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Patricia Hooton
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We currently have 2 raised beds, and are going to add a couple more this year. Last year because we were not composting, I had to buy soil to put in the raised beds - It was quite expensive! This year we have done some composting, but not enough to fill two new beds. I was reading that in order to reduce the amount of soil needed, you can fill the bottom to have way up, with empty water and soda bottles....Has anyone done this? Pros/Cons etc.

 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Personal suggestion: fill with thick chunks of wood instead.
 
Casie Becker
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I second that suggestion. Also, if you've got transportation you might try looking or posting a request for soil/chips/manure on craigslist. Took less than 24 hours for my family to be contacted by a small horse breeder (small operation, large horses) when we were looking for manure.

I see posts offering 'fill' frequently on craigslist Combine that with manure and give it a little time to settle, you'd be above the quality of most 'top soil' that is sold these days.
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Yes, do put large wood pieces at the bottom of your bed, but do not put in wood chips. Instead save the chips for topping off the soil in the bed after the plants have reached a few inches well above the soil and chips. 6 - 8" in total height is good.
The wood you put in should be seasoned (aged/old) so as to not draw to much nitrogen from the surrounding soil and plants.

For my first bed on the farm I went around and topped the old tree stumps left by previous land owners. These were well seasoned and worked perfectly. If you don't have access to this type of thing you can advertise in Craigslist as mentioned, that you will haul aged wood laying on the ground. Many people do not like downed branches and logs that have been left to long exposed to the soil for burning in a fireplace/stove, so they just make a burn pile out of them. Sometimes even just driving around and asking can land you a great haul.

You can also add some sand and aged manures or compost to extend the soil volume. I have lots of clay, that's all my soil is.... so I added clay, sand and aged manure to a bit of purchased garden soil extending it 4x - add whole wood in the bottom and a lot of garden beds can be made. I also dressed the top of my beds with aged wood chips I had dumped free on site. If I see a tree service I stop and talk them into dumping at my place
 
Patricia Hooton
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Casie Becker wrote:I second that suggestion. Also, if you've got transportation you might try looking or posting a request for soil/chips/manure on craigslist. Took less than 24 hours for my family to be contacted by a small horse breeder (small operation, large horses) when we were looking for manure.

I see posts offering 'fill' frequently on craigslist Combine that with manure and give it a little time to settle, you'd be above the quality of most 'top soil' that is sold these days.


I actually have a lot of manure. Added both horse an chicken manure to the last beds up until December, and have just been turning them until planting time (mid February), so figure it is not enough time to do that with the new beds..Perhaps I could fill with manure, wait until my summer planting and add some soil.

Our soil has a lot of clay, and compacts which is why I didn't want to use it. Last year I combined manure with vermiculite, potting soil and peat moss.

Adding logs instead sounds great. We just purchased 25 acres that had been logged, so there is a lot of partially rotted wood on that land!
 
Patricia Hooton
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Jami McBride wrote:Yes, do put large wood pieces at the bottom of your bed, but do not put in wood chips. Instead save the chips for topping off the soil in the bed after the plants have reached a few inches well above the soil and chips. 6 - 8" in total height is good.
The wood you put in should be seasoned (aged/old) so as to not draw to much nitrogen from the surrounding soil and plants.

For my first bed on the farm I went around and topped the old tree stumps left by previous land owners. These were well seasoned and worked perfectly. If you don't have access to this type of thing you can advertise in Craigslist as mentioned, that you will haul aged wood laying on the ground. Many people do not like downed branches and logs that have been left to long exposed to the soil for burning in a fireplace/stove, so they just make a burn pile out of them. Sometimes even just driving around and asking can land you a great haul.

You can also add some sand and aged manures or compost to extend the soil volume. I have lots of clay, that's all my soil is.... so I added clay, sand and aged manure to a bit of purchased garden soil extending it 4x - add whole wood in the bottom and a lot of garden beds can be made. I also dressed the top of my beds with aged wood chips I had dumped free on site. If I see a tree service I stop and talk them into dumping at my place


Thanks, I have access to all of that. My problem is clay too. Which is why I am using the raised beds. Our vegetable garden are was getting flooded, and retaining way to much water to where plants were rotting. The beds we had last year worked very well, but trying to cut down cost - didn't think about using the trees that had been left by the loggers!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Best thing to do with the manure is leave it on top and plant through it. I know your instinct is to till [because of the way we're taught to grow gardens] but the soil does its work far better if you don't.

That compaction will go away on its own as the worms get in there over time if you only add to the beds ontop.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Just observation here, My mother in the course of three years created 8 raised bed in clay that was so pure that without any hyperbole it could be used for pottery. A large part of her success was putting thick layers of manure on top of the soil. She didn't import any new soil.

Not every climate can use the amount she did, but here she found that you can put it six to twelve inches deep across the beds and the top layer serves as a good mulch while the bottom is quickly incorporated into the soil by soil organisms.

I like to recommend to new posters that you go to your member profile and fill out some kind of location. A lot of gardening techniques are regionally specific. As an example not much slug pressure here, but her gardens would have been a smorgasbord in Oregon. We have different pest pressures.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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On the Pacific Northwest front [one with which I am intimately familiar], ducks and deep mulch are a match made in heaven.

Thick mulch keeps the ducks from compacting the soil as they tromp along growing or laying on free protein while delivering even more nutrient for the beds.

Plus the slug pressure pretty much dies mid-june. It's a good time to start short season heat lovers as you pull the ducks off the garden.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
25
books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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I second, the ducks-are-our-friends sentiment Kyrt! They are great for many uses around the homestead and urban backyard.

As for using raw manure in garden beds goes - I did add fibrous manure (naturally raised alpaca & KK pig - dried and shredded with an electric leaf & twig chipper) down at the bottom with the large wood. I wanted a little extra to feed the wood's needs as it composted down, as well as to call to the organisms in the clay underneath. I like to sprinkle this powder around as needed. I use herbs to worm all my animals not chemicals.

Hot Oregon summers dries poo fast for shredding and adding as a side dressing. When feeding grasses to heritage pigs their poo comes out light and fibrous similar to horse manure - it is easy to collect and dries fast. With a good organic system I'm not to worry about pathogens, but I do keep vegetation from direct contact.
 
John Polk
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I pretty much agree with all of the suggestions you have been given here so far.

Filling the bottom half with empty soda bottles is not a good option in my mind. They are plastic (which you probably don't want in your garden beds). As they sloowly break down, they are feeding undesirable substances into your soil. Once rain and/or irrigation water reaches them, that water will rapidly leave your beds.

Any type of organic matter would be preferential. As it decomposes (slow or fast) it is providing food for your soil food web - the bacteria, fungi. the micro and macro organisms that are responsible for growing healthy soil for you. Organics will grow soil for you, and it will make it a viable & friable soil. Pop bottles are merely trash that will eventually need to be dealt with.

Since you seem to have an abundance of felled tree 'parts', that would seem to be the logical choice. These would then become mini-hugelbeds. Those stumps may take years to disappear, but during those years, they are feeding (and expanding) your soil food web, and actually "growing soil" for you. Five or ten years from now, you will probably be rejoicing that you used slash pile material rather than Coke bottles.

 
Patricia Hooton
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Thank you for all the information and suggestions. I am in coastal NC (but I do not have sandy soil.
 
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