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Raised beds

 
maria McCoy
Posts: 49
Location: W. Seattle, WA - planning to be rural soon.....
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Besides hugelkulture, how have you made raised beds?
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I really like to use stones for the border. A shallow raised bed (eight inches) is good for things with shallow roots (like strawberries). As the years go by, the bed can be made deeper (24 to 30 inches) and deep rooted plants (like tomatoes) can be planted.

Old logs can be good for borders too.

I never use anything treated, like railroad ties or that treated wood from the lumber store.

I would be hesitant to use cedar or any tree that might introduce a toxicity to help the tree outcompete other vegetation.

If a log rots in a few years, it can later be replaced with stone or another log.
 
                                
Posts: 44
Location: Middle Georgia
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I use concrete block to make raised beds.
the walkways are in between the walkways are wide enough i can get a good sized wheelbarrow down it with no problems and the growing areas are big enough and wide enough that i can reach from both sides.
I am not allowed to use pressure treated lumber because i organically grow.
I have also seen people use tires but once again I can not do that because of organic standards.
 
                        
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I see regular concrete cinder blocks are approved for organic gardening.  I'd planned to use more whiskey barrels to plant my garden this year, but after looking into cost, seems they have gone up in price quite a bit where I am, so I'm off in search of plan B.  I have some landscaping blocks that I could rearrange to make some new beds and just add my veggies to my regular landscape, are these safe? Do they put anything extra in those decorative blocks? Is the coloring harmful? I know this is probably a silly question, but well, I was unsure. Thanks for any help!
 
Kelda Miller
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Hi! I do my raised beds by just working over the entire soil with garden fork, and then scooping out paths with a shovel. This creates 5-6" raised beds wherever there's not a path. Easy.

Also, this year I've been pulling out my cover crop (rye), leaving it lay on soil for few days, and then if I want to seed something, I just take the rye and smoosh it to the sides of the bed. (parallel to the paths)

Because my raised beds aren't supported by anything, they tend to become  a bit narrower throughout the season. So letting that rye compost on the edges brings back a wider bed, plus the nutrients that the rye has. But without having it's decomposition interefere with the seeds and plants I'm eating. etc.
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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We typically do our raised beds like Kelda. Just fluff & work the whole area then scoop out the paths. The fluffed soil plus amendments will sit a lot higher than the unfluffed soil did.

We actually try to avoid borders of any kind. We find that those borders tend to harbor running grasses and other perennial weeds that become hard to remove when they're firmly entrenched amongst rocks and logs. When I work an area I give the paths the same treatment as the beds so I'm sure I get out any gnarly weeds.

Also, as a note, the higher you raise your beds the more frequently you'll need to water in the summer (here in the Seattle area, anyway) because the beds will dry out quicker. There is a wide range of appropriate bed designs depending on climate, from sunken beds in the desert to high raised beds in the rainforest. Here in Washington west of the Cascades I think 6" is plenty (unless you have water to spare or another reason to raise them higher...e.g. elderly or wheelchair access).

Dave
 
                                      
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hi. question about converting a 20x20ft area that is boxed in on 3 sides with pressuretreated lumber. we had our kids playset in here due to lack of level area in yard. is there a way to line it and addsoil to make it safe for edibles??

thanks
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20430
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Yes.

While plastic (like visqueen or the clear stuff) is another form of toxic gick, it stays pretty inert as long as it is not exposed to sun.

Personally, I would get rid of the pressure treated wood and then go with some other materials.  But I think I'm bit more snooty than most about this sort of thing.

 
                                      
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hey snooty is fine by me, by the way paul my lawn  is gettin nicer(i am the suburban girl who grew cowpeas,remember me?) still some bare patches and a bit rocky but for sure greenin uo and the clover has lessened!
back to the box though...if i get rid of the pt wood is the soil/wood chips in there toxic? what do you suggest i do i would love to make it a huge veggie garden, but not if it isntsafe
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Congrats on the greener lawn.  I take it that the cowpeas smothered weeds and improved the soil?

If it were me, I would take out the PT wood and I wouldn't worry about any residue.  There will be residue, but not much.  And what is there should be gone in a couple of years. 
 
Leah Sattler
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grassygirl wrote:
is the soil/wood chips in there toxic?



what are the wood chips made of? if they are cypress or pine that are not colored I think maybe you could get away without a full cleanout, if they are cedar then you should pull it all out imo. if they seem to be a fairly benign then scrape them off build your beds and put them down in the paths. Try digging down beneath the chips and see what the soil looks like. Is it earthwormy or barren?

I scoop the dirt from my paths into the planting beds also. Then I use old feed sacks and stepping stones to keep the weeds at bay in the paths. I think whether you could do that would depend on how deep your beds need to be. I was just trying to get a little farther above a clay line. I don't need to have the full root zone above ground level.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20430
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere else, so I picked a thread to add this:

Supposing one has a lawn and wishes to convert a patch to a garden.  First, I wish to express that the bare minimum way that I would advocate is with a raised bed.  And I want that raised bed to be at LEAST 18 inches tall. 

Here is a quick recipe for a garden with raised beds that are two feet tall. 

Mark out where you want your beds and paths to be, then dig down where your paths are.  Dig down about a foot.  And toss that material onto the grass where your raised bed will be.  Assuming that the path space is about equal to the bed space, you your paths will be about a foot lower than the old level and your beds will be about a foot higher than the old level.  Two feet. 

Further, the beds are full of delicious topsoil, and the paths are of less fertile subsoil. 

 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 383
Location: South West France
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I make them from chestnut poles cut on site and as our land is on a slope I terrace, working around the tree roots







I've also made them from tree roots dug up by the pigs and too beautiful to burn. (This bed has a hugelkultur base and is now seven years old and I didn't water it at all last year.)



Paul I've just made more growing space which covers a lawn and after we put the new poles down I pull the stones and wood towards the edges and more and more compost (helped by the chickens) makes it's way by gravity down the slope to the raised bed. I'll mulch just before planting.



The mulch also goes on the paths and the chickens clean them regularly so the lawn will disappear completely between raised beds.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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i use whatever i have that is of natural origin, rocks, logs, stumps, rounds, branches, babmoo, packed earth, and so on.

though ill have to say going up isn't always the best idea. in some places, going down is best.
 
                      
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Great photos! Beautiful property you have there!
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Maria, do you mean real, foot-off-the-ground type raised beds, or more 'edges'?
I'm not being smart, it's just that the terminology gets pretty blurry.
In my climate and soil (temperate, windy, very sandy and free-draining) raised beds are a total pain.
When I first started out gardening, it seemed to be a mantra, repeated with no thought to  different environments.
I built raised beds (cheap pine 'boxing' and have been lowering them ever since. My 'edges' keep the mulch from blowing away though...
 
Casey Halone
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we have a small urban lot and plenty of pallets around. i cut them at the middle stringer and make a square with 4 of em. fill with arborist chips, and any other organic matter i can find handy. I figure if it starts to get warm via composting, its not all bad in the early spring, when frost is possible. lets hope for no more frost from here on out.
 
                      
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the best raised bed may be no raised bed at all - see lee reich's "weedless gardening" for an alternate view questioning the value of raised beds.  i found that i needed to water them much more than the unraised beds around them. 

we are finding that concrete is an environmental nightmare because of the enormous amount of energy used to produce it, so if you must raise them i'd vote for small logs that you let rot and replace every 5 or 10 years.
 
                                  
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I have a question about raised beds.. I live in Eugene, Oregon in a part of town where all the yards flood when it rains heavily, so most of the cold months we have a series of shallow ponds all through the property.

We're going to be putting raised beds in, with the addition of more soil throughout the property over time to raise the level in hopes of avoiding more puddles later. But for now, raised beds are what we're working on.

What kind of beds should we put in, taking the water levels into consideration?


Thanks!
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
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Location: South West France
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Thanks Stewart !

Wolfsong, I'm sorry I don't know much about your local climate but I do know that you grow good roses in Oregon with wet winters and hot, dry summers.

We get very heavy thunderstorms and my veg garden is on a slope so I used the paths between the raised beds to form swales to keep the water in situ.



If you line the beds with as much water-retaining material as possible like wood, wool, leaf mould, straw, etc. then you'll save on topsoil, watering and keep the feet of your perennials out of the water.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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maria wrote:
Besides hugelkulture, how have you made raised beds?


http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/6720_0/organic-sustainable-practices/biochar-double-mandala-garden


That's how I made mine.  This morning I found deer circling it trying to figure out how to get inside. 
 
                                  
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Thanks for the tip, Irene! Eugene is a temperate rainforest, so lots of rain, most seasons.
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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i have a question on raised beds.

ive got beds built.....i now have to fill them with soil.  in the grand spirit of hugalkultur .....would it be advantageous to put a layer of sticks/twigs/ etc.  on the bottom of these beds before adding soil?  would this be a similar method or modified method of the talked about hugalbeds.??

any thoughts/opinions would be appreciated.
 
Salkeela Bee
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Well I've done it.  There were two old tractor tyres here and I decided to use them as beds.  I place a couple of layers of cardboard (old boxes) under them.  Then rolled the tyres into place. Added some old ash logs.  Some horse manure, some grass clippings, some old hay, more horse manure (well rotted for the top layer) Oh and a bit of sand went in there too... 

I have done versions of this before and it all grows well.  Does need refilling the next year....
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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prior to our housefire (2002) I had huge gardens made with raised beds out of 2x6's ..framed..and loved them..I mulched them deeply with aspen chips both on top of the beds and the paths..lost that area when we  had our fire.

have been doing a few beds with either old used landscaped timbers or salvaged 2x6's but most of my beds now are edged in plastic lawn edging..to keep quackgrass out..as I am able i will probably edge them with lumber and raise them higher.

Sepp makes his really high, mine aren't that high..I have some that are hugel, some have wood chips and bark buried in them and some have compost and sod in the centers..

all seem to work fine for me

i tend to mulch and use sheet compost on most of my beds..or allow the plants to touch each other..and self mulch
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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Irene Kightley wrote:
I make them from chestnut poles cut on site and as our land is on a slope I terrace, working around the tree roots







I've also made them from tree roots dug up by the pigs and too beautiful to burn. (This bed has a hugelkultur base and is now seven years old and I didn't water it at all last year.)



Paul I've just made more growing space which covers a lawn and after we put the new poles down I pull the stones and wood towards the edges and more and more compost (helped by the chickens) makes it's way by gravity down the slope to the raised bed. I'll mulch just before planting.



The mulch also goes on the paths and the chickens clean them regularly so the lawn will disappear completely between raised beds.


i love these pictures.  these should be in a book.  great job mrs knightley
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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thanks for the replys....

mrs groth..whats sheet compost exactly?
 
Casey Halone
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A buddy shared what he does with me. I haven't seen it in person... he gets many busted refrigerators, removes the doors and lays them down. then cut out the back or just add some holes to drain. I thought of taking it a step further and wrapping it with salvaged wood to enhance the appearance and let them all appear to be one long bed.

seems the insulation would be a benefit the soil temp and if placed next to a house, you could add R value to your home at the same time.
 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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I live in the Phoenix, AZ area and need to put in a few raised beds because of a bad back. I'll plant the taller stuff in ground level beds with raised edging to keep everything tidy. I was thinking that the wood composite planks would work better than block or stone here because it wouldn't heat up so much in the summer. I don't want to use something that I'll have to replace in a few years because I'm creaky and don't want to have to do the hard work more than once.

Is there a reason besides the fact that it isn't natural and because it's expensive (yes, cost does matter, but oh well...) that would make using composite wood a bad idea?

Once the basics are in, I promise that my yard will be environmentally impact aware and as self-sustaining as I can make it. I just want it to be reasonably pretty and permanent. Please don't yell at me, but if it would be a bad idea, I'd really like to hear your thoughts.
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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i assume you speak of composite decking?

it has no structural strength to it.  even using it on a deck the structure has to be wood.  and spacing of wood joists cant be beyond 16" centers.  or the decking will bow and be very weak.  plus the composite decking is not all they claim it is.  it will mold and mildew. the sun will utterly destroy it. and there is no real good way to preserve it like you can wood.  in the long run, if you could even figure out a way, to make it strong enuff so that it looks good...........it wont look as good as your thinking b/c of the constant contact to the wet ground.

and then there is the cost issue as you mentioned................
 
John Polk
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By composite wood, do you mean "chip board" (which looks like a million chips of wood glued together), or the new(ish) stuff that looks like lumber?  The "chip board" would be a bad choice for a variety of reasons: little strength, minimal water resistance, and the synthetic glues will dissolve into your soil over time.  I have seen the "lumber look-alike" material used in many 'green' projects.  It is strong, durable, and will outlast most woods.  Other than cost, I see no problem with it, and cost may not be that great if you consider that you will not have to redo it every few years.

I do not know its thermal properties, but it may heat up as much as concrete blocks.
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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T. Pierce wrote:
i assume you speak of composite decking?

it has no structural strength to it.  even using it on a deck the structure has to be wood.  and spacing of wood joists cant be beyond 16" centers.  or the decking will bow and be very weak.  plus the composite decking is not all they claim it is.  it will mold and mildew. the sun will utterly destroy it. and there is no real good way to preserve it like you can wood.  in the long run, if you could even figure out a way, to make it strong enuff so that it looks good...........it wont look as good as your thinking b/c of the constant contact to the wet ground.

and then there is the cost issue as you mentioned................


Yes, this is what I was thinking of, but you just blew it out of the water. LOL! 

Okay, if I go with real wood grown from real trees, what kind should I get and how should I treat it. I'm thinking of beds 4'x14' and about 12" high. I'm planning on 5 of them and one more in a u shape. I'm trying to maximize grow space and this is the most I can fit in.
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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mahagony, straight grain fir,  cypress, redwood, cedar, and then there is the brazilian and other imported hardwoods.  but the cost will be astronomical.  for raised beds unless your filthy rich,  these are really outa the question.

i tell you what i have.  99% of the folks will gasp with horror,  but my beds are made outa PT pine lumber.  cheap, easy to obtain,  and last for 20 yrs....(or so they claim)
 
                      
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Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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"Okay, if I go with real wood grown from real trees, what kind should I get and how should I treat it"

Yeah, pine is just fine.  You can use any heap wood or even old would if you aren't particular, then let it rot over years and you have a place for microbes ala hugelculture, sort of.

If you can't handle wood starting to not look nice after a while, one or two layers of plastic on the inside of the boards will cause them not rot for quite a long time.  Just hide the plastic from the sun and as much as possible from site.

And throw scraps of wood, construction scraps, limbs, twigs, chips into the soil, to help the soil community.
"
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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I have no idea what PT pine is so I didn't even flinch when I read it. 

Since I'm not filthy rich (rats), pine will probably be the wood of choice. The plastic on the inside sounds like a good idea. I really had my heart set on the fake wood that looks real - like Trex or Timbertech. I've never used them but they sounded so nice. I want it to look and act like wood but last forever. Sigh. I guess I'll stick with real wood. I'm sure pine will cost a lot less which does make a difference. We're saving our pennies so we can do the yard in the fall.

We've been wanting a new, really big TV for the family room since ours is so old but my husband thinks we should do the garden first. Isn't he a great guy?! Yup, pine will have to do.
 
John Polk
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The Timbertek will last longer than real lumber.  It is strong, rot resistant, but expensive.
"Composit wood" is wood chips glued together...that stuff will not last long in the dirt, and has little strength.
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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composite is a plastic product that has wood fibers or saw dust imbedded in it.  there is no structural strength to it.  ifs mainly for facing real lumber or it has to have alot of real wood lumber supporting it.

it makes beautiful decks and has advantages over real wood.  but dont fall prey to all they claim about it and check the fine print on their warrenties.   there is large lawsuits ongoing with composite.  ive built a number of decks using composite.  i like it.  but in some areas i refuse to use it.  under alot of trees.  close proximity to ground,  etc.

John, i believe you are referrencing OSB...oriental strand board.   or even certain laminated beams now adays that are super strong.  but not to be used for exterior projects.  Timber tek is TimberTech.  just another of the 100's of brands of composite decking materials offered. 

 
T. Pierce
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Becky Purvis wrote:
I have no idea what PT pine is so I didn't even flinch when I read it. 

Since I'm not filthy rich (rats), pine will probably be the wood of choice. The plastic on the inside sounds like a good idea. I really had my heart set on the fake wood that looks real - like Trex or Timbertech. I've never used them but they sounded so nice. I want it to look and act like wood but last forever. Sigh. I guess I'll stick with real wood. I'm sure pine will cost a lot less which does make a difference. We're saving our pennies so we can do the yard in the fall.

We've been wanting a new, really big TV for the family room since ours is so old but my husband thinks we should do the garden first. Isn't he a great guy?! Yup, pine will have to do.


PT stands for pressure treated.  treated with chemicals to discourage decay, rot, termites, etc.  but even this needs to be treated with a stain or preservative every couple yrs to help with the durability.  the sun will really wreck havoc on it.  if preserved on a timely basis it will last for a loooooong time. and it helps with the appearance also. 

Trex is a good brand. ive used it. Choice decking is ok.  but i think Evergrain is better.  these are the three im familiar with.  Trex and Choice  has lawsuits going on.  dont know if they have been resolved yet.  but as mentioned  none of this composite material will do well for you, unless you have a real  solid wood structure behind it. 
 
Casey Halone
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REFRIGERATORS!
 
Troy Rhodes
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I had to make forms for footings (pouring cement).  I bought the cheapest lumber to do it, SPF 2x10's  SPF stands for Spruce, Pine, Fir.  It's the cheapest 2x10 you can buy.

Since I wanted to remove the boards from the cement and reuse them, I used a cheap paint roller to treat them with...

soybean oil.

Used soybean oil in fact.  I collect used fryer oil from restaurants to make biodiesel.  It turns out it makes pretty decent, and very environmentally sound, wood preservative.  They turn dark, but they don't rot. that was almost five years ago, and they're still going strong.

2x10's make a pretty decent raised bed, and not terribly heavy.

I'm not a huge fan of the fakie wood composite deck materials, even though it looks nice, for a while.  It is definitely not as strong as wood wood.

HTH,

troy

 
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