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Winter Raised Bed Preparation?  RSS feed

 
J Sullivan
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I was wondering if there would be any benefit or detriment in making raised beds in the thick of winter in northern illinois? I do not have any beds right now but would like to know if making the beds in winter would give me a jump start on spring work?

Thanks
J
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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I think it would depend largely on style. If you need to dig a trench to start your bed and the ground is frozen, I would say you need to wait for the thaw to save yourself some work. If, however, you are starting on level ground, or the hole/trench is already there, and the materials are loose, well, if you can scrape them all to where you want them, snow and all, and then it gets snowed on some more, well, you've just stockpiled most of the water you will need to water the pile when it thaws.

Also, if all you do is pile your materials so that they act as windbreaks and snow accumulators, and later as obstacles to runoff and sedimentation, you have stockpiled water in the form of snow, and should reap some return from trapping silt in the nascent piles.

It depends on your situation. If you have storm-damaged trees and limbs on the ground, by all means gather them into rows or in one spot where you will be making your bed(s). If you find you need to dig down a bit later, you can either move the pile slightly, or dig the topsoil around it and put it on top, putting down woodchips or something on the new path.

-CK
 
J Sullivan
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I plan on doing raised beds starting with cardboard on top of the grass and doing the green, brown, compost and etc. layers. Would there be to much compaction over the winter defeating the purpose of having loose media for plants to grow in? Perhaps a modified mixture like having more straw in the the mixture would keep it less dense?
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Remember that if you build it like a good compost, it will be too hot for anything to grow the first season.

Also, ditch the cardboard. You don't need it, and the adhesives and inks are toxic.

My suggestion is that you make the bottom half to two - thirds as you would a giant compost, with wood on the bottom as carbon, and whatever your nitrogen ingredients are, manure or green, finished compost, preferably from a living hot compost to inoculate it with the appropriate bacterial cultures, and repeat until you're out of materials. Then put a deep garden bed on top, consisting almost entirely of topsoil, amended as you need to plant whatever you're planting.

This will keep the hot zone separate from your plants' root zones. I also experience a longer growing season due to the heat from the bottom of the pile, and veggies that like manure LOVE a manured hugelkultur, especially if it evens out any moisture issues.

Hope this helps.

-CK
 
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