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drainge in vegetable garden + topsoil

 
Paula Edwards
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I am new to this forum.
I am putting our vegetable garden in and our drainage is is not very good. I think I have to raise the beds at least partially. I never had beds boarded up, mainly because of the costs, but as well as it might not be good working. What do you think? I would get hardwood boards for $6 the meter, which is quite reasonable, but in the end very expensive.
Putting drainage pipes in is a bit too backbreaking.
I might ask an excavator for topsoil. Is this a good idea? If I buy vegetable garden soil from a landscaper this is $50 the m3 and I have not control where the stuff comes from. I would buy some manure as well.
We are not very long in our house and the compost produced is all used up.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally I think boards on raised beds are too expensive and not necessary.  Here is a video of a garden for a wet climate or with poor drainage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFd1JdFaE0

Personally I don't think you should buy topsoil. I think you should buy compost and mix it with your existing soil.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Ludi wrote:
Personally I don't think you should buy topsoil. I think you should buy compost and mix it with your existing soil.


Or if concerns about expense or persistent herbicide discourage you from buying compost, you might sow or encourage plants that do well on the soil you have, cut them down to compost in place, and buy (if anything) mulch to cover them while they decompose.
 
Brenda Groth
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raised beds are helpful, but you might also consider hugel kulture type beds..you  can do a search on here as there are several threads on hugelkulture
 
Paula Edwards
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I looked and posted in the other thread Huegelkultur and this seems the way to go for us as we have a huge HUGE pile of twigs and stuff.
 
                                      
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Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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ediblecities wrote:
I am putting our vegetable garden in and our drainage is is not very good. I think I have to raise the beds at least partially. I never had beds boarded up, mainly because of the costs, but as well as it might not be good working. What do you think? I would get hardwood boards for $6 the meter, which is quite reasonable, but in the end very expensive.

Forget using boards to build raised beds. Last resort only.

Putting drainage pipes in is a bit too backbreaking.

Don't bother with drainage lines. See below for why.

I might ask an excavator for topsoil. Is this a good idea? If I buy vegetable garden soil from a landscaper this is $50 the m3 and I have not control where the stuff comes from. I would buy some manure as well.
We are not very long in our house and the compost produced is all used up.

Forget the topsoil; get the quarry rock dust instead and the manure.

I have a solution for you.
You are in luck if there is a rock quarry anywhere near you and you can hire a trucker to bring you many tons of siltation pond fines (finely ground rock dust). If the material is clean and the rock does not have toxic components then you are good to go.

Excavate your garden beds (just the beds, nothing else) to a depth of no less than one foot and no more than two feet and create little drainage outlets to prevent standing water. You can use the excavated dirt to build Huguelkulture beds for other types of food gardening and/or landscaping. Fill these wide trenches with the rock dust your trucker brings you. Pile the rock dust in these beds to at least one foot or more (16-18" is great) above existing grade; it will settle out later on. Mix in rock phosphate, azomite, maybe hi-cal limestone, maybe dolomitic limestone, maybe aragonite, maybe limited quanities of wood ashes, greensand, alfalfa meal, granulated seaweed, compost, manure, aged horse manure, organic manures of any kind, aged sawdust or shavings, aged hay, woods mold or earth and landscape waste including rotted leaves. Till everything in by hand or with tillage implement, level the bed and plant it. Mulch with compost or sheet compost it with cover crop planted.

If you later double dig these beds the you will increase fertility and tilth of soil to an even greater depth, improving the impermeable subsoil below the rock dust topsoil.

I have done all of the above though my soil is highly permeable and fertile with good friability and tilth; even better now after addition of rock dust and compost.

LFLondon
dirtfarmer
 
Paula Edwards
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What you are suggesting is a raised bed but instead of heaps of compost or other organic matter you use rock dust from a quarry. What is the rock dust for?
 
                                      
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Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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ediblecities wrote:
What you are suggesting is a raised bed but instead of heaps of compost or other organic matter you use rock dust from a quarry. What is the rock dust for?



Not rock dusts instead of compost and other OM,

rock dusts _plus_ compost, phosphate, greensand, manures, any available organic matter
all of the above...

The rock dust _is_ your garden soil; it will replace your on site dirt. It is ready to go topsoil, improved with the addition of soil amendments, as described elsewhere. The topsoil on your land likely comes from the same rock that would be quarried locally,
so quarry rock dust is topsoil that is a great improvement over the existing soil on your land, lacking most likely impermeability and little rocks and adding plant available micronutrients, trace minerals and possibly small quantities of potash, phosphate, magnesium or manganese. So with rock dust you get ready-to-use garden soil with plant available trace minerals, permeable, friable and good to excellent tilth, especially after the addition of organic matter. The soil microbes will love this material. It will enable them to establish and maintain large stable colonies of all the important soil dwelling microbes especially the ones that break down green organic matter, like logs in a HuegelKulture beds - use the rock dust there too!

LL
 
Paula Edwards
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I ask a lot, because I never heard of anything similar.
We have sandstone here and sandy soil with clay.
Why do you suggest to bring something in what I have anyway or could (maybe) get very cheap from an excavator?
I try to get as much lawn clippings from mowing contractors as possible. Our ph is around 7 in an area where usually azaleas and rhododendrons are grown!
The second type of organic matter I can get for free is prunings, heaps of them I simply cut out what's classified as "environmental weed". If I would call gardeners it would even be more. And we have around 3 buckets of woodash, which I didn't apply to the soil so far because it is so alkaline.

 
                                      
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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ediblecities wrote:
I ask a lot, because I never heard of anything similar.
We have sandstone here and sandy soil with clay.
Why do you suggest to bring something in what I have anyway or could (maybe) get very cheap from an excavator?
I try to get as much lawn clippings from mowing contractors as possible. Our ph is around 7 in an area where usually azaleas and rhododendrons are grown!
The second type of organic matter I can get for free is prunings, heaps of them I simply cut out what's classified as "environmental weed". If I would call gardeners it would even be more. And we have around 3 buckets of woodash, which I didn't apply to the soil so far because it is so alkaline.




I thought you might have a rock quarry nearby that produced crushed rock for driveway construction, the concrete industry, asphalt plants and riprap for erosion control. This is where you would get pure superfine rock dust. Other than that just stick to the prunings and gardener's yard waste.
 
                                  
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One thing I highly recommend which has revolutionized my approach to my garden site is to put in an "observation well" to monitor the depth to your water table.  I sank a 3/4" pvc pipe 8' deep using a garden hose to blast it's way down.  Not too hard once you get the hang of it and a good nozzle worked out.  Now I don't guess how waterlogged my soil is, I know.  The water table was far shallower than I had though (4-5' is the deepest I've seen it so far. It's 27" right now after a flooding rain two weeks ago which brought the water table to the surface.)

My plan is to get a Berta rotary plow and use it to dig ~2' ditches around the perimeter of the garden to drain surface water toward the SLIGTHLY lower corner of my very flat property.  Then also to build up ~10" beds in the garden. Then be diligent about pumping out the sump/pond in that low corner after heavy rains.

If this fails then I will consider renting a trencher to get drainage tiles down 4' deep and putting in some sort of concrete/septic tank-like sump to collect the water for pumping.

Best solution: don't put garden in a low spot!
 
                                      
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Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Leucaena wrote:
One thing I highly recommend which has revolutionized my approach to my garden site is to put in an "observation well" to monitor the depth to your water table.  I sank a 3/4" pvc pipe 8' deep using a garden hose to blast it's way down.  Not too hard once you get the hang of it and a good nozzle worked out.  Now I don't guess how waterlogged my soil is, I know.  The water table was far shallower than I had though (4-5' is the deepest I've seen it so far. It's 27" right now after a flooding rain two weeks ago which brought the water table to the surface.)

My plan is to get a Berta rotary plow and use it to dig ~2' ditches around the perimeter of the garden to drain surface water toward the SLIGTHLY lower corner of my very flat property.  Then also to build up ~10" beds in the garden. Then be diligent about pumping out the sump/pond in that low corner after heavy rains.

If this fails then I will consider renting a trencher to get drainage tiles down 4' deep and putting in some sort of concrete/septic tank-like sump to collect the water for pumping.

Best solution: don't put garden in a low spot!


True. Why not dig a pond or some other type of catchment not requiring pumping out. Pump it out to irrigate your gardens during drought. Just let the gardens drain into the pond. If your property is flat just make sure your pond is deep enough to handle heavy rain, retaining most that flows into it across the watershed.

All you have to do is cut drainage trenches to the same depth as the bottom of your garden beds. Run these trenches into your pond or into swales and then into a pond.
 
Paula Edwards
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Do you dig an open drench or do you cover it somehow? What dimensions do you dig?
I dug some observation holes throughout the garden, but not that deep. And we have one bigger maybe a meter or so deep (we transplanted a tree) which is now a duck pond after rain.
 
Brenda Groth
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I'm glad you found the hugel threads..good  idea.

We had a really wet area on our property, we have a very high water table all over but this area was lower and wetter so we had some topsoil and sand removed and clay dug out to make a pond..we have been working on it since 2002, when we moved our house after a housefire..enlarging and deepening the pond..but now our property and our son's slope down to this pond area and it drains off nearly all the extra water on the property (still a few other low swampy areas elsewhere)..we also put in some french drain to pull off rain from lawns and gutters to the pond and a drainagle ditch east of the pond where evenetually the overflow from the pond will go when we put down a flowing well for the pond.

I use hugel beds here and also use the soil excavated from the pond as we are able to spread it out..to make lower areas less low..but there is a lot of grey clay in the excavation .

if you let the piles sit for a year and let the snow and rain and sun break them down they are easier to deal wiht..but even then the top layers will move easier but under neath the clay will still be gummy.

so sometimes it takes a few years to condition a pile to move it easily and spread it.

the clay after it is conditioned does tend to grow things pretty well
 
Brenda Groth
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i forgot to mention, for photos go to my blog..see my signature..
 
                                  
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dirtfarmer wrote:
True. Why not dig a pond or some other type of catchment not requiring pumping out. Pump it out to irrigate your gardens during drought. Just let the gardens drain into the pond. If your property is flat just make sure your pond is deep enough to handle heavy rain, retaining most that flows into it across the watershed.

All you have to do is cut drainage trenches to the same depth as the bottom of your garden beds. Run these trenches into your pond or into swales and then into a pond.


I'll be trying to drain about 1.5 acres once all the ditches are done, so that would need a pond much bigger than my budget and space constraints allow.

And since the water table is so shallow, any pond I build would soon be full of groundwater, which around here is too salty for veggies, 3-4 mS/cm.  If I used a liner the pond should keep the groundwater out, but then if I actually used the water for irrigation, or it evaporated, then I think the groundwater pressure would probably lift the liner out of place, or at least fill the pond with the saltier water.

I'm going to make the ditches deeper than the bottoms of my garden paths/furrows in an attempt to lower the water table a bit further. I figure "height of raised bed" + "depth of ditches" = "permanently drained root zone."
 
                                  
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ediblecities wrote:
Do you dig an open drench or do you cover it somehow? What dimensions do you dig?
I dug some observation holes throughout the garden, but not that deep. And we have one bigger maybe a meter or so deep (we transplanted a tree) which is now a duck pond after rain.


Good questions.  I'm going to use open ditches with sides gradually sloping enough to allow easy mowing and walking over. This might involve moving lots of dirt, but I will not need to move it far to use it in building up raised bed areas.

In some areas underneath garden main pathways I do plant to bury the flexible perforated black 4" or 6" pipe about 1-2' deep, draining out to the main ditches, then cover it with soil and mulch. This is just because I need that particular area to be flat.
 
Paula Edwards
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You say that you are making some sort of herringbone pattern with your drainage pipe. Do you pack something around like pebbles? (We would have enough stony stuff)
 
rose macaskie
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In huggleculture and in organic farmingi the sides of the raised beds are a bit of earth you can use as a place that will serve to take plants vegetables and such.   This also means that you can have warm weather loving plants on the south side of the beds and cold on the north side of the raised beds. Also the space in between the beds will be an area protected from wind,  heat and cold.
    By making banks and dips you  you increase the area that can be planted. A piece of corrugated iron has a bigger surface area a peice of flat iron of hte same size.  

        If the water table is high it must be just very hard to keep things dry unless you raise beds over the water table, may be you should go in for water garden plants and edibles, water chestnuts, watercress, fish, and grow things under water instead of draining it.

         If land is puddled because of clay soils which if they get wet are inmpermeable and so any further water that might fall will stand on top of the clay instead of draining through it , any rain that falls will be like rain on top of plastic in stead of rain on top of a very think layer of sand which it can sink through.  Then lots of roots break up the soil and as roots die back and grow to full size  again often, for instance if its cold or hot part of the root sytem will die back  because  plants die down in part in droughts or cold spells and grow back again. A lot of dead roots organic matter will be left in the soil if its full of plants which dead organic matter with the live roots in th esoil will break up the cohesion of the clay so that the soil drains better after a very few years with lots of plants growing in them.   
  If you have deep rooted plants as well as shallow rooted ones the roots will carry the water further into the soil, bushes and trees, so plant fruit trees and currants and such all over the garden.

      Maybe you could have lots of ponds instead of one. Lots of small things can be easier to make than one big one.  A pond in the highest part of the garden is a good idea so that the water that seeps out of it into the soil increases the wetness of your garden instead of that of the garden below you. It is usefull to have a store of water if you have a dry season. Water stored in the top of the garden is easier to run down  to the rest of the garden.  If you have a very high water table and don't have a dry season having a pond at the highest point of your garden  would not be such a good idea. It would be better to  have a pond at the bottom of the garden or drain the water off into the drains.
    Swales used to be channels dug out to carry off rainwater to a point you wanted to have it, channels whose bottoms weren't waterproofed with concrete but that were grassed to stop erosion in them or they are that in engineering or some such.

  Land used to be full of high points and hollows our habit of flattening land out means that instead of raises and puddles you get the whole garden wet. Bill mollison talks of how we level everything out and so mess things up.
  i have hung a photo of the rooots of a evergreen oak encina  from inside a quarry. the roots seem to make earthy passages in the rock the holes in the rock with roots in them are much bigger than the root in th ehole. agri rose macaskie
roots 4.jpg
[Thumbnail for roots 4.jpg]
roots 5.jpg
[Thumbnail for roots 5.jpg]
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with Rose, a lot of small ponds might be better than one large one. You can dig them yourself, and if you think of them as seasonal water catchment instead of actual ponds, you won't be sad if they go dry periodically.  They can be planted with tough wetland plants like cattail or taro, etc.  If you can keep some areas constantly wet or moist you open up a huge opportunity to grow different food plants which like wet feet.

 
Paula Edwards
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There are a lot of plants which like boggy soil and they often even can stand drought for a while. They can live with both, high water tables and dry. I grew Water Spinach and it was often dry and after rain it came back.
 
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