Some advice for small plot wanted

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Rich.H
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Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256764Post Rich.H
Wed Mar 21, 2012 3:36 pm

Hoping I can get a few pointers on a smnall plot for my front garden/yard. Currently all I have is a concrete slab so it's coming up with raised beds going in it's place. I've crunched some numbers and the best use of the space I can manage is two beds with a walkway for access.

Bed 1 = 2100mmx2300mmx110mm
Bed 2 = 3000mmx600mmx110mm

So first things first is what would folks recommend on growing in this? I probably won't grow potatos as the flat roof at the back of the house could easily have a few large bags for spud growing thus freeing up space for other veg. None of us in the house are fussy eaters so no problems there, but it is only a very small space so I wan't to steer clear of veg that needs lots of room (sweet corn, pumkin, etc). Perhaps in a couple of years I will consider growing one variety simply for the taste and such but for the moment this is purely about the money and how much I can squeeze in to stop greedy supermarkets getting my cash.

I do already have a small spot allocated for herb growing, and a small fruit patch so these two beds are only for veg.

Secondly I haven't a clue yet what is under this concrete base, I could be very lucky and fins some nice topsoil or it could be a mile deep set of lumpy rocks, so would it be good pratice to double up the depth of the beds or will they be fine as is?

Finally as to the soil itself I'm a little puzzled on how best to make this up? plain topsoil, compost, a mix of the two or something else? With this is mind my beds come out needing the following amounts of material (second figure indicates a bed twice the stated depth)

0.75/1.5 Cubic m
730/1460 Cubic l
26/52 Cubic ft

These numbers seem low to be ringing round builders etc for a truck load as the delivery will likely cost almost as much as the soil, with that in mind unless I find someone freecycling away soil I will have to just buy bags from the cheapest place.

Hopefully there is enough info there.

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boboff
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256770Post boboff
Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:46 pm

WIth soil transport is all important so if you have a car then pick it up yourself.
I would say make the bottom Manure or even pick up Sea weed for free, then use compost, I picked up 280 litres for £10 at the weekend.
This sort of "hot bed" should see you right and then next year just top up with more compost.
In terms of what to grow be guided by what you like to eat in the first Season, concentrate on succession sowing of lettuce, Spring Onions, Rocket, Peas for Mange Tout and Peas. Steer clear of Roots and Brasicas for a year or two. If you like them then Squash corgette etc are nice.
Go for it!
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Rich.H
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256779Post Rich.H
Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:29 pm

Thanks for the reply hadn't considered seaweed before although I am aware of deep mulching so i'm guessing it will serve the same function?

Also is the type of seaweed important or can I use pretty much anything with similar results?

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boboff
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256791Post boboff
Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:06 am

Don't know!
It's just a cheap Organic matter, thats all that is really important, Leaf Mould, Spent Mushroom compost, etc can all be used I think.
I think with gardening you are best just crackin on as cheaply as you can, what ever the enjoyment spending £500 on a couple of beds to grow £60 worth of fruit and veg a year isn't really being that green, it then is a Hobby!
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256853Post Thomzo
Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:31 pm

110cm depth strikes me as a bit shallow, but it depends on what's underneath the slabs. I picked up some slabs and found sand and gravel. I've planted herbs straight into it and they love it. I suggest you decide on the depth of the beds once you've picked up the slabs. If it's concrete then you'll probably need to double them up. Or you can pop some containers in for the deeper rooted things instead. All my neighbours plant carrots into spare recycling boxes, quite apt really as our recycling boxes are orange.

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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256882Post Green Aura
Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:43 am

Unless I've totally misunderstood what you're planning you might want to look of the width of your proposed beds. 2m+ wide and a metre high means you're going to have great difficulty reaching the middle - unless you're about 8' tall :lol:
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256923Post Thomzo
Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:29 pm

:oops: Ooops, I think that was my mistake. Rich said 110mm high (less than 6 inches) which I mistyped as 110 cm (over 3 feet).

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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256925Post Green Aura
Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:55 pm

No Zoe, it was me who read 110mm as cm! But it doesn't alter the problem of beds that are too wide. Unless you're going to walk on them they'll still be too wide to manage easily.
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 256943Post boboff
Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:49 am

I think one is 60cm wide, the other 2.1 meters.
The hieght is the board I think, so will have soil underneath.
2.1 meters is just about ok I think if you have access from both sides, and Go Gadget Arms.
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259448Post British Red
Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:55 pm

2.1m i pushing it to plant in the middle - We worked ours out to 1.2m and thats a comftable arm length from edge to middle. 1.5m is doable but a 3' stretch is too much I find.

4" is very shallow and will severely limit your choice of veg - but its as deep as a grow bag.

More worrying for me would be the concrete slab. I read that as meaning its a solid poured slab. If so, drainage will be an absolute nightmare - the beds will just fill up with water in heavy rain.

Breaking up a wide deep concrete slab is hard graft - be worth getting someone with a pneumatic drill to do it (if its a solid, poured slab). You might need a skip for the rubble too (sorry to be a doom sayer).

If thats too pricey, I would crack the concrete with a sledge where the beds are to go and remove some pieces (like holes in a plant pot)

These beds are 1.2m wide - to give an idea or width

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Leeks and corn by British Red, on Flickr

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Rich.H
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259475Post Rich.H
Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:37 am

Well finally finished removing everything yesterday. Took quite some time as every spare day I had was a monsoon day the last couple of weeks, and shifting 3 odd tonne of concrete and baselayer by hand is less than fun.

So here is what I'm left with now.

Image

Considering the concrete has been there at least 30 odd years the clay under all the hardcore base is about as compacted as it could possibly be. So first job is getting alot of sand into there. But the overall shape will give me access to every spot of the plot.

Since the hardcore was so deep my depth will now endup around the 550mm mark by the time the raised beds are made. So is there anything I won't be able to grow at that depth?

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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259476Post British Red
Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:52 am

Thats a beautiful job - I assume you used a "paddy's motorbike" to cut the concrete?

Very clever design to maximise space and accesibility too - well done!

Different story now that you are through the concrete - the bed edges simply serve to contain the soil and plants - the plants can go as deep as they want.

My experience says that next job is to really go to town on that clay. A little sand is useful - a lot or organic matter (manure, compost whatever) is more important. Clay is not that bad - stones are worse!

Here is what I would do.

1) Spread a tarp on the concrete
2) Dig out the clay to two spits (spade depths)
3) Break up the clay
4) Mix in a load or organic matter
5) Sieve the mix back into the beds
6) Put up the bed "edges"

Its a pain of a job - but much worse to do later than now. You will have beautiful beds forever if you get that subsoil right now

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Rich.H
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259478Post Rich.H
Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:00 pm

Thanks for the tips, I've managed to borrow something that appears to be a hand rotavator (odd looking device but it has a motor therfore saves on backbreaking). Plus I have about 300 or so litres of almost ready compost along with living very close to the shoreline means a few lagre sacks worth of seaweed. My original idea was to work the hell out of the clay the throw the other components into the turned soil and mix it all in to give a good bed of nutrients.

There is still 2 tonne of topsoil to go into all this yet along with the boards for the raised beds so I was hoping that amount just to break up the top of the clay would be enough for most veg, and that as time goes by worms and roots will do the work for me on the deeper levels.

Anychance of that being at least close to possible or am I in dreamland and now back to another week (and couple of bent forks) of work ahead?

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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259479Post British Red
Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:12 pm

Sure, that will work - just not as well :). It shouldn't be back breaking though. Rotovate the clay, shovel it out into a pile on a tarp or old cardboard. Rotovate the next layer, shovel out, rinse and repeat :).

Ideally you want a good 12-18" of light friable topsoil. Things like carrots can be harvested then with just finger and thumb (I kid you not)

Once you add stuff, if you find the compacted clay is a problem, its even more to dig out.

Given you are adding a raised layer, one spade depth may well be enough. The layer below that, just run the rotovator over it and leave it in the hole.

I'd mix all that clay with the compost and topsoil and put it back. Even with the raised sides, you may well end up with too much material when its broken up!
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Re: Some advice for small plot wanted

Post: # 259483Post GeorgeSalt
Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:25 pm

Rich.H wrote:So first things first is what would folks recommend on growing in this? I probably won't grow potatos as the flat roof at the back of the house could easily have a few large bags for spud growing thus freeing up space for other veg. None of us in the house are fussy eaters so no problems there, but it is only a very small space so I wan't to steer clear of veg that needs lots of room (sweet corn, pumkin, etc). Perhaps in a couple of years I will consider growing one variety simply for the taste and such but for the moment this is purely about the money and how much I can squeeze in to stop greedy supermarkets getting my cash.
Have a look at "square foot gardening", that's something to get the most out of a small bed like that.

I wouldn't write-off squashes (or one squash/pumpkin plant), they take up a lot of room - but a lot of that could be rambling over the concrete. I would also consider a block of sweetcorn - it is decorative as well as productive.
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