Raised Bed Gardens Over 100 sqft

Syntria(8a)January 22, 2014


So this year I plan to build around 6-9 4x4 raised beds using 1''x6''x12' cedar boards, and with the few I'm doing root crops in in the spring I'll till an extra 6'' down.

I'm considering what soil mixtures to use in general, seems a lot of people recommend 1/3rd Peat Moss, 1/3rd Vermiculite (or Rock Dust?) and 1/3rd Compost (mixed from various sources). Since its only 6'' high, for the ones I'm not tilling down further, that means .5 cubic feet per 1 sq foot?

I've primarily done container gardening the past 10 years, but finally am able to set up in a yard for some serious veggie gardening.

Looking for advice on soil mixtures, keeping in mind I'll be dealing with a lot of Texas heat and the area I'll be doing these in should have solid sun between 11am and 7pm (not sure if I'll have to break out the shade cloth or not). I also plan to start composting this year so I can have more of my own black gold for next.

Thanks ahead of time! -Syntria/Christina

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

First, I'd give serious reconsideration to your planned sizes. 4x4 isn't ideal unless for some reason it is all that will fit. Lots less work and greater success with 3-4' X 12' or even 6' long is better. 4'x'4 restricts your effective use of the space too much especially with a bed that is only 6" deep. Deeper is better.

As to mix to use - you have already identified it although many discussions here already cover various additional options that can be added to that basic mix - bark fines, some soil (dirt), perlite rather than vermiculite, additional compost (assuming good quality), chopped straw, some sand if needed, etc. You'll find many more discussions about it over on the Soil & Compost forum.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 2:18PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I agree with digdirt. I think that you are moving to beds with container gardening thinking...a pot [plot] here...a plot there...here a plot and there a plot. I think that longer beds would be more efficient, save some border cost, have less mowing or walking obstructions. Still it is your baby.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 2:47PM
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    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 2:52PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

On the container size I also believe that 4 by 6' o 4 by 8' is better. You need to see how the lumber is sold. For example, if they come in 8ft length you make your bed 4' by 8'. This way you won't waste anything. I bough 6 ft length(available at good price) so I made mine 3' by 6'.

I would also vote against vermiculite. I think it is ok for seed starting mix or small pots but not raised beds. Other than its lack of practicality, it is also way too expensive to me.

Also, I second pine (or any conifer) bark fine, along with some good compost. I would use 50% topsoil, 25% bark fines, 25% compost. I think with good bark fines you don't need peat moss either. With 100 sq-ft, at 12" depth you will need approximately 3 cubic yards ( = 80 cu-ft) of filler. adding peat moss and perlite at your given ratios would be costy.(It is your money, of course )

In addition I would add some manure, say 2 bags per 4'x4' bed. I think, although perlite is good but again considering the volume and cost I wouldn't use it, Compost together witt pine fines should take care of the drainage issue.

It is a sound idea to till the base before filling the bed and add/mix in pine bark very small nuggets and compost. That will provide a good depth and drainage.

BTW: I built about 150 sq-ft raised beds ( 3' x 6') with cedar boards last year in hurry. I purchased garden mix (topsoil + compost) and amended with lots of cow manure.

I would fill the beds almost to the rim because of compost and pine fine it will settle quite a bit.

This post was edited by seysonn on Wed, Jan 22, 14 at 16:31

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 4:25PM
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Thank you everyone for your replies! I'm going to read the links and research more indepth as to what was discussed.

I've been drawing plans on and off for about a month since I got an idea of the lay of the land, which is a slightly slopped backyard that's probably around 40 x 60 if not a bit bigger (waiting on the survey).

My idea with smaller beds was more organization, and I wanted walking paths that I was going to use mulch or paves around. I feel like with a 4x12 bed, I'd get more lost? Wanting to focus on companion planting and not shading other plants out, want to do several veining plants, cucumbers, squash, melon, beans etc. I was also thinking it'd be easier to control pests and have better air circulation, and keep plants from shadowing each other as much.

I liked the look of a square of squares with an entrance. I've drawn several plans as well with 4x6 and 4x8 with 1 or 2 4x4 in the center. Like this...ignore the dots.

□ ...□ □
□ ..... □
□ □ □ □

I wanted to have a small 'court yard' in the center. That specific design would give me 144 'squares' to work with, but its also pretty wasteful as pointed out with resources so I'm rethinking that now. In previous places I've had property, I always used cinder blocks and wood to create shelves and make a sorta virtual 'room' of plants out in the balcony/backyard. Aesthetically I like to walk into my garden and be surrounded by my garden.

I'm not much of a carpenter, and when going beyond 4x4 with only 1'' boards, its recommended to use posts/stakes so that was part of the consideration. But I know if you just ad 2 feet, that's 8 extra 'squares' to grow in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2TKE8Esx4M I'm not dead set on 4x4, but it looks like I'll have to rethink my materials and how I support it. I'd like to build them 8'' or 12'' high with 4x4 cedar posts but that's going a bit beyond my budget, plus I'd need to buy tools to drill holes for rebar. I have a drill and saw, and a friend who has a table saw so I can cut things down to size. My plan with the 4x4 bed was just going to be to screw them into each other, rather than using a post.

Also @Dave so nice to see you post here, I've read many many of your posts throughout the site. :)

Going through and reading the resources you guys provided on the soil.

This post was edited by Syntria on Wed, Jan 22, 14 at 17:51

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 5:50PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Wayne makes a good point above - I fear you're accidently imposing container garden thinking on actual garden beds and they are very different things requiring very different methods.

A 4x4 bed is really nothing more than a big container - except in this case it would only be 6" deep - can you imagine trying to grow much of anything in a 6" deep pot?

A garden needs to be as flexible for use as possible as your needs and goals will change from year to year. This, assuming your goal is real food production rather than just a tour book garden.

Plus I get the impression you are talking about trying to do Sq. Foot gardening? That too is a very different type of vegetable gardening with its own set of guidelines and methods. If so then check in with that forum for recommendations for bed size and best use of space help. Given their basic philosophy - max production out of minimal space - I seriously doubt they will recommend 4x4 beds either.

Since your boards are already 12 feet long why would you cut them when 12' long beds are so much more productive. It is simply and inexpensive enough to drive some short pieces of re-rod or short metal stakes along the sides to provide the necessary support. And 2x4 s in the corners work just fine. Not to mention that while cedar is nice, it isn't required for any reason. Much less expensive woods are available and will stand up in Texas heat just fine.

Link below is to photos of literally 100's of raised bed gardens - many of them from folks here - and they are made from all sorts of materials and in all sorts of sizes (though only a couple are only 4x4 for very good reasons. :)


Here is a link that might be useful: Raised bed garden pics

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 7:35PM
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@Dave I've googled that same thing and have hundreds of images saved. Intimidation of building the larger beds is mainly the reason I shyed away from them at first.

Yeah, Sq Ft gardening is the basic principal I intend to follow. I read the book a few weeks ago but it was sort of already how I planned to do it based on--what probably was influenced by that book---all the reading I've done else ware.

I'm probably putting the importance of a nice layout above some other factors. The original design I wanted was 4 4x8 foot beds that sorta basketweave patterned each other, making a space in the center.

But layouts aside, haha. I didn't really think about how much more cost effective it was on lumber to do the larger beds, I was just thinking about how much easier they would be to build.

I really wanted to stick with natural looks, wood, stone, bamboo trellises throughout. I know new pressure treated lumber is alright and about half the price. I have about 24' of the stuff, 12'' wide that I use with cedar blocks for my potted plants (over 50 pots of stuff last summer).

With Cedar I've not found any boards wider than 8'' and I've felt a bit intimidated to figure out how to construct a bed with more than one board perside. Though int his image http://tucsonraisedgardenbeds.com/images/52Raisedbeds.jpg it shows what looks to be like a 6'' and maybe 8'' and they just used the wider one on top and shorter one on bottom and switched them on the other ends so they could all screw in together.

But again if I go with 4x8's I'll still have to find a way to support it. The idea of a bar on the outside I don't find very pleasing, but I'm not sure structurally how sound putting a 2 by 4 into the middle of the stretch and bolting into it on the inside would help much. Guess I'm just intimidated by the prospect. Given the land slants as well, I'll have to dig out any that I face along the slope to keep them even, and the longer they are, the more I'll need to dig the yard up to keep the beds themselves even.

Eeee. So much in my head right now, lol. I've got some marigolds, milkweed, and tomatoes/peppers germinating in my laundry room. The marigolds germinated in a day, been four now and haven't seen any life out of the tomatoes or peppers yet (soil temp about 75-80 degrees). I'm probably starting my tomatoes/peppers too early <_ i just so excited>I'll be looking at other woods--I was thinking cedar would smell better, look better, and hold up to decay/bugs/etc for longer but also after a season doing this, I might learn a lot and wanna change up everything next year.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 8:04PM
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Very very important: If you have gophers where you live in Texas, staple or screw 1/2" hardware cloth on the bottom of the lumber to gopher-proof the beds. Do not leave any gaps at all. It is so much work to do this later that you will be kicking yourself. Also, if you have gophers, you should make the beds as deep as you can (12 inches is probably enough) so that the roots are better protected. If the boards are only 6 inches deep, the roots will penetrate beyond the hardware cloth, which will be OK until/unless the gophers find them. Then your plant will suffer badly (but probably not die, because some of the roots remain intact). Another tip: If you plan to use hardware cloth, you should make the beds 4 feet wide on the OUTSIDE because the hardware cloth comes in 4-foot wide rolls. You need a little bit of overlap to staple or screw it into the wood.

If you don't have gophers, and the native soil isn't too bad, you don't have to build up the beds 12 inches high, at least not in my opinion. Your original plan to go 6 inches is OK. The roots will penetrate below the soil you put in the beds, but that is not necessarily a bad thing unless the native soil is disastrously bad. Watering will move some nutrients down into the native soil.

I make my beds with 2x12 lumber. They don't last forever, but I don't mind too much. I have gophers so I use hardware cloth on the bottom. I use metal straps from home depot on the corners (see link below). I bend them around the corner and screw them in on the outside. I don't use posts in the corners. Even though 1" cedar is not as strong as 2x12, I think you can do the same thing. Then you won't need any external supports. You can basically build two 6-inch frames and put them on top of each other. Then use a few pieces of cedar to hold them together on the outside in a few places. I don't think it will look too bad at all. The straps may not look great, but they work much better on the corners than other methods and they don't take any space from inside the bed like posts do. Maybe you can paint them brown so they are not as noticeable.

Another thing that helps is if you dig out the area where the bed is going to go. Then you can pile some of that dirt around the outside of the bed to kind of hold the wood from the outside.

If 4x4 is what you really want, aesthetically, don't let others talk you out of it. From a practical standpoint, I think 4x8 works better if you have the room, but gardens are not only practical. Maybe the garden you have envisioned will be so beautiful that it will totally make up for the inefficiency of resource usage.

Best of luck. Post pictures when you are done or if you have questions.


Here is a link that might be useful: metal strap

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:41AM
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Here's some of the plans I'm making now, based on some of the information I've gotten here.

To double up the 4x8 and 2x12 beds I'm looking at about 50-60 dollars in lumber at 12'' high, and close to that in soil for each? Expensive project, but I've been saving for it for awhile now.

Any thoughts on the design and I was looking around on the site, wasn't sure if there's actually an area where people discuss garden planning.

I've also thought about going 1/2 compost (Cotton Burs, Manure, couple of others) and then peat moss and some bark. I do wanna make sure the soil doesn't become too compacted. I've read about some folks who use almost 100% compost too but I would imagine that would pack down too much. I could mix in leaves/grass clippings directly into the mix too? Hmm. I do want to make a good mix so I build up a good worm population over time. Peat moss provides moisture retention and airation int he soil or is that just the vermiculite? I also could buy bags of lava rocks and break them myself, haha. I have two bags of them already since I think they are pretty and use them to adorn the tops of y pots sometimes.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Vermiculite and rock dust are not the same thing- vermiculite changes the texture of the soil, rock dust adds trace minerals. I'm my opinion just do a mix of soil & compost, and add in a little rock dust and maybe some biochar.

And don't forget to MULCH! Very important especially in hot climates to keep your soil healthy, evenly moist, and reduce evaporation. It keeps weeds to a minimum too. Use whatever is free or cheap, and chemical free- grass clippings, fall leaves (shredded if possible), straw, pine needles, chipped wood & leaves from a tree trimming company (but no black walnut), etc.

Good luck on your new raised bed gardening adventures!!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 10:57AM
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I was reading with mulch you run into slugs/bug havens, though I'm not sure how much of an issue I'll have with either. I plan to install 2-3 soaker hoses/or drip system lines in each box so I wanna make sure they all have good drainage.

It defiantly is going to get hot though, upwards to 100 degree's at peaks and maybe well above.

I was thinking of creating a 'fake' fence of blackberries around the garden. I do have one grapevine but think thats a few years ahead of me as a project. Though it gets very windy sometimes here, so if I build anything not solid it'll just blow over.

I'm not sure but I was thinking about 2-3 foot spacing between each bed, should be more than ample even once tomatoes and such bush out, which I'll probably put them in the centers usually or to the south sides of the beds. also 6' high trellises for cucumbers, squash, and beans I need to plan out.

The 2x12 I was thinking okra/asparagus/strawberry perma beds or other perennial veggie plants. Otherwise, was considering them for blackberries, I'd love raspberries--I grew up in alaska where they grew wild but I don't think they will handle the heat here well.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 11:32AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The benefits of thick layers of mulch so far outweighs any disadvantages that the disadvantages can be ignored unless one lives in damp, cool environment.

We all have to learn to distinguish between information offered that is applicable to another's environment but not to your environment.

Your latest plan still contains a great deal of wasted space that could be productive but it depends on what your primary objective is - food or appearance.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Food production, but I'll be the only consumer really minus a few exceptions (My fiancee is vegaphobic). I do want a calm space to also go out and enjoy the plants and spend time with them (does that sound creepy?). I use not really care for plants that were just for looks and not served a purpose, so I don't want to grow anything that doesn't have one, either for food, companion planting, Soil enriching plants, or supporting nature (butterfly/bees/hummingbird).

I'm waiting on the survey for the house so I can be more exact with my measurements. Appearance is important to me, and because its also an HOA community I want to make sure the garden itself isn't too much of an eyesore though it is in my backyard so it shouldn't matter much.

The center area of the four main beds would have a 6x6' area, with 2' area walkways, though I'm considering hugging two beds to each other so there's only an 'entrance and exit' instead of the four. Like the front of this .

I'm still playing with designs and if I shift things around I can still create a central area or walkway, and fit 2 more 4x8 raised beds in the same space.

The current plan would give me I think 150 sq foot of growing space, which should be more than ample to produce enough food for me as well as to give to friends and neighbors.

I've also been checking on craigslist and I've found several folks selling 'organic compost' without listing what exactly it is, for about 125 dollars delivered for 5 cubic yards.

My three current options on creating the beds themselves are..

4x4 cedar posts with 1x6x8 boards stacked two high so 12'' tall at 4x8 - .81 cents per foot 6'' high so 1.62 per foot at 12'' high. With posts, roughly $50 per bed.

3x3 by 8 foot Landscaping Timbers (flat on top bottom but rounded on the sides) at 9'' or 12'' high hollowing holes and using rebar to secure. About 4 dollars per, x 4 for 12'' 16 dollars per side or 2 dollars per foot.

8''x8''x8' Railroad Ties - Though I've read they have a lot of grooves/hallows/cracks and here in Texas we have some major ant problems and I want to avoid encouraging bugs since I also want to avoid using pesticides. About 12 dollars per, stacked 2 high would be 16'' high beds.

Sorry for using this as a sounding board, but I'm completely open to anyone's suggestions or advice on how to do things. You guys have vast amounts of experience on me, and I'm completely open to criticism to any notions or ideas I have. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot.

My budget btw is about $500-$750 to construct and fill the beds and I know year 1 it probably won't be the prettiest, but I want to have a good foundation layout wise/material wise to increase the beauty as well as functionality of the beds. Permanent trellises and archways for example.

I really like the simplify of the garden pictured here by a recent poster.

I've also moved some of this discussion into the landscaping forum I found this morning.

Also attached, my seeds. ;) Didn't realize pepper seeds took sooo long to germinate.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 1:39PM
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One plan that makes better use of the space

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 2:13PM
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Syntria, my experience is in the Great Lakes area, not Texas, but I do grow in raised beds like you are considering. I started out with 5x12' beds, changed to 4x10' beds when we moved to a new house, and when those beds needed to be rebuilt, to one 4x8' and four 4x4'. I hope to add another bed this summer; still deciding between one 4x8' or two 4x4'.

As you can see, I've been making my beds smaller as the years go by. Dave and others are correct that it's a less efficient use of space if the main criteria is how to get the most food possible out of an existing yard. However, if convenience and ease comes into play, smaller beds have the advantage that you can walk all the way around them and reach in from all sides to weed, plant, mulch, etc. This is still possible in a 4x8' (or larger) bed, but if you go with the design in the post right above this one, I would suggest making sure you have at least a few feet of space between the backs of those larger beds and your fence -- big enough for you to get back there, crouch down, and work in the back few feet of garden space. Alternatively, make those beds more narrow -- 2-3' wide maybe, so you don't have to walk behind them at all. Another option would be to add some stepping stones or boards in the middle of the beds as a path so you can work from the middle without stepping on the plants.

As far as what soil mix to use, the majority of my beds use my existing garden soil amended with lots of compost and manure. But I also have one 4x4' bed that is faithful to the SFG system, complete with Mel's Mix. After using it for a couple years, I've decided that any additional beds will use a hybrid of the two -- the MM is so much lighter than my clay-heavy native soil, but it dries out much faster and just doesn't seem as "rich". So for the new bed, I'm planning to take part of the MM out of the SFG, mix it with some of the amended native soil from the back beds, then mix in compost/manure to fill. (I should mention that none of my beds, including the SFG, have bottoms on the bed. So while the SFG is like a large 6" deep container, it's really much deeper than that since the roots can grow down into the native soil below.)

Given that your TX sun/heat is going to be more intense than mine, you might consider doing something similar -- in other words, doing a hybrid of the SFG method and more traditional gardening, to try to get the best of both worlds.

Oh, and I definitely second the mulching. It helps with both cooler season crops (mulching while the soil is still cool) and warm season (mulching after the soil warms up) to reduce the amount of watering needed.

Does this amount of garden space provide 100% of my small family's vegetables? No. There are things we like to eat that I don't have room for (e.g., squash, watermelon, corn, potatoes, etc.) and I supplement via our local farmer's market. But since I garden as an enjoyable and healthy hobby, not for survival or income, it works for me. :)


    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 4:07PM
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sounds like you would like to avoid pesticides and chemicals, so you need to be sure the lumber you plan to use - not treated such as railroad ties and pressure treated lumber. as far as buying craigslist "organic " i wouldn't unless you know who they are. here in california I have gophers so my beds have hardware wire on the bottom but in Texas you have rabbits and they feed from the top and do you have deer, so you might have to fence the area

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Last season I followed the SFG program to the letter.
My version of MM was so successful I will never stray from it.
There are now two 4X4 compost piles cooking in my yard.with,
discarded veggies from grocers, coffee grinds from a coffee shop, horse & cow manure from local farmers, shredded leaves from last fall, wood chips from local trimmers, cardboard, newspaper, all shredded, and probably more I forgot.
Last season was just an experiment for me, this year I am going for effect.
I had 4 beds already made, 4 x 10 x 8'. I never removed the soil under, just added another 8 inches.
A cold frame is now taken up 2/3rds of 1 bed, I can use this even in hot weather ...
A 5 x 5 bed was added specifically for herbs.
All in all the SFG for me has proven itself, oh yes...vermiculite is $20.00 a 4 cubic foot bag in a small farm shop close by.
Compost building in my opinion is the most important factor in MM..

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 8:22AM
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I've just put my raised beds together. I actually found a decent deal at Home depot for the cedar kits and bought 4 @ $39.97 a piece which actually made 5- 4X4 beds with leftover so that I have one 4X4 section that is 14" deep, the rest of the beds are 7" deep. I used hardware cloth in the bottom because we have crawfish in our backyard like no tomorrow. I've used compost and soil primarily, also adding rock dust. The kits were easy to assemble and are pretty too. A friend gave me a bunch of large rocks that I've used to construct beds along my fence line for vertical growing. Eventually, I'd like to have another length from the deep section, for an L shaped type of garden. Ah you can see from the pics my girls (a.k.a. free labor) helped me assemble the whole gamut. If tools/constructing are an issue, take a look at the pre-made kits, they aren't too bad. I've added the link for the kits as well. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Raised bed kit

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 7:52PM
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I forgot to mention that the kits I used are all stackable and you can join them together. At some point in the future, I'd like them all to be 14" deep but for budgetary purposes I started small. I also got free compost from the city of Beaumont, they give it out every Saturday morning. It isn't fantastic and there's some unwanted bits of trash but I'll be putting it through a screen and adding soil and some other amendments before putting it in the rock beds. Where abouts in Texas are you? I'm just north of Beaumont.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 8:37PM
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They look terrific, hope they do well for you.
Regarding municipal compost, I started my beds last year using it, I screened as you are doing, tha'ts a great idea.
I also added chicken doo doo, mushroom manure, aged horse manure, and another I forgot the name.an organic additive in a pretty package.
I added these because the center mgr. told me the compost was only leaves and brush.
The results were great, I'll get more this year even though I have 2 large compost piles going myself..
Good luck with your project

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Thanks Japus. Good luck everybody!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 9:25PM
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I have bought enough Cedar 2x6x8 to build either 4 12'' high beds or 8 6'' high beds, or a mix there of.

I've also contacted a local company to have 2-4 cubic yards of compost hauled in (grass/leaf compost) as well as a cubic yard of something else, be it sand/mulch/peat moss, not sure yet on the mixture. Trying to decide on that prior to the final order. I do wanna amend it a little, as well as encourage worm activity.

Thanks everyone for all your ideas and support! I'm making videos of all this, as seen below.

It was a pain fitting all that wood into my car, but I did it in one trip :3

I'm rereading everyone soil suggestions. I feel like I want to do at least 60% compost, maybe 20% peat moss, and 20% sand? Would that 'shattered shells' or whatever its called also work? Vermiculite seems pretty pricey and some people say it floats to the top rather quick.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 2:47PM
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art_1(10 CA)

I'd recommend ordering a soil mix from the landscape company if you are going to be filling your raised beds that way. Many places offer a 'garden mix' or 'raised bed mix' and you can ask what the popular choice for vegetable gardening is.

Here are a couple of examples, ~$35-40/cubic yard.

Whittlesey Landscape Supplies

Austin Landscape Supplies

Here is a link that might be useful: New raised bed - all comments and suggestions welcome

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Thanks Art_1


I was looking at just the straight compost and mixing in things myself--but since this is my first year even, they actually have one mix called Planting Mix 'designed for raised beds'. I really want to micromanage and control everything that's going on in my garden -but- its also my first year doing this seriously so I feel that perhaps a professionals premix is probably wiser then something I'd toss together. I can ammend the soil later with goodies after all.

Big decision right now for me is if I want to continue with my idea of 4 12'' high beds, or just have one or two 12'' high beds and the rest be 6''. Decisions decisions!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 5:46PM
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To me the advantage of a 12" bed is that you have room on top for mulch. You can pile the mulch on top of the 6" beds too but a hard rain or wind might blow some of it off.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 6:34PM
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Last season was my very first with SFG program.
It was really only a test season as I did not have what's considered good compost.
I did add some organic stuff as I was told their compost was just brush & leaves.
Everything grew way beyond my greatest expectations, and I do mean way beyond. Vermiculite and peat moss is easily obtained, compost is another matter.
I turned into a compost maniac and I love it, enjoy composting as much as gardening, maybe more.
My compost piles consist of 3 types of manure, lbs and lbs of coffee grounds, shredded leaves, wood chips, discarded veggies from local grocery stores, along with all yard trimmings I have.
I aerate, and turn it often.
I even tried flowers for the very first time with Mel's Mix.
My flowers replaced my wife's porch greenhouse plants.
You are in the beginning stages of a nice project.
I'd suggest you get the 2nd edition of Square Foot Gardening...

My beds have a 15 inch height, mainly because when I went to SFG I added 8 inches to my beds, very very happy I did this.
Makes it so much easier to work with, and one section I have is 2 feet , I'll use this area for long rooted veggies.
When I was putting this all together I went to dig up some swiss chard, it's roots went down 30 inches.
Good point about the wind blowing the mulch though.
Who knows maybe someday I'll bring it up to where I won't need to bend to work the beds.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 9:57PM
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And, with SFG gardens one can plant up 3- 4 plantings a year.All you need to do is add an amount of compost into a square and your set to plant again.
I've done kohlrabi in the spring, tomatos/peppers on the summer and kohlrabi again in the fall going into winter.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 10:03PM
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Syntria, do you have pocket gophers where you are? If so, make sure you gopher proof the bottom of the beds with hardware cloth. And in that case I would opt for 12 inches. It protects more of the root structure. I had corn growing in 6" beds last year, and gophers got some of the roots. I think it hurt my yield. The crop didn't die, because there was still some root structure above the hardware cloth.

From now on I am doing all my beds with 2x12 lumber (which is actually a little less than 12 inches). And I will trap gophers aggressively near the beds.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 1:12AM
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I have put in one raised garden bed about 20' X 4' made with landscaping blocks and some smaller ones around my patio. I am going to add another one his spring made the same way. In the first one I am trying to grow artichokes (if they survive the winter) with two goji bushes in each end and smaller early producing plants around the border. In the smaller ones around my patio, I have planted fuzzy kiwi and honeyberry bushes.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 7:44AM
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Smaller raised beds.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 7:45AM
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Thanks guys.

Trying to decide about 4 12'' high bed, or like 2 12'' high beds and 4 6'' high beds. I think our soil is okay?

I've discovered there are about 15 ant mounds, which I believe to be fire ants. red head, red middle, black butt--little guys that swam if you even nudge their mounds. Been pouring boiling water on them all night and finally gave in and put a tiny bit of Ant Killer on each mound and then watered it a little. I feel weak to already kinda break my effort to not use any pesticides. We had an orkin subscription at our last place which I did cancel and I don't want any sprays or yard coverage of pesticides. I just hope I can get these ants under control. Turns out two of my neighbors I have 5 along my fence, three in the back, one on each side) do not care about their yards at all, which are an over grown mess and the guy directly behind me (his name is Tony and he's super nice, he's asian and has a few asian fruit tree's in big containers) says that one of them never mow and the fire department had to come warn them directly or something because they aren't obeying the HOA.

My property is sloped a little and I'm trying to figure out how much I'll need to dig to keep my beds even. I thought about digging out 'steps' so that its a flat run for a row of beds then another 'step' down with a flat run (so 4-6 foot wide flat run) but that would require retention walls and it sounds hard ;_;

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 7:55PM
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fire ants/termites
I had a termite problem twice in the last 40 years.
1st fix was to create a barrier, this kept them away, however it eventually faded and they came back.
2nd fix, (same company)...$2000 each fix.
First episode which was treated by a professional co, was to drill holes inside and outside of our home, and blow in what they called a barrier, didnt kill, just kept them away.
$2000.00 for that one.15 years later..their back again..
New treatment and it works.
another $2,000
A termite needs to shed to grow, if they do not shed they die a natural death.
Tubes are placed in the soil with bait sticks that termites enjoy eating, when termites are detected these bait sticks are removed and special sticks are added into these tubes.
They enjoy eating this stuff also.
When they go back to their buddies they inform them how delicious this meal is, they all go and eat.
When termites eat this material they continue on with their lives, however when it comes time to shed they die, because this material keeps them from shedding.
The colony that was here isn't any more.
If you use a termite killer, it only kills the termites affected and not the colony, you want to eliminate the colony.

I wrote this to explain how termites are now eliminated.
I know very about ants, needless to say fireants..
It is my opinion you should try to destroy each colony, you'll never do that by targeting individual packs of ants..

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 9:58PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Syntria, your work is cut for you.
The important step, in my opinion, was/is having a plan. Putting together should come smooth and enjoyable. Then comes filling. Seem that you are gonna need couple of cubic yards garden soil to fill them. I did a similar project last season (about 120 sqr-ft) I Got something called "Garden Mix".(Topsoil +sand + compost) But later I realized that it did not have enough compost. So I kept adding bagged compost, peat moss and manure.

Good Luck !

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 10:39PM
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There are different ways to do things. But you definitely want your beds to be be level. If they aren't, then when it rains, water will flow over the bed and wash away soil. The area around the beds does not have to be level.

Depending on how much slope you have, you may not need a retaining wall.

If your existing soil is OK, you can dig soil out until you have created a flat level base for the bed, and the soil you removed is about the right amount to fill in the bed. then lay the wood frame down on the base and put the soil back in. This is what I have done. I amended the soil with compost as I put it back in. On the downhill side, the wall of the bed is totally above ground. On the uphill side, it protrudes several inches above the ground.

Please heed my advice about gophers. Ask Tony if there are any around. Maybe there is a reason his trees are in containers...


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 11:44PM
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Starting to build today. :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 3:06PM
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I would love to see some follow-up pics when you get those beds put together, if you don't mind sharing. I am working on a design for raised beds in my back yard too, though unfortunately I don't have nearly as big of a back yard.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 5:31PM
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