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New raised bed soil prep...

 
Marty Mitchell
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Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
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I am thinking in my mind of what the ultimate raised bed would be. A Bio-intensive/ hugleculture/ back-to-eden hybrid.

Can you imagine


: )
 
William James
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Before you get deep into analyzing the single element, you could start by thinking about how you can make the bed more functional in the system. Getting that bed connected to some other function/process is the difficult part, not finding some new, unheard-of technique. geoff lawton talks about this in the last podcast with Paul. Instead of starting with innovation, try starting with what has been tried and tested and work at the level of the system to get those tried and tested elements really humming. Random assembly is a design strategy to that end.

I would also add that everything is context dependent, there is no “ultimate” that everyone can work with. You adapt and find the “ultimate" for your situation, which is entirely different from everyone elses. Geoff also discusses diversity and microclimate and specialization in the last podcast with Jack Spirko.

My 2 cents. Sorry to burst your bubble.

William
 
Marty Mitchell
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Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
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Points taken and dually noted. I will have to think about it for a while. I will not be building another raised bed till next Fall at the earliest anyways. Sounds like I need to listen to a few podcasts too. lol
 
Marty Mitchell
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I am still considering the idea.

I already did the whole double digging thing(kind of) by amending the soil down a foot into the ground before raising the final soil level about a foot out of the ground. Even though it is not exactly the same.

My main reason for wanting a raised bed is I absolutely needed better drainage... and better soil than pure clay.

Then Late last summer I added a heaping helping of green manure/grass and added a layer of wood chips on top only after inoculating the system with Endo and Ecto mycorrhizae. 13 types in all. My plants that were already growing Loved it. That was my first garden though. Still many years of experience needed.

If the beds do well this summer I am betting that adding in some simple logs at around ground level or deeper would not hurt anything at all. I would simply be imitating nature a little better by creating an artificial rotting root zone. It would be both a carbon pathway for fungi to travel and for water to be absorbed/released. The matter/wood that trees horde in their trunks are so full of many types of nutrients. Just one of the many things that make trees so dominating on this planet.

If the system/experiment fails... then I will both backtrack and adapt. Keeping it fun is a good way to go in life. I am sure there are tons of others who have done something like this before.

In my current beds... the worm population has exploded. A good sign in my eyes. I can also easily wiggle my hand down 1.5ft into the ground easily and the bed has not been tilled since last spring. Never will be again I hope.
 
William James
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Hi Marty,

I got a lot out of reading Steve Solomon's "Intelligent Gardener". I also have near-pure clay and it's pretty tough so far. I have tried a lot of things.

You might benefit from a soil test. I have good, growing, non-sick plants, but my soil test was horrible, nearly all of the major nutrients were pretty low.
I'm currently adding lots of compost and gypsum (granulated drywall). Planning to add phosphate via amended vermiculture and poultry soon. Down the road adding Ca/Mg agricultural lime after doing another soil test.

Clay suffers from tight pore space and the absence of flocculation. Plant roots can't get down very far (carrots and daikons not rooting very far is a sign you have restrictive soil layers), and in general the plant roots will tend to just hang out on the top 3 inches where there is sufficient movement and they can grow new roots.

Magnesium tightens clay even more, so you don't want to add that. You can add calcium without the fear of over-doing it and it promotes the breaking up of clay soil.

Organic material has its limits, and this is very evident in clay soils. After 3-4 weeks whatever OM I add is eaten up by the hungry soil. Your cheapest route is to get the nutrient balance better and find cheap sources of good quality OM.

Best of luck. PM me if you want to share stories about Clay modification techniques. Otherwise check my posts for archives/updates on my constant battle with clay.

William
 
R Scott
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Agreed that the first thing is getting the bed ergonomics right in relation to zone 1. Then the solar aspects. THEN the soil. Permaculture zone 1, square foot, biointensive, all advocates very similar things--you can devote more time and money/inputs per square foot in raised bed zone 1.

Amending a couple hundred square feet of beds is financially available to anyone that can build the beds. A bag of azomite or other rock dust, organic matter from any source, and a few bags of perlite, and a truckload of sand for the clay. That runs $1 per square foot or so. Biochar, teas, etc. add a little more. It is just too cost prohibitive on a large scale.
 
William James
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I've been meaning to write a post here after I somewhat brutally dismissed your search for the ultimate raised bed. Experimentation is good. Be bold, go make some mistakes, do some research to make your mistakes more informed, try the stuff that people suggest or that you read about, and move forward. Maybe you just will find the ultimate raised bed or a fix for clay.

Nature is forgiving and if you limit the bad stuff (plastics, chems, etc) it will recoup any mistakes you make with time.

This is me unbursting your bubble.
William
 
Marty Mitchell
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Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
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William James wrote:Hi Marty,

I got a lot out of reading Steve Solomon's "Intelligent Gardener". I also have near-pure clay and it's pretty tough so far. I have tried a lot of things.

You might benefit from a soil test. I have good, growing, non-sick plants, but my soil test was horrible, nearly all of the major nutrients were pretty low.
I'm currently adding lots of compost and gypsum (granulated drywall). Planning to add phosphate via amended vermiculture and poultry soon. Down the road adding Ca/Mg agricultural lime after doing another soil test.

Clay suffers from tight pore space and the absence of flocculation. Plant roots can't get down very far (carrots and daikons not rooting very far is a sign you have restrictive soil layers), and in general the plant roots will tend to just hang out on the top 3 inches where there is sufficient movement and they can grow new roots.

Magnesium tightens clay even more, so you don't want to add that. You can add calcium without the fear of over-doing it and it promotes the breaking up of clay soil.

Organic material has its limits, and this is very evident in clay soils. After 3-4 weeks whatever OM I add is eaten up by the hungry soil. Your cheapest route is to get the nutrient balance better and find cheap sources of good quality OM.

Best of luck. PM me if you want to share stories about Clay modification techniques. Otherwise check my posts for archives/updates on my constant battle with clay.

William


I just may try and get a soil test some day. I don't like the feeling of guessing what my soil needs. So far I have been going at it blind. I just may PM you some time!

Have you seen the "Back to Eden" film yet? It is Free online. The fellow references the bible a lot but that is just the way he sees the world. He does not come across as though he is thumping his bible or anything. Here is a link to the Video. The link to the free film is at the bottom of the screen when you open the page. Basically simply adding a layer of mulch to hardpan will keep the soil moist... aka... soft enough to roots to push through. So that was my main attraction to that type of gardening. The lack of need for fertilizer and irrigation attracted me too.

http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/index.html

I am going to look up that book you mentioned. Right now I am reading Bret Markham's... Mini Farming... Self-sufficiency on 1/4 acre. Learning some fun facts like how a 4' x 6' garden bed equals a 100ft garden row when planted bio intensively. Just with tons less water and fertilizer required due to less space. Or that some types of fungi actually make antibiotics for your plants(like penicillin does). Making medicine for them to fight infections and disease. The book even has rough calculations to help figure how much of each plant type you need in the garden based on pounds of yield per square foot.

R Scott... I live on a .36 acre lot with a house plopped right in the middle. So I can literally claim everywhere as Zone 1. I am on such a small scale right now that I can claim everything that I am doing as a science experiment too. Especially if anything fails. lol I have my garden positioned for full Sun from rise to set. I will need to expand in future years after I learn to use my current beds to their full potential.

Thank you for unbursting my bubble William!
 
casey lem
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Marty,

I say follow your gut man! We have almost the same style raised beds, but I found out about hugekultur a day late. I'm considering toying w/ this hybrid idea in new beds we may start. We also double dug and kept our back yard annual veg beds close together w/ logs on the ground as frames and whatever organic mulch we could find. Sort of biointensive meets back to eden. I've lamented over not fusing hugelkultur w/ this, but I also kind of don't want to tinker w/ soil that's already thriving. We also have clay, albeit about a foot down, but double digging definitely helped. Please share if your fusion idea comes to fruit!
 
Marty Mitchell
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Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
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casey lem wrote:Marty,

I say follow your gut man! We have almost the same style raised beds, but I found out about hugekultur a day late. I'm considering toying w/ this hybrid idea in new beds we may start. We also double dug and kept our back yard annual veg beds close together w/ logs on the ground as frames and whatever organic mulch we could find. Sort of biointensive meets back to eden. I've lamented over not fusing hugelkultur w/ this, but I also kind of don't want to tinker w/ soil that's already thriving. We also have clay, albeit about a foot down, but double digging definitely helped. Please share if your fusion idea comes to fruit!



I pledge to come back to this very thread in a few years to post some pics!

If I don't make the new beds till this upcoming Fall... or even later... then it will be a while before I get to see some results from decomposed logs buried under the soil.

For now I am just reading and learning... and fighting whatever it is that keeps mowing down my Kale and Lettuce. lol
 
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