All Things Gardening forum: Tips for starting a new garden bed

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Name: Amanda
Greensboro, NC (Zone 7a)
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mandalynnkeith
Jul 24, 2013 9:30 AM CST
I'm considering starting a few new beds for mostly ornamental plants around my front yard fence line; I simply don't have enough space to grow all the plants I want to try my hand at! The area is just grass right now. I've heard of smothering new beds with cardboard or newspaper, but I'm curious:

What are some of your favorite tips or methods for starting new beds?

Also, what are you favorite (and inexpensive) ways to outline your beds?
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Jul 24, 2013 4:48 PM CST
Yes, the process you allude to is often referred to as lasagna gardening (think "layers") or sheet composting. No need to remove sod. Just mow it short, and start building. Bottom layer can be thick layer of newspaper or some cardboard. Cover grass completely then wet. Add layers of organic matter- yard waste, grass clippings, fall leaves, coffee grounds, straw, whatever organic matter you can get. After each couple of inches, moisten with a hose. (It's impossible to moisten throughout afterward). Some people add soil, or compost (finished or not), but it's not necessary. Add as much material as you have. The bigger the mound, the better the soil is likely to be. I have used as little as 8 or 10" though, and it worked fine.

If you google "lasagna gardening" or "sheet composting" you'll find more information.

Karen
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Jul 24, 2013 6:37 PM CST
Amanda, I was recently reading a thread here on ATP about lasagna gardening, and Karen's right; it's the easiest way to create garden beds.

Here's the thread: The thread "Lasagna type raised beds" in Permaculture forum

It might help you as well as whatever else you find. Smiling
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jul 24, 2013 6:43 PM CST
>> what are you favorite (and inexpensive) ways to outline your beds?

I think there is a Tip somewhere about using a garden hose to lay out the outlines of a new bed.

Here's a related thread:

Edibles and Preserving forum: A budget friendly veggie garden in Texas

The thread "A budget friendly veggie garden in Texas" in Vegetables and Fruit forum

@Sboulter01 , this thread might be interesting. If you click on "Watch this thread", you'll be notified when new posts are added.

Name: Amanda
Greensboro, NC (Zone 7a)
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mandalynnkeith
Jul 26, 2013 1:52 PM CST
Thanks for the links, all! My only concern about this lasagna gardening method is my dogs. The new beds are in their yard area where we let them play, and I worry that they might get too interested if I add compost or other materials of interest to dogs... I'll have to play around with how to keep them out of the beds while I'm getting the soil ready.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Jul 26, 2013 3:22 PM CST
My favorite edging is a simple trench dug in early spring when cleaning out the bed. Dig straight down with a spade to sever the grass roots, and mound the soil from your small trench up to the bed itself. It is fairly easy to maintain during the growing season and if you trench again in fall, you'll be way ahead of the game. I don't always get to that second trenching, but always wish I did. I like this method for neatness and simplicity. Tons of other choices out there, and I'm sure others will chime in.
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Jul 26, 2013 4:11 PM CST
All the neighborhood cats and squirrels love freshly turned, raked soil. They leave me "presents" and gouge out craters that make rows of seedlings look like they were hit by mortars.

I've tried chipped chili peppers (but not gorund cayenne pepper).
I've tried dead briar branches.

What worked for me was to cover the seedbed with chicken wire and weight it down with a few bricks.

But I have no dogs, and usually very little compost in the soil. All my compost is in a pile off to one side. Oddly, no pest has ever bothered my compost heaps that I could detect. And the compost heap has kitchen scraps, including occasional small meat scraps! Maybe they are deterred by the outer layer, which is usually dry and filled with small twigs or stiff brown stems.

If you do compost your scraps in a heap, you could cover the heap with chicken wire that might discourage the dogs somewhat. Or, figure that they would do some of your compost-turning for you!

But I'm not sure that "tossing it all over the yard" really counts as "turning the compost heap".

Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
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NJBob
Jul 26, 2013 7:03 PM CST
The hose for outlining works very well, easy to move and make shapes. Use as many leaves as you can put in area, the dogs will pretty much care less about leaves. The more important thing is what you plant. For example no Foxglove, Hellebore or Dolls Eyes they are all very toxic.
Name: Amanda
Greensboro, NC (Zone 7a)
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mandalynnkeith
Jul 29, 2013 11:53 AM CST
Thanks for the warning about toxic plants for dogs, NJBob. I've heard of some that are toxic, but not necessarily the ones you listed.

My dogs are small, so I think I'll try the chicken wire idea as I get the beds started. Once I get the beds planted, the dogs seem to show a little respect and stay out of them. But if it's an open space, they'll be sure to zoom right through it and disturb everything!
Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
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NJBob
Jul 29, 2013 7:19 PM CST
See if the Home Depot by you has the plastic chicken fencing because the wire can be sharp and dogs do dig. It comes in black so that should work well.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Jul 30, 2013 4:08 PM CST
When I use steel chicken wire, I like to prop it up a bit after the sprouts emerge. I use plastic 2 liter soda bottles, but smaller ones could work. last year I had some with the bottom cut off, to be "cloches". I would push the cut bottom into the soil between rows, and let the screw-top stick through one hole of the chicken wire. That made a stable base.

It only took a few (3-4) to support the chicken wire up off the small beds. I would weigh down the edges with bricks, but as far as I can tell, no squirrel made much effort to burrow under an edge.

That way, I can leave the chicken wire on the bed until the plants are 3-5 inches tall, and have a few pairs of real leaves, hopefully enough to deter the cats and squirrels.

Otherwise, seedlings get tangled in the wire and are upooted if you try to remove it.

. I GUESS I could leave the wire in place indefinitely, and let plants grow through it, but it would prevent hoeing and cultivating.

(Now that I think of it, it would be a cool way to support many floppy plants. Suspend chicken wire or wider-mesh fencing 6-12" above the soil. let floppy plants grow through it. Now the wire will support the plants and prevent flopping!)
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Jul 30, 2013 7:15 PM CST
Just make sure to mulch before you put the wire in place so the plants thrive but the weeds are a no show.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 30, 2013 7:22 PM CST
Hmm, in the past I put down the wire at the same time I sowed, and didn't mulch until all the seedlings were well up.

I guess I could sow, put down the wire, and wait for emergence. Then lift the wire, mulch, and put the wire back down with soda bottle supports.

Critters seem most attracted by a finely raked seedbed and neat rows of just-sown seeds.
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Jul 30, 2013 9:09 PM CST
Okay, I was thinking seedlings, NOT seeds! That makes it harder unless you remove and then mulch.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Aug 1, 2013 6:16 PM CST
And speaking of new garden beds, and the whole lasagna method. I read that all you need to do is whack the grass as low as you can get it, cover it with newspaper, or cardboard or weed cloth, then dump compost, soil or whatever growing medium on top. This may sound like a stupid question, but for flowers (as opposed to edibles) would it be a good/bad idea to hit that grass with some Grass Getter or something similar before adding the other layers? We have some industrial strength green vermin in this area, so I'm sort of thinking belt and suspenders. Hilarious! And can you plant immediately if you're just putting soil on top of the cardboard/weed barrier layer? As opposed to composting?
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 2:08 PM CST
No need for chemical killers. The grass dies as a result of lack of light. I prefer corrugated cardboard for first layer. No light>>> no photosynthesis >>>dead grass. Be sure edges of cardboard or paper overlap well. I've never used weed cloth at all for any purpose, I've heard horror stories about the stuff. Also, no need for soil or compost, stuff like yard waste- grass clippings, fall leaves, coffee grounds, straw- will do the job.

Karen
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Aug 2, 2013 2:21 PM CST
Well, I have stuff that I need to plant right away (irises), so I was going to fill a small raised bed with a mix of garden soil, potting soil and some compost from the goat area. Got LOTS of cardboard! (one of the joys of online shopping. sigh.)
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 3:07 PM CST
Admittedly I know little to nothing about using manure. I just posted to another thread

http://garden.org/thread/view_post/459684/

Karen
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 2, 2013 4:35 PM CST
I guess I have strange notions, or maybe I'm just mentally stuck in the practices of a few generations ago. I don't worry as much as I should about manure (as long as its somewhat aged and buried / mixed under the soil).

Yet the idea of having a solid layer of sod under my garden "just seems wrong to me". I do know that many people have started beds that way, saved a huge amount of labor, and grew fine crops. And the grass did not emerge a few weeks later and reclaim the bed. The darkness does kill the grass, and it must rot down there if it gets enough oxygen.

Still, for no reason that I can defend logically, I always chop out the sod with a mattock and throw that into the compost heap. Then I assure drainage by sloping the floor of the bed and cutting trenches. Then I will somewhat amend the sub-soil (sub-clay), Then I replace the top layer with soil that I've made by amending my clay with compost, bark, and crushed rock. And I build it up above grade into a raised bed.

To me, that feels like "creating soil". I suppose it is necessary effort. Maybe I'm just masochistic.

Or, like Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way".
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 4:50 PM CST
Yeah, you're masochistic. Hilarious! Notice, I did not say "goofy" . If grass rots in a compost pile, why do you think it won't break down and compost in situ in sheet composting?

Karen

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