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Country Discussion Topics
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Raised garden beds
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Susan    Posted 07-11-2001 at 11:04:27       [Reply]  [No Email]
I'm building raised beds because my garden is hard awful clay. Care to share your thoughts?

Susan    Posted 07-12-2001 at 13:22:33       [Reply]  [No Email]
We're planning six beds 4x12 one of which is going to house chickens for a couple of months each spring. Thanks for all the tips. It just so happens I've got pig and goat manure and leaves. We should be off to a good start.

OW - think twice    Posted 07-13-2001 at 05:25:36       [Reply]  [No Email]
I guess raised beds are cute, but i never tried them because usually then ALL the work is by hand,
PLUS you have to maintain the borders. (I like garden tractors)
We had hard clay alongside the house out west, and i had a half-dozen gallon-sized cherry tomatoes left over, so i grabbed the posthole digger & chipped and soaked until i got them planted. They soon covered the twine trellis from the eaves, shaded that side of the house, gave us perpetul tomatoes for 3-4 years, and when those roots were done, you could turn the clay with a shovel! (For the real garden, we had swapped a few pickuploads of sand with my buddy.)

Spade    Posted 07-12-2001 at 12:19:03       [Reply]  [Send Email]
What size is your garden and what kind of beds do you plan on building? If you are planning on framing them with timbers, you can work wonders with organic matter as has been suggested. However, if your garden is large, you may want to consider an alternative.

I plant everything on beds and then level the soil out each fall after the gardening season is over. The garden is located on flood plain and the beds keep the plants above the water in the event we get a large rain storm. To imprve the soil, I plant rye and hairy vetch each fall and apply compost from leaves and kitchen waste. My garden is aproxmately 50x150 feet in size. There is just my wife and I and she says we can have a crop failure and we still get more vegetables than we can eat.

WSF    Posted 07-12-2001 at 02:00:37       [Reply]  [Send Email]

"Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew, which was a PBS series for awhile in the 80's, is a great resource book for all you need to know about gardening in raised beds.

Franz    Posted 07-11-2001 at 18:52:28       [Reply]  [No Email]
We been doing it for the last 5 years, get free composted leaf mulch from the town, along with ground wood chips. We started by grinding, er I mean tilling mulch into the clay, and topping with 4" of chips. The following spring, we tilled it all together, and added more mulch & chips. The following year, we had a nice raised garden bed with rich black soil, and plenty of maters. We irrigate it with black plastic pipe drilled full of holes, and soak down the soil about every 4 days. Wood chips on top keep the weeds down to a very managable level. The wood chips rot up completely in about 2 years, good thing there's an unlimited supply.

M.R.    Posted 07-11-2001 at 15:29:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
My thoughts with a heavy clay soil is to till in Lots of pig manure.

Monica Duncan    Posted 07-11-2001 at 13:18:31       [Reply]  [Send Email]
We have clay also, and I have gardened with raised beds for 8 years now. In the fall I till the remaining vegitation under as deeply as I can (I have a "Pony" rototiller by Troy Mfg. that is a hard little work "pony"). In the spring I till as deep as I can but not more than three times. Don't work the clay too fine or it will clod up when it rains and then dries again. I then attach my "furrower" attachment to the tiller (used to make deep furrows for planting potatoes. I use it to mark the paths between what will be the raised beds. The beds are about 3-4 feet wide (so I can reach to hand weed and pick veggies without reaching too far, and about 20 feet long. I have 12 of these when I am done. After making the furrowed paths, I build up the beds with a rake, gathering up all the loose soil in the furrow paths. When done, I haul out manure in my wheelbarrow and place it by the forkfull along the paths. I use horse manure from horses that have been bedded with shavings/sawdust. Wood is best for breaking up clay soil, much better than straw. You can also use ground corn cobs. This makes an ideal "mulch" for the paths so that weeds don't grow there. Make sure it is a deep mulch of about six inches. The beds are never stepped on so they are easy to weed and the soil does not pack. In the fall, I till everything under and this gives the garden the soil ammendments which will work the next year. After 8 years of doing this, the soil has visably improved. Instead of hard clay, I now have clay loam that works out beautifully in the spring with even only one pass with the tiller. My mother in law "row-gardened" this patch before I "inherited" it, and she is amazed at the amount of produce (almost double!) that I can get from this same garden patch now!

Ole Cuss    Posted 07-11-2001 at 13:05:15       [Reply]  [No Email]

I've gardened like that for years and enjoy the efficient use of space was well as the chance to build a productive area over a spot of poor native soil. I build frames 4'x8', as many of them as I need to accommodate my planting needs. I used old oak fence boards for the frames; RR ties, landscaping ties, and old fenceposts also work well. I build the sides high enough to accommodate 12" soil inside. I lay down landscaping plastic inside the frames to cut down on undesirbale growth popping up from the native soil below, then start to load in compost. As I have a farm, I always have a good supply of it. I apply one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer to each bed before first ever plantings, working it in very well, then 1/2 cup each year after. I have also planted in old tractor tires laid down flat; although the growing space is limited, I like the fact that I am utilizing a no-good tire to the max. I have grown tomatoes, beans, potatoes, okra, hot peppers, sweet corn, parsnips, pumpkins, and various flowers with good results. The fact that you do not walk on the raised framed beds keeps the soil in excellent shape and easy to work for fall and spring turning.

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