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Questions about Wood Chips and Steel Mesh for Raised Bed Walls  RSS feed

 
Posts: 13
Location: Vancouver, BC
urban
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Hi,

I'm a newbie looking to start my first garden. I would like to plan the garden around raised beds as my mother is a senior. I saw this idea on you tube with a raised bed made out of steel mesh and wood chips.



Has anyone tried this?

My main questions about the design:

1. Is it realistic that the decaying wood chip walls can be continually replenished just by adding wood chips to the top?

2. Is there a correct or ideal thickness for the wood chip walls?

3. Is there a health/environmental concern with using galvanized or stainless steel mesh?

Thank you for the help.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2068
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi carlson.

One of the concerns using galvanised anything is that the zinc leaches away over time into whatever surrounds it. Stainless is better, as I understand it. Zinc will poison you, your soil, and anything you grow out of it if the levels get high enough.

My experience in this vein is in building raised hugelbeets, buried wood and all, but many of the issues are held in common.

My concern, and I have heard this in many places and in many iterations, is that piles of wood chips make an excellent home for critters that also love to eat from your garden. I had little dogs that would chase the hell out of anything squirrel-sized, and so had no problems this way, but I have heard of the experiences of some fellow permies who had problems with critters eating their root veggies from below, largely because they were adjacent to the new critter hugel-condo.

Another reason I think it possible I haven't had critter issues is method of construction. I made sure that I layered in composted manures, spent coffee grounds, and mostly finished compost heavily on any fresh wood, and sifted in mixed topsoil and mineral subsoil, such that there were no air pockets, and such that a serious amount of shifting and percolation of water would have to happen for any voids to form.

I also peed around the perimeter of the bed regularly, and though I did this for added nitrogen, I believe it played into critters not wanting to visit my garden or set up shop.

For your needs, if you built the raised beds as you say and filled with wood chips, I would pack them in solidly. Water will carry soil through the wood chip pack gradually, and I think it preferable to minimise soil loss, but it should also regularly fill in any possible animal habitation.

In your position, I would also pee around the beds, directly into the wood chips. It will speed wood chip decomposition and you will need to add more over time, but it might also deter anything with a shred of predator wariness that might otherwise chow down on the candy buffet that is your garden. That, and the faster the chips decompose, the more organic matter you'll have in your soil.

I would also suggest thinking about the use of coffee grounds mixed in or layered overtop of the wood chip wall and watered into it. Worms love coffee grounds, and they are also rich in nitrogen.

If it seems like I am suggesting you accelerate decomposition of the wood chips, I am. The less structure the wood chip mass has, the easier it will be for it to fall in on itself, collapsing potential critter burrows.

Great idea, though. I can't wait to hear others chime in on this one. Keep us posted, and good luck!

-CK
 
pollinator
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This looks cool.

It is realistic that the wood chips can be maintained by putting chips on top.  It seems like the same concept as a regular raised bed.  

I'm not sure about health concerns with the metal.  Many won't use galvanized but I don't think there is an issue with stainless.    I'd be more worried about what's in the wood chips but that's just me.

If you are doing this because you like the way it looks I say go for it.  It's kind of cool.

I think this would dry out quicker than a short 6" raised bed or a hugel.  He lives in nearby and we get a lot of rain.
 
pollinator
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One benefit of raised beds is the ability to sit on the sidewall to plant /pick weeds or just to take a break for a moment. I dont see that happening here.

In my area i suspect that this system would dry the soil extra fast. Moisture is absorbed to the edges. Wind carries it away. So much surface area to lose the moisture. If you are in heavy rain area, it may help.

Fyi, ive seen hay bales set up in a square and filled with soil. No metals, but hay might have herbicides.



 
carlson yeung
Posts: 13
Location: Vancouver, BC
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Thank you: Chris Kott, Scott Foster, and Wayne Fajkus.

I've decided to avoid the concerns about contamination, moisture loss, and ergonomics or resting places. I'm just going to build a plain jane normal everyday raised bed.
 
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