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"Bagster" raised bed garden

 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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Thinking of using one of these to make a raised bed ( or four) in the back yard of a suburban home that I do not own.

http://www.thebagster.com

The soil here is terrible .... pure sand and I think it's contaminated with pool chemicals because I haven't been able to get anything to grow here the last couple of years.

Plan to cover the outside in some burlap to make it look a little more natural (picky neighbors) and also to protect the plastic from uv rays.

I need it to be as cheap as possible, temporary ( as in last two - three years or so )and these are 30$ each for 4x 8 by almost 3 feet deep. I understand and the concern about plastic chemicals but at this point I just think it's better than buying conventional produce. And I have no access to tools to build raised beds.

They are supposed to be self draining. I will fill the bottom with as much free organic matter as possible (mostly oak leaves... Think that is a problem ) and then filling in the top 6 inches with the square foot gardening mix.

Do you have any advice to help me make this work? Thanks!
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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hi, Katherine...I've added your post to a couple other forums to help you with an answer.
I wonder if you could make the same size bags out of the burlap (if you are buying it anyway) and that would hold your soil just as well. Besides any possible toxins in the bagster's plastic...I think when they break down you would have a lot of impossible to remove plastic bits left in your soil.
I am pretty sure I saw the bags of soil idea in a public space in San Francisco and it looked really nice.
 
Charles Tarnard
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Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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Those bags are really quite large, and don't hold their shape exceptionally well. You'll probably want to find a way to secure the corners, either by building a framework, or finding some old discarded furniture that will be sturdy enough to hold the corners taut; some kind of effective means of keeping the long edge from getting a little pudgy and low. It sounds like an interesting plan. Good Luck.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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When I was trying to find the San Francisco garden with the burlap 'sausage' rolls stuffed with something as the edge of raised beds I came across a 'how to' for making raised beds with burlap stuffed with straw here that looked interesting but a lot of work and maybe more expensive than you are thinking. Might work though if you have access to everything else for free. The burlap rolls are just to hold in the soil,etc.
 
Su Ba
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My thought was about the size. That's a lot of material you'd need to fill that bag. I make and use grow boxes made out of 4 wood pallets nailed together then lined with something heavy duty, like a tarp. It takes over a cubic yard of material to fill one of these boxes. I find that it's a lot to gather to fill even one box. Filling one box is a job, but your bag is three times as large.

With my pallet boxes, I could staple burlap to the outside to pretty them up.

Just a thought from another angle.
 
Katherine Baker
Posts: 35
Location: Southern New England
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Thanks for all the ideas.

I failed to mention that I came up with the idea partly because I was considering putting the garden on the concrete driveway where it might get more sun. I still haven't decided where it will go but I didn't think about tiny pieces of plastic in the soil eventually... Hhmmmm.

Yes, the sides are quite floppy though the corners do stand up quite well. (so instead of a rectangle it is sort of six sided at this point) I am thinking of using some rebar stakes on the long sides with maybe a 2x4 some how lashed to the rebar and the bag stapled to the 2x4. Though that is sounding pretty ugly even as I type and that won't work if I decide to use it out on the concrete drive way, of course. I may need to use a PVC frame if I use it in the drive way.

. Another thing I considered is just to go with the saggy look and use the attached ties to tie up the sides to each other across the growing area and plant in between. I would also need to cut some holes then though because my top open growing space would be diminished if I do it that way.

And yes it does take a lot of material to fill it but that is also solving another problem of wanting to get rid so a ton of leaves that the owner wants gone lol .... The owner of the home is not crazy about big compost piles laying around but I think I could compost the leaves under a garden without offense.

So I am wondering if I need to add anything to the leaves to help them break down since they are oak leaves and pretty tough. blood meal? I don't have any "greens" to add this time of year before I put on my 6 inches of soil on the top.
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Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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This was the inspiration for my idea:

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/swedish-garbage-bags-grow-instant-vertical-gardens.html

It might be more pillow-like (like this picture )on the drive way without a frame around it. Quite nice if I can get things to grow as lush as this! Which is why I want to make sure I have those leaves nicely breaking down in there and not just as something to fill it up.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5612
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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our grandchildren work well to break down leaves in the big pile we rake them into...all of that rolling around and jumping and tunneling ...they would love those big bags
...and in our garden we fill the paths with whole oak leaves and by the time we walk on them for a couple months they are well broken down and we shovel them up on to the raised bed.
We layer in whole leaves into our compost pile but lightly so they don't mat.
I think the best would be to shred them but that would be another expense.
On their own they take years to break down though. Maybe if you added enough soil and vegetable scraps and some nitrogen... making compost...even that might not be ready to plant this season. I think getting a head start by shredding/chopping the leaves could make a big difference.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I have thought of using these myself, congratulations on acting!
Line with cardboard, as a barrier to plastic in the soil.
If you are on soil, drive stakes all around to keep the sides vertical.
Given the permeability of the bag,the leaves should compost well.
Add worms, grass (green cuttings), manuer. Follow the guidlines for sheet mulching.
On concrete, tie the sides together at the distance you want them to end up at, and they will still be saggy, but it should be open topped at least.
 
Su Ba
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When I used to live in an oak/pine forest, I used a lawnmower to run over the oak leaves. Then they rotted down just fine.
 
Katherine Baker
Posts: 35
Location: Southern New England
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I did have the kiddos jump in the bag and they loved it! I highly recommend this because the kids can have fun without messing up your work. ....and it did break the leaves down a bit. They have great handles for pulling around the yard and they can be flat like a tarp on the sides to get the leaves in easily but with corner pockets that keep everything inside as you move....tarps need more than one adult to move them around. I may keep one of these bags to be used for fall clean up each year and then just make a garden out of it

Yes, I chose this too because I wanted to buy smart pots and couldn't afford it and wasn't sure I wanted to sew them myself since the weed barrier I have will prob break down faster in the sun than the bagsters which need to be so strong (supposedly they will hold 3,300 lbs worth of remodeling trash after sitting outside for months) When you go to the trouble to sew something you want it to last awhile. these seem to have great permeability for oxygen to the plant roots for better self -pruning (or so I have read).

Also I did think about using plain burlap bags but my friend said they only last one season and I need things to stay neat for suburban neighbors.if it goes on the concrete I can't have a pile of leaves at the end.

Something else to consider for renters... In *some* municipalities the waste management will come and pick up the bag filled with *yard waste *which theoretically could mean if you want an urban garden and you will be someplace for a year or two they can come and get it when you are done and your landlord wants your garden gone..... As long as you keep it near enough the street and you pay for pick up . this is extravagant, of course, but I have been in the situation of longing for a garden in the city so I pass that on. Some place in the world there is a service that does just this that I read about except that they actually deliver a fully prepared garden bed to start.
 
Katherine Baker
Posts: 35
Location: Southern New England
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Oh, William Bronson, do you think though that putting cardboard along the sides of the bag would affect oxygen permeability? Or do you mean at the bottom? Wouldn't that effect drainage?
Also.... What about putting on some logs for hugelkulture? I am assuming the bags will prob not last as long as the logs do.
 
Katherine Baker
Posts: 35
Location: Southern New England
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I probably should have turned it inside out so I didn't have the words on the outside. But if it works I don't mind doing some free advertising for the company .....though I am pretty sure the are taking a loss on the bags themselves in the hopes of recouping their loss in the pick up which costs by the lb. or at least they are not making much on the bags as they are really tough.
 
leila hamaya
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that sounds interesting, i hope it works out good for you.

thought i would add, you might consider a straw bale garden too...theres a lot of variations, you can arrange the bales in a square or circle on top of cardboard and then fill in the center with your growing medium, or just them as is and scoop out holes in them and plant right into it.

this would work better in a cooler climate, and its better to let them sit a while to prepare...cause they get really hot as they break down.
you can use this method in several different ways too.
i first read of this a long time ago, being used to keep the harvest in the ground through winter, by placing bales around the garden and then filling in the center with a lot of fresh straw covering everything as a blanket. in a cold climate the warmth produced is enough to preserve the harvest right in the ground, when you want to harvest stuff you pull back the straw and the food is preserved. the next year its good mulch, or keep building on top of it to get levels and vertical gardening going on.

but this too would only work in a cold climate, so i have wanted to try this but dont have the right climate for it. i just use a lot of straw when i can get some on the bottom of my gardens.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/straw-bale-gardening-ze0z1310zcov.aspx


 
Christopher Kyprianos
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Boy I really like those straw bail gardens. They look nice. I will check into them a little more. I have to wonder how long they will last. Plus the hight of them means a lot of fill.

I am located in North Central Mass and about to begin making a bunch of 4x8 raised beds. My plan was to use solid concrete blocks, stood on their sides. Each block is 8 tall x 16 long x 4 thick. My thoughts were that they would hold the earth well over the life of the garden beds. Mind you they can be easily removed after you are done and repurposed for either yourself or someone else. Concrete blocks are not that expensive either.

My first raised bed garden was 4x8 and the side were constructed of antique roofing slates. You can normally find them on Craig's List fairly cheap. Tap them into the earth and then fill. They worked excellent and others are using the same beds several years later and they still look great. Your fancy-smancy next door folks might actually like the look to boot. They were quite attractive. They too pick up very easily and can be repurposed. For that matter, put them back on CL and have whom ever buys them remove them and save the labor on that part.

Food for thought anyway.
 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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Ok so I have been thinking about how to support the sides of my bagster garden and considered a wood or pvc rectangular frame to get the sides to stand up. You could even just fold them back to an 18 inch height for a lower wall but I needed to contain a lot of leaves and wanted the sides to be high. so this is what I ended up doing:

If your bag is full of leaves or other organic material rake all of it to the four corners leaving the middle somewhat empty and then you can do one of two things:

1) push in the center of the long side until your bagster forms a KEYHOLE shape. (the corners soften and disappear and round out) and then fasten with a stake in the ground or just hold it with a rock or bricks (I used Paving stones) or even sew the bunched up plastic "fabric" with some fishing line to hold it into shape

2) you can push in the centers of BOTH long sides of it making your bagster into a kind of bow tie or dog bone shape and fasten the same way as above (this gives you a bit more square footage this way than the one above)

both ways give you less square footage than the 4x8 shape but it stands right up this way without all the extra output of a instaling a frame and would work nicely to make a garden on concrete. also if you let the 4x8 flop naturally you get something more 8 sided and more like six feet across x 8 feet long and so you cant really get to your middle to work it. this way everything is within reach

I plan on making some dog bone shapes with a dwarf fruit tree in each end. Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures soon of the keyhole one.
I covered the outside with burlap to pretty it up. haven't planted anything yet though...
 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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So I thought I would update this post and say that the Bagster garden was in an interesting experiment and I think it works well for:

a disguised place to compost leaves in a urban/suburban setting that is kept moist and dark. Certain plants did better than others -- oddly the eggplant was very happy whereas the other things-- peppers and tomatoes not so much. In the future I will only use the leaves as filler and put in plenty potting soil in the top for the actual growing medium. I found that the leaves in the center broke down nicely but the outside leaves that were the driest did not. I am also looking into additives to the leaves that might help them beak down faster (they are mostly oak).

For structure (they are very floppy) I first made a keyhole shape by pressing two paving stones on end into the center of the long side in this shape ^ to achieve somewhat rigid sides. The resulting shape was a little more unconventional looking and I found that I like my fall redesign better which was simply to use 6- 2 ft length of .35 rebar pounded in around the outside to support the edges in a traditional rectangular shape. Those then became my anchors for 10 ft (1/2 in wide) PVC hoops to support my row cover / plastic for fall and winter growing. They are somewhat move-able even filled with leaves when you first fill them but after a season of absorbing water you can't do much moving. It was quite an effort to just got from keyhole back to rectangle!

I plan to make some more of these gardens on a large concrete driveway. While the keyhole shape works it reduces your growing area and it looks a bit odd. I plan on sewing pockets for the PVC hoops with fishing line (thread will rot) which I think will gather up the excess fabric resulting in more rigid walls (think of those swimming pools that have a larger footprint than opening at the top so the water itself holds it up) and the pvc itself should add some structure (since I will not be able to pound the rebar into the driveway) Hopefully I will be able to add some pictures.

I am also considering putting strawbales around the outside to condition them for use in a strawbale system for next season, as well as to insulate the raised bed over winter under row cover( I am growing greens and winter crops and have heard that raised beds are not so good for this so maybe strawbales will help insulate??)

with a bit of burlap tucked around the outside I think they look nice and I plan on making a whole garden of them by adding one or two each season filled with my leaves and the leaves of my neighbors. Pictures to come

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Bagster raised bed bent into a keyhole shape to help the sides be more rigid. I used two large heavy paving stones in a ^ shape to press in the sides.
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Added burlap. I sewed it but I would have used a stapler if I could find one.
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showing the stones
 
Katherine Baker
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This is the new design Bagster garden with 2 foot rebar stakes holding up the sides and pvc hoops over to hold my row cover.
image.jpg
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Fall redesign in the more traditional rectangle with pic for winter row cover.
 
Katherine Baker
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I think I will fold the sides inside instead of outside so that the yellow stripes don't show thought the burlap.
 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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So I just thought I would update that now it is fall I am going to be getting another Bagster and this time I will go ahead and place it on the (very visible to picky neighbors) front driveway. I am fairly confident that I can make the garden look more attractive and more like a conventional raised bed. But I am going to make the following improvements to the design:

Addressing issues:
1) The flop factor and aesthetics:
I am going to use a paper stapler (or perhaps sew with fishing line) to create vertical pockets in the Bagster for three to four 1/2 inch (ten foot long) PVC hoops which will help give the bag structure and create a frame for my row cover/ plastic (in winter) and critter netting (to keep out both deer and stray basketballs, as it will be in the drive way and near the goal) creating a pioneer wagon shape. I will also use the stapler to pinch in some of the excess bag on the top edge to further stabilize (like the swimming pool shape example above). This way I won't need the rebar on the concrete which I had previously used in the back yard.

2) For better breaking down of the leaves:
I just got the STRAW BALE GARDENING book out of the library and I am going to try to apply the same principles in it that he uses to break down and add fertility to a non- fertile growing medium like straw, to break down and add fertility to the leaves. And I am going to take a previous posters advice and line the permeable plastic bag with plenty of corrogated cardboard on the bottom and sides (between the leaves and the plastic) to help maintain moisture levels (while keeping some air flow- as opposed to plastic bags which would block air) which I hope will help the leaves break down all the way out to the edges of the bag (previously they mostly just broke down in the middle of the bag because they dried out too much). Hopefully this will also help to wick the storm run off in the driveway into the bed and maybe catch any dripping fertilizer that I add. I will be layering the leaves with sprinklings of blood meal and Plant Tone and will also be spraying each layer of leaves with water, urine and molasses and a few shovelfuls of garden dirt to hopefully get plenty of microbial action. I am hoping that if I get the leaves to be as fertile as straw bales are after "conditioning," I will be able to use less potting soil on the top layer rather than more as I had posted previously. Also I will be adding a layer of opened up paper leaf bags between the leaf layer and the potting soil layer to help keep the potting soil from shifting and "swallowing" seeds too deep into the leaf layer for germination. Probably I will need to curve this up around the edges of the bag to hold the potting soil and keep it from sliding down the inside of the bag.

I am hoping that putting the Bagster on the driveway will allow me to:
1) catch the rainwater runoff (which was flooding the picky neighbor's house-- and I WILL point this out if the give me a hard time lol)
2) catch the free heat stored in the concrete from the sun and maybe that will cancel out the heat loss that occurs in a raised bed and allow me to grow a winter garden

I have some questions for you:
I will be having a lot of OAK leaves (notorious for their slow decomposition rate) do you have any suggestions or concerns about this?

So please wish me luck, stay tuned for pictures and updates and advise me at will with your suggestions!
Thanks!
 
R Scott
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I like it! It puts the raised beds to a different scale!

I have been looking at those bags myself for lots of general use--hauling things in my truck that I can unload into the barn with a chain hoist instead of by hand.

Pick your fast compost method of choice and make some compost. Inoculate your piles. Add a nitrogen source if you have one (peeing in a bucket counts).
 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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yes... I am thinking that these are going to be much better than the same amount of potting soil in a container as having all that mass should keep its temperature and moisture stabilized. Its a FREE resource! might as well use it!
 
Katherine Baker
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Location: Southern New England
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By the way.... I just read that its better to pee right on plants as you start loosing the nitrogen right away. But of course that could be dangerous in the 'burbs. Does anyone know how long I can keep the bucket inside before I better dump it on the plants so as not to loose the nitrogen completely?
 
R Scott
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Daily is best, more for the odor in the house more than anything.

And DILUTE it!!! 10:1 or more--keeps from burning living plants and spreads it through the compost to do the most good.

You could also do the gerry baker fertilizer from household supplies trick--use ammonia to clean and then dump that water in the pile, too.
 
Jason Douglins
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This is a good idea. I have a compost which makes me great fertilizer every year. So my plan is to put the bagster bag right in the middle of my lawn, make it look nice with some plant around it. I'll probably use wooden stick to make it as stable and rechtangle as possible. Fill it with compost, add in soil and plant some veggies. We'll see how it goes, I like the idea in my head so...

Btw, you can get bagster coupons at www.bagstercoupons.com or www.retailmenot.com for some extra savings.
 
Michael Bernard
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Katherine Baker and all commenters on this thread,

I have enjoyed reading your thoughts and planning and experiments and photos immensely. My brother said he was going to do this same raised bed garden this year and I have asked him several questions in email that he hasn't answered yet. These comments have helped give me ideas a great deal. I have been composting leaves, soil, vegetable waste, coffee grounds, old tomato plant potting material, and some sand and ammonia over winter. It's starting to look like compost now. I think I started it in November. It's mid-April. I'm growing some tomato seeds (hopefully) indoors, have moved to back porch out of direct sunlight. Not sure if I will do this this year as it takes a lot of soil to fill the bag and I am very short on space that gets full sun.

I had a couple of thoughts for securing the bag to add structure: one was to use pool noodles to put around the top of the bag that would help keep it from sagging on the long sides. You can find them cheap at thrift stores. Also could use in yard, but not in driveway, rebar stakes and connect with PVC parallel to the ground-one top level or several parallel rows at different heights up the rebar. Only need a drill to make holes. hay and straw have gotten expensive around here in the mid-south so I don't know if rebar and PVC would cost less or more than a straw perimeter support. Just a thought.

I really like this forum and I'll be back to hopefully hear more about this interesting method of gardening.
Mr.D
 
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