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Building raised beds

 
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Help, I am putting 2 of my 5 acres into a food forest/garden/I don't know what to describe it as.. my field is clay loam, I have planted about 20 fruit trees so far, and every shovel of dirt has many worms. I have mowed the grass, and this is where my thoughts get twisted... I am thinking that I will mow a path, then use my tiller to loosen the soil, and finally come through with my back blade and roll the loose soil into a raised bed along what will now be my path, I can till once more and pull the blade to put a mound on the other side of the path. have I lost my mind? should I just do a minimum till and not bother with creating the raised beds. I am too old to pull weeds all day, so I am working towards "do little get a lot".
 
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Cynthia. Just wondering why you want to put all of the work into raised beds? Some say that everytime you till the soil you loose lots of good stuff to the atmosphere. Have you seen the work that some of the folks here have done with no till and short clover covercrops? Paul has a few videos that might help.

www.richsoil.com
 
Cynthia Callahan
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I did a sketch up of the lay out.. the brown strips are the area in question. the grass is so dense that I have to do something with it this year. the area is 400 ft long by 150 ft wide (this year), pretend the red car is my tractor. the path will be replanted with low clover, alyssum, what ever.. the space between the paths will be 20 to 30 ft, planted with fruit trees, and perennial herbs, berries, vegetables. one area will have hop plants low trellis, with herbs planted as companions. the benefit of doing raised on the edge is it will hold moisture into the perennial beds and it will warm faster. the field is flat, so adding some edge is another benefit. all my annual vegetables will be planted in this area. the soil has a lot of clay, so compaction is a concern. the size limits the options for the initial build. so I guess the real issue is how to set the grass back enough to plant the annuals..
garden-lay-out.png
[Thumbnail for garden-lay-out.png]
gardeb lay out
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11352
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I would not do straight lines like that, I would make the shapes on contour, and instead of raised beds as you describe, I would make swales, with the swale berm being the raised portion of the bed.

I recommend the PRI DVD on making a forest garden: http://www.permaculturenews.org/store/cartview.html?id=2 Several parts of the DVD are on Youtube.

You're planning a large area (2 acres) so I think it will be worthwhile to do a lot of research before you start.

Here are some videos on Youtube which might help with your planning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMQ8eSm92xQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG_vRG66wkA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wI9Arel9tQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_fhAch5qiY
 
Cynthia Callahan
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Tyler, Thank you for the videos, I had seen them before, they are great! the picture I drew was crude at best, and my plans have been for a winding/snaking path ( I think it aesthetically correct) I think if I do the raised bed/ swale on the up hill side. of the path (mind you it is close to flat) the beds could be higher than if I had them on both sides, if I went further into it and actually created hugelkulture beds for future loops I may see a gain ( I will have to bring in timber for it).
I especially liked the video that showed using the chickens to clear the land. unfortunately, I will have to have my chickens in a fortress as I have eagles, hawks , coyotes and raccoon's to keep out. pigs would work well, I think if the pig house was on wheels I could do a temporary pasture, then move them to new... but that is not going to happen this year, certainly it could be in my 5 year plan.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think trees are usually planted on the downhill side of the swale berm, and the path is usually on the uphill side of the swale, so that any runoff from the path goes into the swale. http://green-change.com/2011/09/05/swales-for-water-harvesting/
 
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Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
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What kind of grass is it?

I like the idea of taking the dirt from your paths and flipping it upside down to create raised planting areas. Depending on the local "weeds" however it may not be enough.
 
Cynthia Callahan
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Hanley, the grass is a mix of timothy and fescue.. it has a huge amount of canadian thistle and tansy mixed in.. (great huh) the grass has been pushed to one side of the path.. the path snakes back and forth and comes out right next to where it started. I planted peas, kale and lettuce. the peas have started showing their little faces, just waiting on the rest. I have been digging out the tansy and spraying vinegar on the thistle. The grass is almost tall enough now to start cutting and laying it out as a mulch on the raised areas. I planted a cover crop in the walkway. the walkway looks like a lake after a good rain, so it is doing it's double duty as a swale. the fruit trees are doing well and my hop plants have all made it out of the ground. it still does not look like a conventional garden.. probably never will. But I think as my first run on a food forest? bed it will work out great. I did add an additional 10 rows 4'x120' that I will plant corn, hulless oats, hulless barley, pole beans...etc... in .. Next year I hope that all the mulching and nitrogen fixing plants will give my spring a nicer start!
 
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