Raised Beds vs Improving the Ground?

iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)June 16, 2009

DH and I are having a debate about the best use of our gardening resources -- especially the very limited ability to make any kind of financial investments.

He's all for the idea of raised beds. But we can't buy any soil that's any better than what we've already got and the free stuff is a LOT of labor because its you load, you haul.

He likes the neat, tidy, finished look of a raised bed garden and has read a great deal about its advantages.

I like the neatness too, and I know its much easier to install the hoops for row cover and greenhouse plastic on a raised bed. But I'm concerned that raised beds would be more apt to freeze hard and kill stuff when the rare Canadian air mass gets this far south and I'm wondering if improving the soil in place wouldn't give better results for the same effort as building some 30 beds to cover the area in question.

I'm in a hot, humid, mild-winter climate gardening on nearly pure sand of insane acidity and severe potassium deficiency. I can solarize the section that needs to be cleared of grass and I can mulch with a lot of grass clippings from my neighbor. We can even rent a tiller once to work that and the other soil amendments -- lime and correct fertilizers -- in.

Drainage is the last thing I'd ever need to worry about.

I'd like to hear from both sides about the advantages and disadvantages of each option for my climate -- especially given that the soil would be approximately the same either way.

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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

I'd make raised beds using the interbay mulch method described in the facts. I like the extra height as my knees get creakier, and the ground seems further away.

Cold air sinks to the low points, so raised beds are warmer, (by a teensy bit) I believe.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 9:46PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

I know that raised beds are warmer when dealing with the last spring and first fall frosts, but my concern is that in what passes for deep winter here the ground never actually freezes truly hard.

Only the surface freezes. But I'm worried that in our rare couple days of 15degree weather the raised bed, surrounded by frigid air and not protected by the mass of the earth, would freeze solid and kill the roots of the winter crops.

Does anyone in the southeast know if I'm worrying over nothing or if the concern is justified?

I'd hate to lose my collards, etc. by making a mistake that way.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 10:13PM
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If you have a soil that does not drain well, and improving that soil so it will would be a tremendous undertaking then raised beds would be a benefit because you can then garden sooner and easier. But if you have a really wel draining soil, as my sand is, building a raised bed will not be a benefit because then you would have a problem keeping the soil moist enough, unless you lined the bottom of your raised bed with plastic to help hold the moisture in.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:39AM
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leira(6 MA)

I know that a lot of people like raised beds, and I've built some myself...but usually only because they had a decorative impact in the yard, or because the soil was really, really bad. That being said, I'm a huge fan just gardening in the plain old ground.

If you think the soil will be pretty much the same either way, I would save yourself the time, effort, and expense, and just turn over the soil and start planting.

If you really like the look of raised beds, you could always make one or two now, and add them bit by bit as time allows.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 1:03PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

i'd go for raised beds, in the end it is gardening done too easy.


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

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 2:44PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)


Mind elaborating on that bald statement there?

My DH and I have both read a great many such simple pronouncements from on high about the superiority of raised beds but I'm looking for an honest, balanced discussion of the reasons why one or the other might be superior *for the same expenditure of money, physical effort, and time*.

Building raised beds cost money. IIRC, its $30 in lumber for each pair of 8 foot X 30" beds and $20/load to fill one and one half of them with topsoil that is no better than the native ground.

DH is willing to take the supposed superiority of raised beds at face value. I'm looking at the plants I have in the ground and the plants I have in the beds and wondering if the $200 or more it would take to put the area allotted to my winter crops into raised beds wouldn't be better spent on aged horse manure, other soil amendments, and the rental of a tiller.

I'd really like to hear a good debate between practitioners of both methods about the reasoning behind their decisions and the circumstances where they work best.

Thanks. :-)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 4:25PM
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I think if you follow the link in Len's post and read some of what he's got on his site, you'll understand where he's coming from.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 4:39PM
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What kind of soil do you have? I think the best thing I can say about my raised beds is that I can get into them rain or shine. They also are more appealing to look at and drain much better than the clay underneath.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 4:47PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

I'm on nearly pure sand of insane acidity and severe potassium deficiency.

And the "topsoil" that I can buy is more of the same.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 5:23PM
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Dan Staley

Raised beds: You don't have to bend over so far. You can better control the effects of amendments (improve your WHC). Your soil will heat up more quickly. You will have the expense of either bringing in extra or moving overburden from another project in the yard.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 5:41PM
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I'm definitely not an expert but I thought the primary reason for installing raised beds was to improve drainage. And in fact, if you already have good drainage, they may even increase the drainage to an undesireable rate.

So if I were you given what I know, I wouldn't. The only other points in this thread seem to be for aesthetic reasons if not for drainage, something that it sounds like you can't afford.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 9:34PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

My reason for raised beds was due to the fact, the only area I have which isn't really rocky and stoney, is 6 foot by 7 foot, which given, we have nearly an acre is pathetic, fortunatly, I pin pointed this area easily as when we moved in, I noticed the reminants of a veg patch.
The other problem is this area is on a very, very steep slope, so I terraced at as best I could, to remedy this problem and create some more room, I up-ended a expandable todler bed, and used that to create 2 raised beds, on the slope, and filled it with a mix of composts, rotted manuar, chopped up leaves and grass clipping, you name it, I flung it in, to keep the price of the brought stuff down, (composed heap is now built and filling fast).
The garden area is struggling, obviously lots of deficiencies, but I will continue to ammend this area over the years with compost ect.
The raised bed is like concrete!, but what is growing there is growing well, but forget the carrots, poor loves couldn't push through.
Even with these problems, I have opted for the easier on the back, but not the wallet!, solution of raised beds, for my fall crop, it all mounts up!
I opted for prefab raised beds, because after a lot of reseach for 4x8 foots bed, and costing up wood,(unable to sorce for free) brackets,screws, pipes and connectors to make a small frame so I could create a sort of coldframe canope, it was going to cost me in the regions of $110-$120 and then relying on hubby to make it (priceless!), someone on another forum (forget which!)mentioned a recycled plastic bed and frame, which was a reasonable cost, so I decided to investigate, expecting the prices I have seen in my investigations up to press!
They are $129.99 each, if you are looking for raised beds read on, if not I am about to try and help get them cheaper, because I was well impressed, I managed to build them without any tools (which is lucky as I am a cluts with tools), although I had taken a mallet to help me, due to some of the reviews on the companies site, but it wasn't needed as I found you just needed to jiggle the pieces abit for the rod to go in, took me about an hour for the 1st, I will agree with the reviews that the instructions could do with a revamp, but managed it, and it is easy, oh and another complaint 2 pieces where missing, but 2 extra of another piece, I am going to ask to for the replacements, although I am sure the extra pieces I got could be cut down and another hole drilled in...but that would be work!:o), but it doesn't actually interfer in the integrety of the canopy, but I paid for it! (don't yet know if missing from second as haven't unpacked, can't afford the soil, haha!)
I investigated further, couldn't find them listed with anyone else for cheaper, but checked out through Upromise and Ebates (uprom - 5% back, Ebates 3 or 4% forget!) but both have a coupon which you link through the site for, for 15% off any order over $75 until July 1st 2009.
I also found it on either, ebay or amazon from the same company, with free shipping, but for that day only, but can't find them now, but the discounts via Uprom and ebates really, where better than this offer.
It is 4x8 one bit 4x4 6inch and 1 4x4 12 inches deep, seems pretty sturdy, double skinned (whatever that means) and good they claim down to 28F??? as it holds its heat, not it falls appart! (I hope!)
So if you do want a raised bed, if you can get the untreated wood really cheap or for free (try craigslist and freecycle) do that, if not locally cost up and I would say if only within a few dollars for the wood ect, I would buy this for the ease and canope, (at the mo, it may not be such a great deal after july 1st, but I would imagine they will have other promotions)
hope this helps, and to tell you how bad my soil is, to stake my weed cloth, I had to dig holes, remove the stones and refil! to insert the ties! that took me longer than the assembly!! until I thought, hang on once the soil is in, I won't need them! DOH!
Gardeners supply don't mention the company on the web site but its on the box....and I was so happy, made in England...not so happy with the instructions and 2 missing bits, but still impressed.
Good luck whatever you do.

Here is a link that might be useful: minutes, my eye! well 60 at least! but I like them.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:14PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

If you do order through gardeners, check the shipping prices at the bottom of the page, I noticed that my shipping on slow mail was the same cost as the 2 day shipping, ordered sunday, got part on tuesday (raised beds) and the other bits and bobs today...don't know if that was due to the amount I spent $360+ (thats what I mean, about it all adding up)with shipping or just an oddity?
and if you think that my previous post was an ad, I have to admit I read through and thought about 2/3 was, but I am not totally happy and believe me if I could have got the wood free, I would have. I try to be frugal, but sometimes needs must!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:27PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

If you know you will always have all the water you'll need for the garden, then raised beds will work. If you ever think you'll have to experience a drought and water restrictions, then amend your soil and garden in it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:33PM
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I have about 500 square feet in raised beds. My husband made the frames with treated 2x6 lumber and brackets. He put an extra coating of something to make the lumber hold up longer. We put down a layer of roundup then cardboard and finally a layer of garden mix. The beds are watered with soaker hoses.

Our soil is clay and would have needed years of amendments, tilling and weeding. I do almost no weeding, no tilling and add compost only. There are costs associated with any garden startup. I have purchased compost tumblers but these last for years. I've bought no tiller or tractor. I spent very little on the garden this year and this is my 3ed year. Later this year I'll buy another compost tumbler and a few seeds, otherwise I'm good. Next year I'll buy a few seeds but don't expect to purchase anything else.

I can, freeze and dry my extra vegs but after the intial purchase of equipment I'm good for a few years and we are eating a varied diet year around.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 11:18AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

sorry my answer appeared so short and sweet, but in a nutshell that is as simple as is required, nothing broad in teh statement as the presentations on our site will show. and of course i see no purpose in re-inventing the wheel each time this question is raised.

raised beds simply make good sense, the only real work is establishing one from scratch there after the work load is limited to planting seedling and harvesting crops, no unnecessery digging. tilling, no weeding and controlled need to water (this largely dependent on natural rainfall of where ever a person may live) with the use of mulches.

yes they are good to alleviate a poor a drainage issue just as they are as good for those with sandy soils, and they can be built or built up to whatever height is needed as one get older, and those who are sadly handicapped also find them very helpfull.

they are a by nature a simple system that simply works. dunno what i ever did before i learnt the concept but for sure and certain i'm not going back, this i share with my fellow gardeners.

as you can see by this post i'm not heavily into one liners but to the original post backed by our site was all that was needed, that's how i do my gardening only what's needed and no more.


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

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 2:48PM
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If you are where you plan to live for a long time, go with raised beds. Otherwise, ground, containers, or hydroponics.

Number one reason to go with raised beds: Ease. You aren't getting younger and you could experience problems with your body you never expected. I didn't build raised beds for ease, but now that my knee and back have gotten so bad I am soooo glad I have raised beds. When I built raised beds some time back for my grandfather, he wondered why he hadn't done that years before. Sometimes people look at the garden and think only about the plants and their needs while forgetting they have needs to consider. Not just present ones, but future ones, too.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 4:25PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

Thanks, everyone. Remember, I'm talking about a total investment of perhaps $200. I'm not necessarily looking for the absolutely most superior garden system. I'm looking for the best investment of my money and effort in the next 6 weeks before I plant the fall/winter crops.

@Dan Staley,
Heating the ground up is not an issue in this zone. Keeping it cool enough for things other than eggplant, cowpeas, and watermelon to produce from late June to early August is.

BTW, I used to garden in your zone -- in Massachusetts. I found the reflected heat off the light-colored, south-facing wall of my house very useful to stretch my season a few weeks -- once DH got over the shock of putting garden instead of flower beds against the house.

It was the back yard there. I've got him desensitized now -- I have tomato plants in the front flowerbed now.

Been there and done that on two full years of the US southeastern drought, which officially ended in our area only this past winter. And even without restrictions due to drought we're on town water and paying for every drop. You've made a powerful argument for using the ground.

Long-term isn't the issue that relieving our food budget now is. We can't afford masonry and the pine beds that are $30/pair are only expected to last 3 years at the outside in this climate.

You're making me wish I could finance raised beds for my 78yo mother-in-law though. Her arthritis is making gardening more and more difficult, but not gardening at all would be intolerable for her.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 5:18PM
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Aesthetics in the garden aren't all or nothing. I like the look of raised beds, like many of the other posters, but in-ground gardens can be neat and attractive too. I think of raised beds as something I might get around to in later years as time and money allow, or creaking joints require. I'd like a wide lip, so I can sit on the edge to harvest, or just drink a cup of coffee and enjoy my garden.

In my opinion in-ground gardening would be the best use of your budget. Here's why:

-You don't have poor drainage (quite the converse). As someone else commented, raised beds might actually create a drainage problem.

-You don't have problems with soil not warming up until late in spring, so no particular benefit in raised beds there.

-Weeding doesn't have to be any more of a chore in the ground than in a raised bed, so again, no especial benefit of raised beds there. Since your soil is ultra-sandy, it's going to be loose and friable anyway, especially after you amend with some nice aged manure or compost. (I assume you don't walk on your garden beds, any more than you would get up and dance around in a raised bed - that's just common sense). And then you just have to mulch. Choose something that breaks down fairly quickly if you can, to get as much organic matter into the soil as possible as quickly as possible.

-It's not necessarily easier to install hoops in a raised bed. In an in-ground garden you can push some rebar or bamboo stake into the ground, and top with felxible piping or old hose. Throw the plastic or row cover over, Clip on with cut pieces of the same pipe/hose, or bulldog clips, and hold the edges down with a few pieces of wood/rocks/brick. It's easy to disassemble and store at season's end, and easy to move to another part of the garden next year.

-Finally, deciding to garden in-ground now doesn't mean you're never allowed to have a raised bed in the future. AS you amend your soil each year your garden beds will get higher anyway. You can decide to box them in and top them up with higher quality soil or compost at a later date - like if you came across a free source of lumber or top soil.

So my vote goes to gardening right in the ground! Good luck convincing your DH.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 7:12PM
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leira(6 MA)

I would just garden in the ground, because I think it would be both a lot cheaper and a lot less work, and these things seem valuable to you right now.

A lot of people really love raised beds, and that's great. However, there's nothing wrong with gardening in good, old-fashioned dirt.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 9:29PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

I read an article years and years ago about actually sinking the beds for really dry climates like Arizona. But, the thought of that just makes my knees cringe. :-)

I don't have any framework around my beds, so maybe they are more like compost/dirt lumps than proper raised beds. I just like that I know where to walk, and where not too, and the dogs mostly do, DH and kids do. Plus, I have the opposite problem of you, mine's clay with lots of limestone. My beds are mounded up a couple of inches (maybe six?) with mulched walkways in-between. I don't use any power tools, and only use a saddle-hoe to 'work' my soil in the spring. So, for me, raised beds are the lazy woman's way to garden, without too much strain on the carpal tunnel syndrome, or the knees.

It did take five or six years to get my beds up where I want them, through additions of compostables, and a few beds still need more. But, I was in this for the long haul, and I had very heavy clay, bad hands, and a colder climate to start. With loose sandy soil, warmer weather, and if you don't have any signs of arthritis, CTS, bad back, etcetera, it is quicker to just till the whole thing up and plant.

If it were me, and I was debating my husband, I'd grow a challenge garden of each. I'd skip the fancy retaining walls, just mounding the soil can give you a reasonable idea if raised beds are right for you.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 10:13PM
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I don't see much advantage to a raised bed for you if you'll be putting the same soil into them that you already have on the ground.

I don't like the look of raised beds, myself. They remind me of button-down shirts and pantyhose. I prefer natural looking gardens, and I mulch with compost and a thick layer of straw. Not Ruth Stout thick, just about three inches, but there's no tilling and very little weeding. Straw is very nice to sit on, drains and dries quickly after a rain, so there's no bending for me at all. I sit completely down, then scoot/crawl around. I'm sure I look funny from Google Earth, but I'm relaxed and peaceful. My flower beds are mulched with pine fines, but I prefer the rustic look of straw in a vegetable patch. I tried pine fines one year and it just looked ridiculous, not to mention I missed the visual interest of different mulch.

I'm sure you could use pine needles, too, I just don't like the way they feel underfoot--all rolly and shifty, and they make a funny crunching sound that prickles my skin like nails on a chalkboard.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 11:28PM
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I am in Zone 5a with raised beds (4' wide x 14ft long and 10~12" high) for vegetables. In fall, just before the ground freeze, I bring my perennial pots, new shrubs, rose pots and bury them to the top of the pot in the raised beds until spring. I dig them out in the spring to make the raised beds ready for vegetable again. I do not lose plants to freezing during the Canadian winter. I have the feeling that the raised beds also warm up faster. The added advantage is the neat separation between tomatoes peppers etc and the ease of access across the bed for different activities such as inspection, weeding, fertilization, watering etc. Having had them for over 20 years, I wouild not want to do without the raised beds.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 1:09AM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

I also just sit down and scootch along the ground as I work. I'm finding that one of the major advantages of being past 40 is that I no longer care if I look silly. :-D

The one natural resource I've got in abundance here is pine straw. Not ordinary, little pine needles, but the 6-12" stuff from the loblolly and longleaf pines. When I need mulch I just pick up a rake and there it is -- acid, but FREE. :-)

The stuff is actually so valuable to sell that when people own a few acres of pines they've got to watch out or people will come along and steal it.

What I like best about it, other than the price, is that its airy and dry. I'm trying part of the garden with pine straw and part with grass clippings and am observing both for general success.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 7:26AM
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I scavenged old waterbeds to get raised bed lumber, and bought 1 redwood 4x4 for the posts: total cost about $10. They are still usable after 5 years.

There were two separate beds that I joined this year to make more room.

They were filled with a mix of dirt taken from the bed area and a few high spots on the lot and a bunch of partly composted tree shreddings. Every year I dump on more compost, soil sulfur and some ammonium sulfate or phosphate.

The straw-like material is tree branch shreddings as a mulch and mud control.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 3:33PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

I am in Colorado with clay, alkaline soil, much different than your situation. My ph is 7.9 with a nitrogen and phosphorous deficiency. I have a designated veggie garden that is oblong, about 16ft wide by 22ft long. I brought in a truckload of compost and tilled it in the entire area, then set up a raised bed using retaining wall block. The raised bed is 9 retaining wall blacks long by 4 blocks wide. I stand the blocks on end with the short end down on the first block, then place the long end down on the next block so they knit together. It makes a solid wall this way. I filled it with a mix of compost, humus, peat moss and a bag of mg garden soil mix. I plant tomatoes and peppers in the raised bed. Since you need to rotate these crops, I move the raised bed to a different section of the veggie bed the next year. In the spring I pull out the block and till the raised bed soil into the entire garden area. After 3 years of doing this, I have really good garden soil. You can do the same thing using pavers, railroad ties, lots of different materials. I too, have budget constraints and pick up pavers, block and rr ties by hunting on Craigslist. You can get gardening materials for half or a third of retail price this way. A couple of times I've jumped on ads where someone was tearing out a garden and let me have the stuff for free if I was willing to pull the material and haul it away. Get creative and realize this is an ongoing process. Have fun with it!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 8:44AM
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gardener_mary(6 MA)

I'll throw my 2 cents in, if I had to choose between adding edging to my garden or adding needed soil amendments, I would choose to amend the soil. I like raised beds when I'm adding lots of soil and amendments to really build up the height of the soil, only because it holds the soil in place. If the soil will not be an improvement, I do not see any reason in spending limited resources on it. I would only put in raised beds if you can afford to fill them with a superior soil blend. Just my opinion, feed the soil and it will feed the plants.

I wish I could send you the 2 bags of composted manure that I bought that turned out to be clay soil, I already had enough of my own, they would be good for your sandy soil. I would add as much aged manure, peat moss and other organic matter as you can get and think about building raised beds later when you can afford much better soil.

Good gardening, Mary

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 8:58PM
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Thanks, everyone. Remember, I'm talking about a total investment of perhaps $200.

$200 for 30 raised beds?

I'm comparing/experimenting with both. Got some good loam trucked in and built a long raised mound and a large raised bed. The plants that have rally taken off are the ones in containers (tomatoes and eggplants).

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 9:09PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

I would amend the ground I like all the options it gives me and drought resistance and cooler soil would be a big advantage where you are at

It might depend on if you have a truck to haul with put an add on craigslist to collect leaves and yard waste and lots of manure or check with the county for waste or compost

Craigslist can also be great for finding raised bed materials and soil from other peoples gardens

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 11:28AM
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Dan Staley

Thanks, everyone. Remember, I'm talking about a total investment of perhaps $200.

$200 for 30 raised beds?

I missed this the first time.

That's a tight budget for the square footage and soil type. Hopefully lots of free stuff that can be immediately turned into the soil is available. Time is the alternative to money, and time might be what is needed to overcome the budget for that much space.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 1:34PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

We've concluded that for the time being we will invest in improving the soil we've got where it is.

Then, as we can afford it, he'll put his herbs into raised beds to create a formal garden appearance in the front yard near the driveway and we'll ring my vegetable garden in raised beds while leaving the center for in-ground plantings of the more unruly veggies.

That way it will still present a tidy appearance from the road and the front of the house while giving me the greater versatility of in-ground plantings for the majority of the area.

Thanks for offering your points of view so we could get a good handle on the pros and cons of both options.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 3:34PM
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Raised mounds is another way to go with many of the advantages of raised beds.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 8:38PM
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I make my raised beds out of sandbags, and it seems to work really well for me. I'm so clueless with tools and wood that I'm not sure which end of the hammer you hit things with, so that wasn't an option; and I can't afford stone, so bags of sand turned out to be the way to go, for me.

I was lucky enough to get all the bags (already filled!) for free the first year, from the soil testing lab at the engineering firm I work for. (That hasn't worked out as well in the last few years because I need so many bags at a time, but the bags only cost about 15-25 cents each, and a pick-up truck load of whatever sand is cheapest at the landscaping facility to fill them with is only 11 dollars).

I use the 15" by 27" white polypropylene UV-treated sand bags with tie strings attached. They hold up pretty well for me, usually a year or more. Eventually, they start ripping (probably because I sit down on them to weed so often, and I'm not skinny :), and I dump out the sand that was in the bag, mix it with some compost, and toss it in the veggie beds.

The beds honestly don't turn out as tacky-looking as they sound. (I wish I had a camera!) Stacked 2 bags high like I have them, in a half over-lapping brick pattern; and because the bags are plain white, it just kind of looks like big pieces of fieldstone, especially with the mulch all around the beds in the paths.

If you wanted to try something similar, check your local phone book for geotechnical engineering firms, paving companies, concrete plants, commercial borrow pits and rock mines and quarries. Also your local branch office of the US Dept. of Transportation. All those places have full sand and rock sampling bags laying around all the time, and usually just heave them into dumpsters. They also usually also have stockpiles of various kinds of dirt: and all that black, organic, grass & wood debris-filled dirt that concrete and paving contractors PAY to haul off their job sites and have disposed of is free gardener's gold.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 2:40PM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

Actually, over the summer I've found that, in this ultra-sandy soil, it actually works better for me to plant in basins and trenches. The raised beds require an additional day of watering every week above and beyond the ground plantings.

Here are my second crop squash and cukes:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 5:05PM
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I think both work, I use both.
I got my lumber free & some one else got over half of what was there.
I have enough to make up 5 more raised beds 5'X 40'X 12".
That is about 200 square feet, now to get the compost ready.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 7:25PM
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I'm sure different areas and soil types vary but my experience with in ground gardening in Austin, TX has been good. Trying to make good gardening soil here takes effort.
My main goal is to make great soil for vegetables with as little input as possible.

We're on scrub land to begin with, not good for much except raising really hardy cattle. Vegetable gardening is what I'm working towards and it's a harsh learning curve when you've got 3" of soil on top of limestone bedrock...if you're lucky.

The best way I've found on the cheap in our climate, soil type is to prep a garden by tilling the entire area well and then adding copious amounts of finished compost and tilling/mixing it. Then you lay out your garden plots and with a shovel, scoop that now refreshed/tilled soil onto what are the garden beds and leave the path bare. So you've taken that 3" of soil and Very quickly turned it into a workable 6" but only in the beds.

I then go in and put free cedar mulch heavily in the paths. Tree trimming companies will drop it off by the dump truck load for free and my city provides it for free as well. We're talking 6" at least, if not more in the paths. I pile it on, it makes an excellent path to walk on, it's good for your back and it holds a huge amount of moisture when it rains which is lacking in our area. Over time this organic matter will break down and several years later you could grow vegetables in the path if you wanted.

Raised beds made of wood always seem to disintegrate quickly. I've seen some nice ones made of bricks and such but overall I like this method, it works for our climate. The main input it initial labor, tilling and the compost. For around $400 you could start a garden around 40'x40' this way. That's a large amount of space.

I tend to think of soil as being built...from the ground up. Each year the garden it a little higher than the rest of the yard if you do it right. :P

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 3:03AM
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I have 14 raised beds, each of them about 30 feet long, and from 3 to 4 feet wide. This is half of our veggie garden area we've set aside.

I did not use any sides, we simply tilled deeply, then piled the top soil from the paths onto the beds, giving us a foot of depth of top soil.

These are permanent beds, and we are keeping them mulched with straw, so no erosion takes place. No weeding, just adding more straw, and the ground is staying nice and soft, as we never walk on them.

... except for the dog, who learned quickly to use paths, and one naughty filly who jumped the fence to explore the garden while we were digging the beds. LOL

The garden slopes down until a corner holds too much water. This used to destroy my plants, but since the beds were put in they've done just fine.

We do not have to water much at all.

For us, this is a good system. We are hoping to build permanent vertical beds, using cattle panels, where we will also mulch with straw, just like the beds. My hope is to grown as much as possible, things that would normally take up a lot of space, vertically. It will be sweet to walk through green arches in summer, anyway.

Transplanting good strong plants from the greenhouse is our next big focus, as direct seeding through straw is too iffy for my taste. We hope to get the greenhouse done by the end of February.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 9:38AM
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goudananda, that is how I made my beds, I till the whole garden, just as if I am going to lay off single rows.
I cut in leaves, straw, manure & compost in the fall. Then in Spring I till again & lay off the beds 4-5ft. wide X40 long. I cut a 18 inch wide path by removing down 8inches deep.
I did one bed with a 18 inch wide X 18 inch deep path, but it is to high & the top soil in that area was only 12 inches deep.
gooseberryfool, that is about 1680 square feet of growing bed.?!! What kind of goose berries do you have & is there a goose berry thread on this site?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 9:08PM
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Yes, we are working toward self-sufficiency.

We only have Pixwell gooseberries. I'd like some others, but not in the budget right now.

They were not doing well where I'd had them for several years, the roots were too warm and dry. So this fall I moved them, I think there are 7 of them, and I hope they will do better in a place that has a little shade during the day, as well as being heavily mulched with straw. I'm a little worried about drainage. If we get a lot of rain, their roots may be wetter than they like.

I don't know if there is a gooseberry thread here.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 12:29AM
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