Ask a Question forum→Filling a Raised Bed on a Tight Budget

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New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
Kevin56
May 16, 2020 10:20 AM CST
Last year was my first attempt at a vegetable garden and the place they had set up turned out to not have all day sun. This year I've built two 4'x4'x15" raised garden beds and need to fill them with the least amount of money out of pocket. I have one area on our lot I can harvest soil from it is a pretty boggy area that the former owners had a pig pen on.

I was planning on putting a layer of this stuff on top of the 3" layer of partially decayed leaves and grass I got from a 2 year old pile I had. I've included a picture of the pig pen area, and one of a 5-gallon bucket's worth of the muck I dug out of there. As you can see there is quite a few twigs mixed in. I'm wondering whether this is okay to use as is, or if it will be too dense and needs to be mixed with peat moss?

I'm guessing that the 8 buckets of this stuff I have so far will only bring the level up another few inches so I may add more of it so that I can minimize the amount of soil and peat moss I need to buy. From what I've read tomatoes, the primary plan for these beds, need 8-12" of available rooting depth.

Any suggestions on how to bring the depth up from there as economically as possible?

Another question I have is I've heard tomato plants need to be at least anywhere from 8" to 16" apart, is there any actual consensus on this?

Thanks very much for any advice you can offer. Oh the only other thing that may go in these beds are peppers depending on how many tomato plants I can get in.
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slowcala
May 16, 2020 10:38 AM CST
Welcome! here new member. The compost with the twigs in it are fine. You should be able to break up the twigs with a spade, but overall they are fine.

You need to find a landfill in your area that chops up Christmas trees, yard waste, mulch, etc. and sells it for a small fee or sometimes it's free. I like free!

If you have a truck you can haul it yourself and save money, but the thing is you are going to need more compost. Yes, tomatoes need to be planted deep. Their roots are very long and they need good soil to grow in. They will need at least 12 to 18 inches between them or less if you are growing them vertically and tying them up for support. I have used many different things to support tomatoes, but the fact is that they become very heavy when loaded with fruit and it is a challenge to keep them supported. The best method I've ever seen is a wire fence right down the middle of the patch and tie the limbs up as they grow. Whatever you use for support it needs to go in right after the tomatoes go in the ground.

Hope this helps. Another good thing to use in the water when they start to ripen is Epsom salt. It makes them sweeter.

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central Maryland
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sallyg
May 16, 2020 2:21 PM CST
Ex pig muck sounds very rich so I would fill with cheap topsoil for at least some of that
Tomatoes at 16 inch is a bare minimum spacing in my opinion.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
May 16, 2020 4:25 PM CST
Kevin, I recommend that you first Google "trench composting" and read the articles by Compost Education Center and The Spruce, plus any others you desire.

I suggest you dig down in the raised bed about 5-10 inches and pile the dirt at one end, place the pig muck in the hole, the the leaves & twigs, the cover with the dirt removed and any soil/compost/etc you plan on buying.

Today, I dug a 12-15 inch deep hole, and will put in the hole new grass clippings, weeds, and kitchen scraps (including meat, paper napkins, grease) and cover all with the dirt originally removed. Next month plan on growing cucumbers on top.
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Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 16, 2020 5:19 PM CST
Don't layer, just mix. It sounds like you have everything you need right there.

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New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
Kevin56
May 17, 2020 2:38 AM CST
Thank you so much everyone! I'm looking forward to seeing how much better things go in an area with full sun this year.

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