Raised Beds

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After dealing with an 8000 sq ft garden for years, I am ready for a change. So we are thinking of putting in raised beds. We have about 500 used concrete block we can use, and I have been saving a huge pile of horse manure (growing bigger by the day!) Other than that I am open to any and all suggestions, thoughts and comments!

-- Melissa (cmnorris@1st.net), October 13, 2001


One book I read said to dig up the top part of the soil and put the horse manure underneath. I would think you could also get lots of leaves this time of year to mix in with the manure to raise the level a little higher. Make the beds long and narrow rather than square so you can reach in from both sides to work and not have to actually step on the plots. I have never done raised beds, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

-- Cathy N. (keeper8@attcanada.ca), October 13, 2001.

Melissa, I think after you have reaised beds you wont ever go back to regular gardening. The best advice I can give is to make sure the beds are narrow enough to reach from both sides and if possible make them about 18inches deep. Mine are only 12 inches and i wish they were deeper for root crops etc.

-- Roxanne (Roxanne143@webtv.net), October 14, 2001.

Melissa--I feel like a gardening heretic, but I hate raised beds. Now I've gardened since before I can remember, and I've had raised beds, but I prefer to divide my gardens with boards so that I never have to walk on the soil. I make each little garden division about 3" by 8" so that I can reach in from all sides. Only the corn patch is put in its own spot because it is usually very large. Last year to my surprise I read a book from the library, only I can't remember the exact name of the book, where the gardener did it the same way that I did. It was a book about companion gardening and it was a book from Rodale press. What's neat is that I can rearrange the garden every year according to what I want to grow that year, and I can put in plots of flowers and herbs which are so beneficial controlling the bugs. My soil is very fertile, so maybe this method works okay for me instead of the raised beds. I have to add only a thin layer of compost each year and once in a great while a little lime. Happy gardening!

-- vicki in NW OH (thga76@aol.com), October 14, 2001.

I have never had any problem with the production of my garden, but I would like to raise it up due to a recurring hip problem that makes it harder and harder to crawl around on the ground. I have a tilted spine towards my right hip that causes me to be in a lot of pain. The worst part is that my grandmother, mother, and now my 14 year old daughter all suffer from the same condition. It is so frustrating!!! Doesn't interfere much with my normal like, but bending and twisting are killers. Thanks for all of the advice so far. I just don't want to build a bunch of beds then realize I should have done something different.

-- Melissa (me@home.net), October 14, 2001.

Melissa, I have a crooked spine also (scolilosis) and have two surgeries for it. Neither of them helped. This past spring my husband built me some raised beds and I love them! They do make gardening much easier for me and since we put lots of cow manure in them we had great results. I grew carrots and beets for the first time and they did great! Sure makes it easier not to have to bend over so much and you can sit on the edge and work in them. If you have that many blocks, I'd say go for it! You won't regret it. We are going to build more next year.

-- Barb in Ky. (bjconthefarm@yahoo.com), October 14, 2001.

What I like about raised beds is that they seem to be "neater" and easier to take care of. When you mulch them well (which is nessesary, 'cause they will dry out in summer quicker than a regular garden) they don't require much upkeep and weeding. Being smaller in size, 4'x12' being my favorite, you don't get that feeling of being overwhelmed if things DO get behind. Just look at 1 at a time. I find that I am more attentive to making sure they get compost, manure, etc. No need for a tiller either. I had a combination of both at the other place and like certain aspects of both. For intensive veggie growing I found that the little beds really did well. That may have been related to how I just paid better attention to them.

I have lousy yellow clay here at the new place that doesn't drain at all. I'm going to have to build up my beds here if I want to have any kind of garden this next year. The mess I created this year just won't do. Drainage is one thing a raised bed of good soil will help with.

Block would be a lot of work to set up.....but you'd only have to do it once. If your summers are really hot and dry, block would be good for them. May need to warm things up with a grow tunnel or black plastic in the spring if your further north. You may even need to get some top soil if you use all 500 of those blocks! I would set them up 2 high if I had that many. root crops would like it better that way. Raised beds really helped w/ carrots and 'taters. I never had much luck w/ corn in my beds tho. John in S. IN

-- John in S. IN (jsmengel@hotmail.com), October 14, 2001.

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