Raised Beds For Veggies

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Avigail David, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. Avigail David

    Avigail David Well-Known Member
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    Our soil needs proper irrigation and cultivation. But irrigation pipes didn't include in the budget. I've done manual labor on our rocky, clayish and dry ground. We've used old corrugated iron water tanks, cut them up into three-four parts. Lay each on the weeded and cleared ground to position them to hold soil, compost and mulch. We depend much on rain and tank water.

    The third photo: Veggies above ground with cardboard boxes, manure, soil and hay.

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  2. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Very Well-Known Member
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    I like the idea of raised beds because the soil here doesn't seem to be the richest, but also, because it's easier on my body. Bending over constantly can be painful, even with knee pads. Since I don't grow much, I use containers, and they are primarily on my balcony, which is where I spend the majority of my outdoor time. However, it can make watering the plants a pain, so like you, I often rely on the rainwater to do that. I like your metal containers, that's a good way to raise them up without having to worry about using wood that can rot, or spending a lot of money buying expensive containers that someone else has fashioned. I have one of those rocker type seats that I use when I'm 'gardening' on the balcony, and even that slight height helps. Your property looks peaceful and private.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Those are some beautiful gardens. My raised gardens are made from rocks, although the back-yard garden is made from wooden boards. Raised gardens are the only choice here because we only have a couple of inches of soil before we reach coal ash from the paper mill.

    Next spring, I am going to try straw bale gardens, which look like they may work out well here. Since I compost anyhow, I can use the straw as bedding for my compost piles during the winter. The idea is that, with a very small amount of soil on top, for the purpose of germination, the plant roots within the straw bale. It is supposed to result in larger root crops, in particular, because of the lack of resistance from surrounding soil, but also in minimizing problems from insects, given that the plants are not at ground level.

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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
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  4. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Very Well-Known Member
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    Ken, so the seeds or seedlings are planted directly into straw bales? I've never heard of that. Is it done specifically in regions such as yours, where there isn't a good depth for planting? Do you have any idea how heavy the bales are? I'm just wondering about portability. I wonder if the straw discourages weeds, or if I'd have to still layer my front flower bed with landscaping fabric before planting.
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    They are planted in a very small amount of soil that is spread across the top of the bale. But first, the straw bale is conditioned with a high-nitrogen fertilizer (organic or conventional) to accelerate decomposition of the bale, which is what provides the nutrients that the plants need. The conditioning period is about two weeks before planting anything. Aside from providing nutrients, the heat generated by decomposing allows you to plant a few weeks earlier in the spring, than if you were planting in the ground. If you are transplanting into the straw bale, you wouldn't need any soil but seeds will require a shallow bed of potting soil on top of the bale until the seeds germinate. After that, you simply water, watch, and wait. Over-watering is not a problem either, as the excess will simply run out of the bale.

    It is important to use straw bales rather than hay bales, since hay includes seeds, which would themselves germinate. I am not sure just how heavy they are but one of the things I used to have to do in the summer was help during haying season, stacking hay bales on the wagon. I could do that at twelve, and hay is a lot heavier than straw, while the bales are the same size. Probably about 40-50 pounds, I'd think.

    There should be little or no weeding involved, except for a stray seed that might blow in while your seeds are germinating. The soil will be mostly washed into the straw bale after a time, so there shouldn't be a continued problem with weeds. One of the advantages is that there are very few problems with weeds.

    Since I have a couple of compost piles in the back of my yard and have trouble coming up with vegetable matter to mix with the paper and table scraps that I add to it throughout the winter, I can use the straw bales from the previous summer's garden to layer my compost pile from time to time throughout the winter, which should allow it to compost better in cold weather, since the internal temperatures might still be high enough to compost.

    There are several books available, and probably information online, about straw bale gardening, but the one I have is Straw Bale Gardens Complete, by Joel Karsten.

    @Avigail David, what are you using to form your raised gardens? It looks like it might be cut sections of culvert. Is that something you can buy for gardening or did you improvise that. I like it, as a way of a permanent raised garden, and it looks very nice.
     
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  6. Avigail David

    Avigail David Well-Known Member
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    P8161076.JPG P8161075.JPG View attachment 754 View attachment 754 Underneath those 9 raised beds are layers of flattened cardboard, sheep/cow/horse/chicken manure, compost, and lucerne. I dug a little less than 6 inches deep into each 2 x 3 sq.mt. (as trench around to hold the water from running out) of the rocky, fallow ground before I laid the flattened cardboard boxes, compost, manure, and thick hay and lucerne. I germinated organic veggie seeds first, and then, transplanted each them into the thick hay (parted sections of hay and put in mixture of compost, soil and chicken mulch, and horse manure). We were able to grow broccoli, cabbages, and pumpkins.

    We water them overhead, (ouch!). We have dam water (very small embankment or lake-like body of water) but we gave away our petrol-run pump used to pump water from the dam. So, we use our good clean tank water.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015
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  7. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Very Well-Known Member
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    That sounds like something for me to consider for the future. Right now, I'm pretty restricted with regard to resources, and am limited in what I can do by myself. I can't believe I've never heard of this type of gardening, since I follow so many garden sites online. That's what I enjoy about sites such as this one, everyone is from different places, and I get to hear about how things are done elsewhere.
     
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  8. Krissttina Isobe

    Krissttina Isobe Very Well-Known Member
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    Locally more than a decade back there was community garden planting. Folks could come by the community garden pick a raised plot which was small and grow whatever they can keep up with. The little garden was about 3' x 9'. It was raised and boards held the soil together for your little garden. Some senior citizen apt. homes had it built for them too, but people began stealing crops so people gave up the idea of having these little garden plots at the senior homes. Here is a site that tells you more of community gardening on Oahu:
    http://hawaiigardening.blogspot.com/2009/01/community-gardens-of-oahu.html
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    Here is a picture from the site. The little plots here are bigger than the ones that was in Pearl City where it began about 20 years ago. My Mom's friend had found out about it and invited us to see how we like it. Today you see the results of the Pearl City urban garden project. On Oahu we have an Urban Garden Center for gardeners to get help:
    http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/ougc/
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    I like gardening to get vegetables. Living in an apt. doesn't leave us with much to have a little garden. Since water is included with the rent we got to be appreciative and respectful of the landlords water so gardening is out of the question for many of us. Luckily we got the community gardening to help people with getting vegetables.
     
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  9. Corie Henson

    Corie Henson Very Well-Known Member
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    That scarecrow is surely interesting. It may win the scarecrow design contest.

    We had planted cassava crops in our extended garden. The cassava plants have stalks higher than 5 feet. In 2 or 3 months the root crop would be ready to harvest. But last month, it was inundated by stagnating water due to excessive rains. The water lingered in the garden for a week or so that resulted in the stunting of the cassava plants. The leaves have wilted and new one have replaced them. That means it is back to square one as regards the root crop.

    The remedy was to plant it on raised beds. That's the main purpose of raised beds, to prevent soaking the plants when it rains for long. It would have been good if we had thought of that raised bed for the cassava, tsk, tsk, it's just too late already.
     
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  10. Jenn Windey

    Jenn Windey Active Member
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    I have been trying to manage an above ground bed. I had not known at the time I put mine in that you could go to places like Tractor Depot and get the large horse troughs so I got the cedar plank kind that came in a kit. It is only 4' x 4'. What I did because I was worried about the chipmunks and squirrels, was to take some brick that I had and build a platform underneath to raise the bed up about three feet. I have had some very good luck with what I do plant. Mostly herbs, lettuce and collard greens. I very much would love to expand, I have seen a few in this area that are quite brilliant. Since I am out of bricks I will use pallets instead.

    @Avigail David I have noticed that some of your areas have what looks like grass in between, do you have to mow that or weed whack? Do you feel it diverts water from the veggies? I was concerned about the grass when I did my raised bed so I used pea gravel around the beds for weed control and irrigation. I know it can get expensive. I wonder now if perhaps I over analyzed that issue because your gardens look so lush.

    @Ken Anderson I had no idea about the hay bales and get hay as it is for the rabbit and torts. I think I might have to try that! Do you think that field mice or snakes will nest in the free standing hay? At the very least it looks like a lovely idea for displaying my fall mums.
     
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  11. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Use straw, not hay. Hay is full of seeds that will sprout and grow like weeds in your new garden. Hay is easier to get because it is used for feed, whereas straw is used generally only for bedding purposes, being mostly devoid of nutrition, but many suppliers of hay will know where to get straw as well.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015
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  12. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    This should actually be a good time to get the straw bales, at least if you live in an area where wheat and oats are being grown.
    If not, then going to a livestock feed store is probably the best bet.

    Straw bales are very dry and have hollow stems, and they will only weigh 40+lbs, whereas a bale of good hay will weight over 100+ lbs in some cases. The straw should also be much cheaper since it is only used for bedding and not for feeding livestock.
    When I lived in Idaho, you could get a ton of straw (delivered) for around $35-$40, and that was a whole lot of straw, usually over 50 bales.
    When I first had my trailer house moved in, it was up on blocks and had no skirting, so I got a ton of straw and put that all around the trailer (still in the bales) to insulate it and keep my pipes from freezing in the winter.

    Once I didn't need it as insulation, I ended up just using it as compost because I didn't know at that time that you could plant in it.
    It had been there for a couple years; so it would have been perfect for planting in.
    I have thought about getting some straw and growing plants in it; but out here, we would have to buy it and haul it home in the car a couple of bales at a time; so I have not tried it yet.

    Here is a little video that shows someone actually growing plants in the straw. Notice that he turns the bales on the side so that the water can run down into the straw stems. If it is not on its side, the straw is crossways acrosss the top and the water cannot go in as well.

     
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  13. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    He does it a bit different from the book that I have, although I suspect both methods will work. The instructions from the book don't include as much compost or soil as he is using in the video, and none at all if you are transplanting into the straw bale. The recommendations in the book are to let the straw bales compost for only a couple of weeks, after adding organic or regular fertilizer, and using potting soil and compost only for the purpose of germinating seeds, with all of the rooting taking place directly in the straw bale. Again, there is no reason to suspect that both methods wouldn't work, however. You are absolutely correct in that it might be a lot easier to find straw bales in the late fall than in the early spring.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  14. Avigail David

    Avigail David Well-Known Member
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    I used "straw" bales which stockfeed store owners call, oaten and lucerne hay. A mixture of both. They are more biodegradable and nutritious for the soil, with chicken manure mulch/compost. Our neighbors sell horse manure, $2.00/25 kg sack. Not bad. And they work great for luscious vegetation.
     
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  15. Sheldon Scott

    Sheldon Scott Very Well-Known Member
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    Most of our garden is now raised beds. We have used landscape timbers, cedar logs and utility poles. The last ones I built using 2x12 boards from an old bridge I rebuilt. I built seven 3 x12 beds and one 2 1/2 x 10 bed. We also have a 4 x 40 bed for asparagus and 8 other beds of various sizes.
     
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  16. Joyce Mcgregor

    Joyce Mcgregor Well-Known Member
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    The pictures of everyone's gardens are so beautiful. Years ago, when I had a garden, I did raised beds and it was so much easier on my back as well as fewer weeds to deal with. I used to have a girlfriend (who has since passed away due to a spider bite, she was highly allergic) who was in a wheel chair. She wanted to have flowers and a few vegetables but needless to say planting them in the ground as well as in a raised bed made it impossible for her to get to them. Her husband made some benches that were high enough she could roll up to them and she put her plants in pots. It worked very well for her and she had her flowers as well as tomato, bell pepper, squash and strawberry plants along with other things.
     
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  17. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Very Well-Known Member
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    I'd like to do grow some more vegetables on the balcony next year, but I need to figure out how to keep the cats away from them. I'll probably try to plant some catnip or some other type of cat grass for them, as well, since they absolutely love eating whatever is out there.
     
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  18. Sheldon Scott

    Sheldon Scott Very Well-Known Member
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    I cut the rest of the asparagus ferns yesterday, fertilized the bed and topped it off with several inches of compost. I think I have enough compost left to fill the last bed after I harvest the sweet potatoes. The next step is a thick layer of pine straw between the beds. After a frost or two we'll add chopped leaves or straw to cover the strawberries. We'll plant a row or two of garlic soon and then we should be done until spring.
     
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  19. Debbie Allen

    Debbie Allen Member
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    We used straw one year and it grew and we were pulling up the straw out of our gardens. Old newspapers and acrdboards are supposed to be good for that.
     
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  20. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    Are you sure that you used straw and not hay ? Straw is usually not cut until the oats (or whatever grain) is harvested , so there should be very few remaining grains, if any.
    Hay, on the other hand, is harvested before the grass goes to seed usually, and there can be grass and also weed seeds in the hay.
    Straw is very yellow, and hollow stems, where hay is often green, or at least greenish, and much heavier, and solid stems.
    It also usually costs a whole lot more than straw since it is used for livestock feed, and straw is only good for bedding.
     
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  21. Debbie Allen

    Debbie Allen Member
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    No, it was straw. I have a bale on my back deck with lots of seeds or whatever they are laying under and around the part that I have used in places. I got this bale for the animals and some of my outdoor cats so their made beds would be warmer.
     
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  22. Sheldon Scott

    Sheldon Scott Very Well-Known Member
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    Straw will have some seeds but they will be wheat seeds (or other grain), not grass and weeds like hay has. There are a lot less seeds and they are easy to pull out.
     
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  23. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    Those are some great gardens y'all have shared. 228139_1709578259781_2719822_n.jpg This was our first "raised beds" :) and since it was our first year gardening we were very happy with it. Now that we have a lot more room to grow things, we will be even happier.

    208716_1642682667433_1224203_n.jpg
     
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  24. Ruby Begonia

    Ruby Begonia Very Well-Known Member
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    I love the Scarecrow!
     
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  25. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    I had wanted to try doing some planting in straw bales this year, as I mentioned above, and I am but they are not the kind of bales I wanted. I had wanted the bales like the ones that farmers bale in their fields, held together with twine. But, I don't have a vehicle large enough to fit even one of them. I'm sure I could have borrowed or rented a truck, but instead I decided to try the much smaller bales they sell at the Tractor Supply Company. However, I don't think they will work well. It's not just the size, although the larger bales would have worked better. The bigger problem is that these bales are compressed tightly together in an entirely haphazard arrangement, so I don't know whether the roots are going to be able to dig down through it.

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    I've replaced the plastic bands that held the bales so tightly together with string that was not nearly as tightly bound as the plastic bands, but the bales are still tightly compressed. I couldn't poke my finger into the bale. I have planted some onions on a couple of bales, and it's possible that they will loosen up some with watering. I still have six more bales, so I'll try some other stuff as well. Root crops would do great in regular bales, I think but probably not so well with these. I might try some carrots on another couple of bales, then maybe some herbs and some beans; perhaps the raised bale will reduce the insect problems that I had with the beans last year.

    If nothing else, the straw can be used to layer my compost next winter, once the leaves are covered with snow, and I can get some regular straw bales next spring.
     
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    Last edited: May 7, 2016

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