Growth of raised beds

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MKG
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Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225858Post MKG
Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:26 pm

The subject of raised beds and how easy/difficult they are to create and sustain keeps cropping up with amazing regularity. People are naturally worried about where they're going to get the material from to fill them etc. So I thought I'd tell you about one of ours.

In the autumn/winter of 2007, I decided to lift a few flagstones on our "patio" to establish a sort of test bed (no more than four square metres, in fact a bit less) in which I could try new varieties (i.e. stuff I hadn't grown before rather than new to the market). I thought this might be good because I can see that bed without moving from my normal comfortable position. Anyway, after lifting the flags, all I did was dig the patch over and then surround it with some housebricks I happened to have lying around. I knew that the soil had been used as a garden before the flagstones were put down, so I didn't do too much to the soil to improve it - a few chicken manure pellets and that was about it. By now, then, it's had three growing seasons.

The first year was successful. Not only did the plants I was trying succeed, but they cropped heavily. At the end of the year, I stuck some more manure pellets in and added a top-dressing of compost produced solely from the garden. For the next two seasons, I did exactly the same - different plants those times, but a bit of manure and compost at the end of each season. Not a lot of anything, you understand, just reasonable amounts easily attainable from, say, a third of a single compost bin.

Every year, though, I've had to add another course of those housebricks, and I'm running out of them now. I've just been out there tidying up the area and I decided to measure the thing. It's an entire foot above the original level of the soil beneath the flagstones. I hadn't anything specific in mind when I made the patch - certainly the idea of "raised bed" wasn't foremost in my mind. But there you are - I've got a raised bed anyway, and a very successful one, without so much as the slightest worry about how I was going to fill it. With very little effort on my part, a raised bed has sort of come into being.

So, if you're making raised beds from scratch, don't worry too much about them. Given a very little time, no more than a modicum of care, and some physical structure defining the sides, they happily create themselves.

Mike
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225860Post gregorach
Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:46 pm

Sounds fairly close to my experience Mike. Just keep chucking more compost on, and don't walk on it. Job done.

Do you actually dig it over at all? I don't, except for beds with root crops in - and then it's only enough to get them out. Otherwise I just hoe, and I seem to end up with fewer weeds than my digging neighbours...
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225866Post Big Al
Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:15 pm

gregorach wrote:Sounds fairly close to my experience Mike. Just keep chucking more compost on, and don't walk on it. Job done.

Do you actually dig it over at all? I don't, except for beds with root crops in - and then it's only enough to get them out. Otherwise I just hoe, and I seem to end up with fewer weeds than my digging neighbours...

... And you don't damage the soil structure either.
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225867Post MKG
Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:21 pm

No, I never dig it now, and never ever tread on it. Just a forking over of the top couple of inches when I add compost to incorporate it. Weeds certainly try to grow in it, but a very slight tug deals with all of those.

I have found that I can plunge my hands in easily to the full one foot depth. That feels somehow wrong to me - I was brought up on "always firm your soil". But never mind that it feels wrong - the point is that it works and works very well, and the less digging I have to do, the happier I am. There's actually an awful lot of garden beyond that plot, and I so wish it was all the same.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225869Post gregorach
Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:24 pm

Big Al wrote:... And you don't damage the soil structure either.
...And it's less work! :iconbiggrin:
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225872Post Annpan
Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:48 pm

Can I also place my vote for the greatness of raised beds!

When I put in my first raised beds 3 years ago (I've only been gardening 4 years) it took me several hours of hacking away, removing grass, removing nettles, removing couch grass, removing stones....then I would leave the patch for a few weeks and attack it again for several hours till it was closed to resembling a growing medium (rather than a pile of clods of clay and weeds)

I'm going to make a guess at 8 hours work per bed (2m x 1m)


The following year, at the end of winter, I headed to them having built up my courage to tackle this immense task once again.... each bed took me a maximum of 15mins with a fork :cheers: and they were ready for sowing again.

I don't really dig, just turn the top bit of the soil to break it all up and remove more stones and weeds

Then I bought an azada from here - http://www.get-digging.co.uk/tools.htm

Now when I have to 'dig' over my beds it takes a leisurely 2 mins... maybe 5 if there are lots of roots/weeds/stones needing removed

I have 14 beds this size and there is no way I'd be able to do it all without raised beds, the amount of time taken just to prepare the ground would be too much...


The beds might need a bit more height next year - or some soil removed as I am quite happy with the height and can't afford that much materials to go round them again.

The soil level of my 'raised' beds was a good few inches below the surrounding ground when I started.... just because of all the crap I had had to remove.
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225882Post Susiwaa
Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:31 pm

Perfectly timed thread! Thanks!

Plan to start re-organising our wee back garden at the weekend (unless it's under a foot of snow).

Dismantling the shed to give us more space and get organised with raised beds to minimise the time and, hopefully, maximise our harvest.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225884Post grahamhobbs
Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:56 pm

I've been a fan of no-dig for over 30 years but I don't understand the fashion for 'raised beds'. It seems like every newcomer nows thinks that they can't grow anything without surrounding their beds with bits of wood, do they think their veg might run off.

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually in the middle of building some more raised beds myself, so I'll have 3no. 6' x 4' x 2' 6"high beds. These are perfect for carrots and small salads.

But you don't need to go to this trouble for everything. In fact the wood surrounding most raised beds I think just adds to peoples problems - making mowing paths difficult, haven for slugs, and often they are made of materials that will rot in a couple of years.

Do-dig beds, well mulched are great, otherwise raised beds only if really necessary and well made.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225886Post Big Al
Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:40 pm

I'vr done raised beds for a while now, not sure how long but many years. I started off with any bits of wood then graduated to fence panels 6" deep x 1/2 " wide and as they only lasted a couple of season I progressed to scaffold boards but they only lasted about 4 years. I've now graduated to 8" x 2" thick tanalised timber from the builders merchants. I got enough to make 4 beds each of 4.8m x 1,2m at a cost of £142.00. That was 6 years ago and they have mellowed with age but still very much intact as they should be as the tannilised bit is good for 20 years. The wife wouldn't let me put the fourth one in so I had to wait until she was at work this last couple of weeks and I sneaked one in when she wasn't around.

Of course she noticed but just gave the usual boll%^ing but i had my fingers crossed behind my back so it didn't count :lol:
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225905Post oldjerry
Sat Mar 12, 2011 6:39 am

BA, if you can find some,Armco is excellent and will last forever(Christ knows how you'd hide that from your wife though)
I'm afan of DBs simply cos they save me bending down so much,the back's fine,I'm just idle.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225912Post fran
Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:05 am

The condition of my allotment is so bad that I have no option but to use raised beds. It was either take the allotment on offer or wait another two years. Having said that, I like the idea of no dig and no backache. Having stripped out the barge we have a lot of spare wood, so hubby is making me beds as I need them. Going to put four small ones (2' x 2') on the allotment today, one for a globe artichoke another for horseradish and then got to think about the other two, probably for something permanent. Any ideas?
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225984Post StripyPixieSocks
Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:18 pm

We're about to put in raised beds if we can find the materials cheaply enough to do it in Cornwall :?

It's just easier for both of us to manage, OH has a very bad back and I simply am not able bodied enough to bend down to do gardening at a low level.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 225998Post Berti
Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:23 am

some good posts on raised beds!
gonna break up my own patio this week and have the wood waiting.
its shaved pine, but I plan to move in a few years anyways.....

when I had the allotment, I got weird looks on my raised (square foot gardening type) beds, and jealous looks when they saw what was growing in there (OOOHHH what did you DO to your cauliflowers!! they are SO hard to grow!!!.......my reply: I just put them in the soil....(cocopeat/compost mix) in raised beds *smirk*

I love raised beds.
I disagree on it making things harder maintenance wise.
it looks much neater and keeps nice too.

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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 226190Post gregorach
Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:05 am

grahamhobbs wrote:I've been a fan of no-dig for over 30 years but I don't understand the fashion for 'raised beds'. It seems like every newcomer nows thinks that they can't grow anything without surrounding their beds with bits of wood, do they think their veg might run off.
My beds weren't raised to start with, but they're growing...
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Re: Growth of raised beds

Post: # 226207Post grahamhobbs
Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:18 pm

gregorach wrote:...........................My beds weren't raised to start with, but they're growing...
That's true, they do mound up, occaisionally I do have to redistribute some

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