timber around beds is extremely expensive (everything is far more expensive over here).
I don't want to mound the beds because it did not work out for me. We have sometimes very wet weather in which case they are doing well,
sometimes very dry and the form of a mound simply leads to water run off.
Which toxic stuff is in roofing sheets? They come either galvanized (cheaper) or colourbond. Roofing companies are actually offering raised prefabricated beds which are
made out of roofing sheets. But when you have more than a small area to cover they are far too expensive.
I will grow more of the bulk stuff there like potato,s broad beans, dry beans, roots, maize etc. This is because we have a fully enclosed vegetable garden of about 100 m2 which we completely dug out and refilled it the huegelkulture style, only as flat beds. While this garden is great I will never do that again, my back and it takes AGES.
 
C Englund
Posts: 12
Location: Bloomington, IN
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Here in S. Indiana the soil has a very thin layer of topsoil over red clay. It's hard to even establish grass in some places, and the ground is either saturated or dry and hard. Pretty lousy.
I made some raised beds (just 8" high) by making the frame border out of some untreated 2x8 (Used a pair of 12' long boards, cut 3' off each end and so made a 3'x9' border).
Then I hugel'd them by digging out all the soil about 2' down inside the frame (It sort of looked like I was digging graves), and filling the hole to the ground level with tree trimmings/hedgerow clippings/whatever else natural woody material I could find walking around the neighborhood.
Then I piled all the dirt I had dug out (top soil and clay all blended up) back into the frame (some of it filtered/fell down amongst the wood, let the rest just build up as high it could, the peak was about two feet above the ground).
This was last fall, so I planted garlic and onions in it, put 2' tall fence around the beds (the dogs were having too much fun digging out all the loosened dirt, wasn't worried about other pests), and dumped in a 6-8" layer of leaves (walked around the neighborhood with a garbage can and scooped up the piles people raked out of their yards). I think I may have watered it once when it got really hot in the fall and the dirt looked dried out. Since then the soil has looked perfect, not saturated but not dry.
Now the beds are only about 6" above the frame top edge (they were almost 2') as it's settled and fell in over the winter with the freeze/thaw and snow and rain, and the leaves are only about an inch thick. The Garlic and onions have done very well I think, as even with 6" of snow on the ground the green tops have stuck up through it and kept growing.

Here's pics of digging out (all the dirt on the left, sticks on the right, framed hole in the middle), and then finished sans fence/leaves.



Also my greenhouse that I'm setting up aquaponics in/have lettuce and spinach growing in with single digit temps and snow this week No heat added other than the water pump and supplemental lights running.
 
Te Franco
Posts: 2
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We have clay soil too (there have been local clay mines) I thought your digging out of the under the rasied beds is a great idea. And the best part is that if you post how its going i can see how it is working before we start ours. We are in northern Idaho and i have serious weather envy with the pics of no snow on the ground and things not frozen. What type of set up are you doing with your aquaponics?
Te
 
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