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Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 31, 11 at 7:08

I have this new vegetable bed, but no soil to fill it. This time of year, all I have in my compost bin are old leaves. Any suggestions for what I could fill it with quickly that would allow me to plant it soon, that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg?

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Local municipal collection center, where the leaves and brush go. A lot places pile that up and let it break down, you can drive in and shovel it into barrels or pick-up.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Have you thought about lasagna gardening? That's how I usually start all my raised beds, and it would allow you to use all those leaves. Is there a nearby farm that would have manure? Can you get straw? I have planted very successfully in new raised beds using this method - and when the soil level does change, I just add more compost, and mulch with old straw. In an area where we are lucky enough to be able to garden year round, I never have had an issue. My sister, who lives in a cold-winter zone, uses the winter to build up the soil in her beds so they are ready for spring planting.

Just an idea. Good luck!


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Thanks for those ideas. Our municipal collections are not organic, so I haven't used those. I wish they were, that would be great! I think there is somewhere in Canada where they are really strict about what goes in to the collection sites, which would be great for organic gardening.

Yes, I'm thinking lasagna gardening and using some potting soil right under the transplants to plant into it right away. I just can't imagine how to get enough materials to fill that bed. I would use manure if it were for the flower beds, but I don't feel comfortable using it for vegetables. I was thinking of trying to use shredded paper, maybe cardboard. I hadn't thought of straw, and I could buy that. Good idea. Maybe I'll have to wait for grass clippings to mix with my old leaves. I suppose if I break up the soil under the bed and turn it over, it might bring the level of the soil higher in the box too. Kitchen scraps just would be like a drop in a bucket.

I just thought of something. Maybe I could ask on Freecycle for organic compost or fill? It's a long shot, but I did see someone offer some of that a couple of years ago.

Thanks for the ideas.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

This question might be unhelpful, even unwelcome, considering the current raised bed/in-ground 'debate': Why are you building raised beds? I understand there's many, many good reasons to have them, and looking at your zone, I wouldn't be surprised if it's at least partly a warmth issue...
I often see people constructing them, ignoring the perfectly good soil underneath and creating major irrigation issues for themselves.
My ex-raised bed 'edges' are really useful, but not for what I originally installed them!


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Hi feijoas, actually, I was unaware that there is a 'debate' on the subject. I have a number of reasons for using raised beds rather than growing solely in the ground. I've had a vegetable garden both ways and I prefer this. I also had the wood sitting around with no use for it. I don't think that the soil under the bed is ignored. Roots must travel lower then the bottom of my raised beds. And not sure why you think this causes an irrigation issue? In the ground or raised beds, plants still have to be watered. I have soaker hoses for my beds that work great. And if the plants were in the ground, I'd use the same watering methods.

And I don't mind your question, so much, just since I already have my beds built and you can see photos of them, it seems a question that is pointless to ask after the fact, no? But, since others are reading my thread, I suppose you want to present an opposing point of view. That's fine.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Not to start a debate about 'organic', but the muni stuff is largely decomposed leaves. Not going to be hardly any round-up or other chemicals in that. Seems going a little far to ignore a useful resource because there might be some tiny traces of garden-shed chemicals.

Way better that that not have enough inputs and not grow that amount of produce and instead have to buy organic produce that is grown on huge farms in soil impoverished of minerals.

I recently got a brix meter and let me tell you, the organic produce is not a lot better than the ordinary junk. Better, but not nearly enough. Something else, since you are building growing beds: see if there is a stone countertop fabricator near you where they cut granite and do they pile up the dust someplace. Mix a bit of that in with the OM. Lots of minerals in it. Basalt is better but they don't use that for tops.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

prairiemoon2, I had a bad feeling my post would come off wrong, but posted anyway. Sorry, I should've kept my fingers to myself!
Of course, I'm basing my opinion on my own climate etc.
The irrigation thing I mentioned is just that with the added height, all the raised beds I've met dry out really quickly.
I realise my question could be "pointless" cosidering your already constructed beds, but I suppose after an awful lot of 'undoing' my own raised beds, I can't help poking my nose in.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

feijoas, thank you for posting again. I hope I didn't bite your head off. [g]
I was just excited about my new bed and wasn't expecting that. Past recommendations I've read have encouraged the use of raised beds, so that was a surprise. Just to be clear, I know there is nothing wrong with growing without a raised bed. I'm sure it works out great for lots of people.

I don't find my beds dry out too fast. I do keep a good mulch on them and I have clay soil which can sometimes use a little drying out. I had a cement block bed once and I took that apart after one season. It heated up too fast and I didn't enjoy it at all.

pnbrown, I would hope that organic growing is not a cause for debate on the 'organic gardening' forum. [g] I'm sorry that you disagree with me, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I personally don't think it is going too far. I have spent the last 30 years not using any chemicals in my garden and I'm not about to bring in materials from someone else's garden whose been using round up and who knows what else in theirs.

I think we'd all be better off today, if more people had been erring on the side of caution all these years. And I don't see how you make a leap to the conclusion that without those materials from the municipal sites, that I won't be growing organic produce? But thanks for the suggestion for the granite dust. I didn't know that was helpful but makes sense.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

When I first start my beds, the majority of the "filler" ends up being straw. I have used both newly purchased straw, as well as bales that are "old" - wet, etc. I get some new ones for the garden, and the walls of my compost pile are straw, which I use once the compost is gone. I tend to use the old straw as a mulch, and just pack the flakes of the new bales in like puzzle pieces when building the bed. Leaves, grass, paper, cardboard as the bottom layer to kill the grass - all are good layers, and will eventually break down. I sprinkle bone and blood meals on some of the layers when I have it, sometimes I don't. I dig holes, which I fill using organic potting soil. If I'm planting seeds, I just dig a row, and fill the row with potting soil, and plant the seeds! Makes it easy to see your rows... As long as you give the plants enough nutrients that first year, and keep adding mulch as needed, it should be fine. I live in Northern CA ( read that as little to no rain in the spring/summer)- and keeping the beds watered is not a problem - just tuck the irrigation hoses/drippers/whatever under the mulch! Actually, the straw mulch helps a LOT with moisture retention. I have also been known to mulch with grass clippings. As you do, I tend to steer clear of municipal mulch - although I do get manure from a nearby stable - they let it 'cure', as she calls it, then it is free for the taking. I tend to use it as a layer nearer the bottom or middle of the bed, so by the time the roots make it down that far, it is pretty integrated with the other layers. I do this with ALL my beds, veggie and flower - although many of mine are a combo of both. This may not be the correct way to do this, but it has worked for me for years. We have very hard clay soil, digging in it can be like digging in concrete! So these beds are perfect for me, and the plants are thriving.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

you may want to research granet dust,it leaches radiation


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

The level of uranium in granite varies as I understand it. It is supposedly higher in Brazilian granite, which is being imported into north america a lot lately for counter tops. The shop where I recently got a bunch of free dust uses all brazilian. I guess if I get cancer and die in the next few years it will turn out to have been inadvisable. Of course, deadly cancer is rampant and it can't all be caused by granite counter tops, can it? Toxic compounds in the groundwater is much more likely the culprit.

Speaking of polluted groundwater: residential septic systems. Alternative: leaves, sawdust, secure compost pile, time, garden, food.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Thanks Kathy for the straw idea and for sharing your methods that have been successful for you. I'm sure I can find some straw at our local nurseries.

pnbrown, I'm having a hard time understanding your approach. Yes, there are a lot of potential risks in everything around us but to evaluate the risk and to eliminate what you can and attempt to be careful and cautious is one way of going about it. Of course, there's the other way, which is to just throw up your hands and say 'I can't be that careful and something is going to get me any way, so why worry about it.' My point of view, is that lots of things are out of our control, but lots of things ARE in our control. Like putting granite dust in your vegetable beds when you know there might have a high level of uranium. If you were aware of that, I'm wondering why you didn't mention it when you adviced me to use it.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

I didn't say "high", I said "higher". An important distinction, IOW, Brazilian granite has a tiny percentage that is perhaps a bit more than the tiny percentage in some other granites. Also, I didn't advise you to use brazilian granite. Beyond that is the fact that your clay soil is partly composed of rotted granite and there is undoubtedly some level of uranium there. Your clay soil also has a much better mineral content than any organic soil you will eventually buy for your raised bed.

Maybe a radon test of your indoor air is within your control?


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

I did a major killing of my lawn with cardboard before I started my NO dig raised beds with the paper, straw, blood meal, bone meal, alfalfa layered with compost on top. Water thoroughly...can frame in if untreated wood is available. So far, I have great soil after second year. Added more in fall to keep weeds out and kept built up for spring planting. I now have 7 raised beds with one around a tree stump for a strawberry hill. I am having way to much fun with my gardens.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

On the radioactive granite unless you are putting over a tonn of granite dust the radiation from the granite will not effect you. The amount of radiation from granite on average is only slightly higher than the natural back ground levels. But i'm from Texas and according to almost every product I pick up that is not a food product there is something known to the state of California that causes cancer. Granite dust like lava sand is a good ammendment.


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

I agree with the Lasagna method previously suggested. I have raised beds (see link below) and would start off by layering cardboard (get discards from local appliance center (yeah for fridge boxes!) or grocery store), then straw, then manure from a friend who has horses/cattle (and has NOT de-wormed recently), then your leaves, then grass clippings, then purchased *organic* compost (if possible- we have a great place here, or you can purchase it at a good garden center). Repeat layers, as needed, and expect serious settling of materials the first year or two, which you can replenish with compost, or in the fall repeat with lasagna layers to break down over the winter. (sheet composting)

I would NEVER use compost from a municipal center, personally. People put their dog poop in it, grass clippings from lawns with herbicides/pesticides and any other trash in it that they would rather not walk all the way over to put into the real trash can. I know that others have different views on municipal compost, but that is my view.

You can then seriously jam out some compost so it is ready to spread in a month or two, if possible. (I use straw bedding in my chicken coop [chickens were added to our home for their poop, not eggs, so I could have great compost!] and combined with grass/kitchen waste and reasonable watering, I can churn out compost in about 4-6 weeks)

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: My Raised Beds Thread


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RE: Filling empty raised bed quickly, ideas?

Some random ideas about finding materials to make your soil. I had to do some of that too when making mine. A couple of ideas first though, is to line the inside of your wood with heavy plastic (not the dirt since you don't want to create a bathtub). I have clay soil so I attempted to "open it up" so that roots could grown down before I added the good soil on top. I poked a lot of holes (or till) and added chunky material (like wood chips) plus blood meal for nitrogen.

Drive around. If you spot horse farms, or the like, many times there are piles of "dirt" in the back. When they clean out the stalls, they take the bedding and dump it out back. Been there for years and are piles of free compost.

If you don't want to wait on the lasagna method, then make your own soil. Plain dirt, like what builders would order for fill is pretty cheap. Mix it with some sand (masons sand at a lumber yard is totally clean).

But, you have to find/spend money on/make good compost or manure. That's absolutely the ticket to a healthy garden.


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