Drainage in raised bed garden

gardeningnewbiekc(5)August 30, 2011

Today I was digging up sod around my little raised bed garden to put in mulch. It's a 20'x4'x6" deep, built lasagna style right over the sod with newspaper over it, covered with a top soil/compost mix. I turned on the soaker hose and watched as the water filled up in the gaps I was making in the sod just outside the bed. I swear it looked like all the water flowed out of the bed - did any stay in it? Is this "too much" drainage? Is there any such thing?

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Though people love to push the newspaper/etc. over sod thing, people tend to forget to remind others that it can take a season or 2 before plant roots tear up the undisturbed/untilled soil.

It'll be fine over time once plant roots break up everything and gives water/oxygen places to channel to. It's very rarely a long-term problem.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:17PM
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Thanks, that makes me feel a bit better. The thing is built on top of hard clay soil too, which doesn't help. I'm building 4 new beds, but this time I have taken out all the sod (omg, that is a lot of work) and tilled the soil a few inches in before putting the raised bed on top. Hopefully I won't have the same problem in the new beds!

Is there anything I can/should do at the end of this growing season, or just wait until it resolves itself?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:22PM
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Yeah, That could be a lot of things, In April,I did what you did (sort of)I used cardboard right over sod and mine is 8" tall, but besides that everything is the same, and I don't have those issues, my guess is that your soil has become "water -phobic", there is a real word that describes that process, but I can't remember what it is, if it was my bed I would use my fingers to mix up the top couple of inches and water it by hand with a hose sprayer , so it is getting all over ,for at least a couple of weeks , by then it should resolve that problem.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:09PM
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It rarely takes long. It'll probably be fine next season. The soil you put on top, though it's only 6", should attract some good worm action, too. When it cools down the worms seek more stable soil temperatures and start to work their way down into the soil. Between the worms and the initial season's plantings working their roots in, it's usually good enough that you don't have to re-do your beds.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:12PM
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Good to know. I don't think the soil is hydrophobic - it doesn't puddle on top or anything. But maybe watering with a hand sprayer instead of soaker hose would be good. I found tons of earthworms while digging up the sod and threw all the ones I found into the bed too so hope they do their work!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:39PM
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Summer squash, tomatoes and okra are good crops for next year. All have aggressive root systems and will help in penetrating the clay.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 12:44AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

in terms of penetrating hard soil, I've seen caraway recommended to punch holes through it.

although - googling up the root system, I don't see it being that deep? It was john jeavons in "how to grow more vegetables" that I saw it.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 12:02PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

if you keep the beds enriched with organic matter with plenty of worms and well mulched, they will need no more watering than normal gardens.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 1:02PM
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Dan Staley

Around here, raised beds need more water because they get warmer and dry out faster. As far as the drainage goes, I agree that the worms will eventually mix the two layers together to give drainage. You can turn over the soil in fall when amending to speed the process.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 8:45PM
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