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Raised beds

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  • Raised beds

    I wanted to start a new topic, but did not see the opportunity, so I will be posting here. I am going to be planting my vegetables in raised beds this year. I will keep everyone up-to-date on the progress. Onions, carrots, herbs, lettuce, beans, squash, cukes, leeks, tomatoes, peppers and maybe radishes. I will have 5 beds 4'x8'x2'deep, or so, with soil mixture of sand, dirt and compost. I am in Oregon, so this should be fun.

  • #2
    Raised beds
    I am working on restoring a raised bed for my gardening this year. My garden was destroyed last year by hurricane Ike. I believe this is my 4th try at a vegetable garden. The first one, I raised the garden by 4". Invested in plants and seeds, planned it carefully to ensure that the items that required moist soil were together, did everything to make it look great except; choose the spot before the trees began to bloom. By spring it was not enough sun. The second year I changed locations and tried again, it rained unseasonably for us and all my vegetables were ruined. The cucumbers were 18" long and filled with water. Just horrible! In 2008, I got it right! Again, raised the garden and filled it with great soil. I had one 4x8 sheet of lattice erected for the vine plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans. They were plentiful, even after fighting and winning a flea infestation. The peppers, collard green plant, lettuce, carrots, mint, basil, strawberries, everything was good! Then the hurricane and debris from the restoration killed it. The only thing that survived was the rosemary and my lemon tree. So, Mr/Ms Raised Beds, let's do it! I am in Houston and I will keep everyone up-to-date too.


    • #3
      When you address 'raised beds' are you referring to soil mounds or using a structure to build your raise beds?


      • #4
        I am not sure who you are asking, but I am using dimensional lumber to make sure the plants actually have good soil to grow in. Our ground here is hard packed clay about 12" deep. I will not be using treated lumber tho as I do not want the possibility of the preservatives leeching into the dirt and contaminating my food. I know I will need to replace the wood in a few years, but the alternative is not an option.


        • #5
          The treated lumber won't contaminate your food or harm your plants. My extension agent told me, years ago, that the preservative chemicals are not systemic and will not be taken-up by the plants - nor will it kill worms and other soil organisms. Soil tests within 2" of treated wood show a very slight elevation of inorganic arsenic, but well within acceptable levels. Farther than 2", there is no trace of arsenic above normal background amounts. The newer preservatives are arsenic free because of all the - mostly needless - worry about it.

          People around here have used womanized tomato stakes for years. I never heard of anyone getting sick or having any other problems with it.

          Last edited by eltejano; 01-28-2010, 02:40 AM.


          • #6
            Thanks, but I do know that the wood is treated with stuff that is NO doubt not good for us. So I bought the regular lumber at 1/2 the price as treated wood. In fact as I think I previously stated, the "deck wood" is not rated for ground contact anyway, so there is no reason to take a chance. But thanks. I know there have been arguments both ways for over 20 years, and each side of the argument bring great information to the table.


            • #7
              Reason for raised beds

              My question is what is the reason for raised beds and I am asking this out of ignorance. I was raised on a farm and still have a garden every year (just can't get it out of my system). We never had raised beds although I am always interested in learning newer things and better ways.
              That said, do you have raised beds if you are limited on space (I have 6 acres so no shortage of space) or is it a way to have a garden in a confined area. Is a raised bed only if it is contained in like a box? Is it because it makes the soil softer and lighter for a more plant depth?
              I am considering making raised beds this year although it will be time consuming I want to see what the advantages or disavantages are.

              Thanks aheah for your answers and your help,


              • #8

                It's better to be safe than sorry, that's for sure. I've noticed that the new treated lumber all seems to say "above ground only" - and it doesn't have that green color - doesn't even look like womanized lumber anymore! I've always used womanized landscape timbers for fence posts - a lot cheaper than 4X4's - but the batch I just bought for an electric fence has that disclaimer. I used them anyway and may have to replace them in a couple years :-) Hopefully they will hold-up a little longer than untreated lumber. We used to use creosote in the old days, but the termites still got to it.



                I gardened with boxed-in beds for years. The main advantage is containment of soil amendments and nutrients, and better drainage. They are more compact and well-defined in a backyard situation - and they look nice. Another advantage is you can make it level. My yard is sloped, complicating gravity irrigation, and I was able to build the beds level on top. I now garden 3 acres but my wife still uses the beds for her daylilies - and she loves them. If I were still gardening on a small scale I would use boxed-in beds. The main disadvantage for me was getting a tiller and mower in and out of them.

                Let's use first names - easier to remember. I'm Jack
                Last edited by eltejano; 01-30-2010, 03:44 AM. Reason: Spelling


                • #9
                  I actually replied, but hit the X.......

                  As Jack indicated, I want to be able to control the soil and fertilizer, and here in Oregon, it can be a bit soggy in the summer. So I built 5 raised beds (boxes) that are nearly 2' deep. I have attached a picture of them so you can see. I made them so tall because I do not want to be bening down to harvest, and weeding will be a lot easier. They measure 4'x8', so getting into the middle back will be a challenge, but I have a step stool for that. I placed these beds against the fence, and put corrugated vinyl behind the beds so the dirt will not rot out the fence.

                  Jack, I know you can still purchase Wolmanized lumber here, but it is usually from a lumber store, and not a Lowes or Home DEpot. The farm store here, has fence posts that are treated for ground contact, but theyt are expensive.

                  Have a great weekend....................Randy
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    Rasied Beds

                    Wow! your beds are really raised. They look great! That's a lot of soil.

                    My reason for raising my little garden is to have better soil. The ground in my yard is clay, by early May, it is solid. The first time we did not add any soil and it was very hard for the water to get to the plants unless there was a major rain or you ran the water for hours. The soil in the bed is a better quality, it;s loose. I would love to raise it higher just to keep my dog away.

                    Before I read your inputs, I placed a call to my favorite store, Wabash, to ask their opnion about the treated lumber. But, even before getting a call back, I have already decided that I will just use yellow pine. One of the purposes of my gardening efforts is to get away from chemicals, in addition to my family history of a backyard garden and my love of working outside. There is nothing like a tomatoe, cucumber, pepper and greens from the backyard! Hummmmm, I can't wait.



                    • #11
                      My given soil at my home was very very very hard pan soil. I had to dump 160 yards of top soil to get my garden started.


                      • #12
                        Great looking beds, Randy. You'll need to closely monitor the moisture, though, having them that high. You probably have heavier soil than I do. I have sandy loam and it doesn't hold water at all - it can rain 2" and three days later it's bone dry! The beauty of raised beds is that you can ceate any kind of soil you want.

                        Are you going to put-in drip irrigation? If so, don't use those old emitters. There's a great new product on the market called "drip tape." You can google that and read all abouit it. It buries under, or near the plants, operates at 8lbs pressure and can be put on a timer. You can also add soluble fertilizer to the irrigation water if you want. You have a pretty good sized garden there and hand watering may be too time consuming.

                        Lynn, I'm in East Texas and yellow pine would rot out very quickly here. Cedar or redwood or some sort of hardwood would be better, but costly. Perhaps you may want to check a little further on the newer treated lumber. I think it's much less toxic now than before. Or maybe you could consider cement blocks or brick - very attracive and lasts forever! I really hate to see you go to all that work with pine. Here in the Pineywoods we have lots of free pine timber and one time I used yellow pine logs for raised beds - they were completely rotted in two years. A stack of pine firewood lasts for one year outside. A lot of this depends on your location, though. Unless you're in Arizona lol, I would check a little further into the treated wood - I really don't think you would get any contamination to the plants. Good Luck with the project.



                        • #13
                          Yes there will be a lot of dirt to bring in, 12 yards. But the ground there right now will not support much. In fact the flowers that are growing there were in potting soil of some kind. I want some sand in the mix because I am going to be growing root crops, and unless there is a relatively large percentage of mulch in the soil, I am afraid it will compact and my carrots will be round like radishes.

                          I have not decided if I will be putting in a drip or not, but at some point in the future I will be. I will be planting a lot of different veggies, but being unemployed, I need to watch my spending.


                          • #14
                            Randy - Remember that I see everything from a perspective of the hot, humid deep south. I don't know nything about your Oregon conditions - except that it rains a lot and everything stays wet all the time - and wet wood rots!

                            I didn't look closely enough at the photo. This morning I enlarged it and I don't like what I see - several very serious problems - which I hate to pont-out now that they're done - but Lynn hasn't started her's yet. Randy, I see real trouble there (1) your corner posts appear to be sitting on pads - no good! They need to be sunk at least two feet, preferably concreted, and be no less than 4X4. (2) There's a lot of pressure on the sides of a box that large when the soil gets saturated and you need a heavy post in the middle of those 8' sides for sure, and I would put them all 2' apart. (3) Most serious of all, the posts have to be on the OUTSIDE of the box. The fasteners, whether screws, nails or small carriage bolts, will pull right out when the wood softens. (4) finally, the side boards ae usually sunk in the ground a couple inches. There appears to be an air space under the box - never seen a raised bed built like that, because you'll loose moisture too fast.

                            Randy, from what I see there, if I'm looking right, wouldn't last a month here - even with treated lumber. In fact, I don't think they're built strongly enough to even support the load of the dirt - especially if you used screws or nails. I would urge you to disassemble those, sink some heavy treated posts, treat the lumber you have with a preservative - or buy treated boards. I don't think the treated lumber presents any hazard. Your only realistic, long-term alterntive would .be masonry - especially in that wet climate. That lumber you have would make good forms for poured concrete walls.

                            One other tip - I would make them 16" ft long instead of 8, so you don't have so many separate zones if you install a drip system later. I'm sorry to do this and I hope you understand I'm just being honest - for the sake of others. And I hope you don't buy expensive top soil to fill those boxes until you rebuild them.



                            • #15
                              Jack, I appreciate the concern...... It does rain here a lot, but I have limited resources as well as things that I can and can not do. Just so you know, I have been talking to several peopel locally, and YES the depth is DEEP. But if I bring in top soil with out any real ammendments in it for the bottom half, and bring in the lighter soil for the top, I do not believe I will be popping the sides. They may bow, yes, but I can not go into the ground in this are more then about 8" because of the rocks and clay. This is over an existing creek bed that was covered over in the 60's to build the homes. I will only be getting enuff soil for one bed at a time. As well, I have been talking to a lot of local people here, and they have told me that the wood should last 5-10 years, and I know I can not get much more then that even with the treated lumber.

                              The gap under is because the soil is lower in the front then the planting curb this is sitting on. I have no idea why people would put in a planter curb, then plant arbovitae, which was there when I bought the place. I will fill the gap with dirt when I get it.

                              Again thanks for the concern.