All Things Gardening forum: putting in new vegetable beds

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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Feb 13, 2014 12:32 PM CST
I need to put in some raised beds. I was thinking of using cement blocks. Can I just lay a single row of them on the ground? I wondered if that would be deep enough or not? I guess I could do 1 bed 2 blocks high for potatoes. How deep do potatoes grow? Will they look ok if I don't pour a footer or mortar them together or just do one row?
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Feb 13, 2014 1:43 PM CST
What size blocks?
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Feb 13, 2014 1:53 PM CST
well I understand the standard to be 8x8x16.
They were priced to me for $1.05 as seconds here locally.
The split face were $2 for culls. Not worth the extra money in my poor book!



Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
Feb 13, 2014 2:08 PM CST
Ok, standard cinder blocks. You just said cement blocks which could have meant stepping stones, pavers or something else. I would say they would be fine for most gardens plants. A lot of people use cinder blocks for garden borders.

https://www.google.com/search?q=cinder+block+gardens&rlz=1C1...
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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
Feb 13, 2014 3:28 PM CST
>> Will they look ok if I don't pour a footer or mortar them together or just do one row?

I think they look fine, but my standards are low! If you level their base and nudge them into tidy alignment, that seems plenty tidy to me.

Someone smoothed off her blocks a little and then PAINTED them. Classy!

I like the brick-red concrete paving stones, but your price for an 8x8x16 cinder block is a lot like my
3/4" x 8 x 16" or
1" x 12" x 12"

And your 8" row will be a lot more stable than my 8" or 12" or 16" leaning wall. I do have to straighten mine up every few years since I didn't glue or mortar them. I like to be able to re-shape, widen or narrow beds.


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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
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
Feb 13, 2014 3:32 PM CST
For depth, how bad is your existing soil?

Once you have gardened in one spot for a few years, the organic mater, water, fertilizer and roots in the RB soil will tend to soften, break up and enrich the original soil under the added soil.

After a few years you may be able to step inside your raised bed and dig down 12 or 18 inches deeper than you could when first creating the bed, and amend that subsoil to the point where potatoes can grow into it.

Especially if you grow a few crops like daikon radishes that seem to have jackhammers in their root tips. Or a catch crop of alfalfa or maybe fall rye or clover.

When I make an RB, I like to do some pick work on the subsoil and mix in something organic and chunky like bark mulch, or just organic like manure. I figure that will give roots and worms a head start on improving the clay.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Feb 13, 2014 4:31 PM CST
well here is the deal. I have a small yard and I found out that my leach field is about 30 ft wide and 100 ft long !!!
so really, like almost the whole yard.
The sewer guy, hereto referred to as SG said the lines are probably only 10 inches deep. yikes.
I have did my research on SG and found out he knows his stuff and has been inspecting sewers for ages and is very knowledgeable. He says I can till down about 3-4 inches ok, after that I will start hitting the gravel/lines. The best way to garden over it, is with raised beds. I asked if he thought growing vegetables over the area would be safe and he said 'certainly'. So well, I guess it is either grow them or starve lol I figure it will be better than the GMO stuff I buy at the store, so I have nothing to lose.

I want to do something super affordable because of being so poor. Sad But not anything that looks really awful because after all it is in my yard! I was thinking cement blocks would be permanent, not rot or draw pests, and can be moved if need be. I also thought of using rail road ties. But haven't actually priced those. Since I have alot of irons in the fire right now, I though they might actually be easier and faster to put in, and then in say 15 years or so down the road I can always re-do them later with whatever I choose then. I also thought about doing a berm style but then I wondered how the sloped sides work-wouldn't the water run off? I have never did anything with a berm obviously Smiling

Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Feb 13, 2014 4:33 PM CST
A good solid footer would make them look nicer an mortar would hold them in place better, but I think for the first year at least I would start with out that, just go one layer high and see how you like it. and see how well the plants grow. It will give you a chance to check the bed layout, the position of the sun and shade, and then after a year if you have to make changes you will be able to much easier.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Feb 13, 2014 4:36 PM CST
Don't use RR ties for veggie beds.

Do you have rocks around? Rocks could be used if you had them.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Feb 13, 2014 4:42 PM CST
If block and other items are too much trouble or expense I think you could get by at least the first year with a berm style. Just make the beds wide enough that your berm slowly taper off. You would get very little run off that way, plus I think they are actually easier to work, but they have a nasty habit of spreading without any containment. I just use lawn edging around mine.
Thumb of 2014-02-13/Seedfork/711fa3

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
Feb 13, 2014 5:56 PM CST
I think that railroad ties are soaked in creosote, or some even-more-toxic modern equivalent.

Landscape timber hopefully is less toxic! But it doesn't last forever.

Concrete is forever.

Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Feb 13, 2014 6:56 PM CST
And did you see the discussion about keyhole gardening? That might be a good choice, or at least something to consider. Haven't tried it myself, but it is a form of raised gardening, and it's intriguing. Here's a link to the thread in case you missed it:
The thread "Keyhole Garden" in All Things Gardening forum
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Feb 14, 2014 7:17 AM CST
RickCorey said:I think that railroad ties are soaked in creosote, or some even-more-toxic modern equivalent.

Landscape timber hopefully is less toxic! But it doesn't last forever.

Concrete is forever.



Ive been looking this up, and it seems the more modern equivalent is probably correct. (WHAT it is, is anyone's guess, right?)
I have read that getting used ties (read-older) are considered safe for gardening because a good deal of it has leached out. I seen one site that advised to line the inside of the ties with a heavy plastic or similar so that it doesn't have much contact with the soil in the bed and that can help. Some people swear they will poison your food and you can drop dead by merely glancing at one in your garden. Others think they are the best thing to happen to raised bed gardening. who knows, I guess it goes on the list with everything else questionable but no answers either way. One website I read said that the old creosote tends to evaporate into the air moreso than absorbing into the soil.
Concrete block would be better that is no argument. And as far as cost difference I don't think it will be much. I guess the difference really is in the labor (energy) to handle and place all the blocks. Now if you were doing a footer and mortar that would add alot of expense and labor obviously. But beings how little ol me will be the doer, none of that will be done lol But it would look waaay nicer!
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Feb 14, 2014 7:21 AM CST
woofie, I did see the keyhole garden thread, but for some reason I just can't wrap my brain around that concept. I have an area about 50x50 ft square, so maybe that is why? I think my keyhole would be seen from outerspace! Smiling

Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Feb 14, 2014 8:34 AM CST
My previous neighbor did concrete blocks and I have always thought they looked neat and she planted herbs in the openings of the blocks. She didn't mortar. Why mortar when they are pretty secure and then you will be able to reconfigure if you want? Besides, with the tiles under, if you have a problem they would have to dig up the field and break up all your mortar anyway.

Just my two cents. But certainly would NOT use RR ties!!!
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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woofie
Feb 14, 2014 9:40 AM CST
Heh, you can't make a keyhole garden that big; 6 ft in diameter is the limit. But I mentioned it because it would avoid the problem with worrying about what's underneath, and you're supposed to be able to really pack the beds. But concrete blocks are great! And that's a good price you're getting. I use them for lots of things, and I don't bother with worrying about mortar or anything like that. They sometimes shift a little, but not anything I worry about. Smiling
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
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david_reaves
Feb 14, 2014 12:40 PM CST
I was going to suggest adding soil into the holes of the blocks, too. If you stack two blocks, be sure the holes align and you will have a pretty good planting space for herbs, lettuce, and other smaller vegetables... or if you like the idea of companion planting with flowers and vegetables, you could plant flowers or "trap" vegetables in the blocks.

David
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Feb 14, 2014 1:53 PM CST
That also makes the blocks less likely to shift.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
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
Feb 14, 2014 2:09 PM CST
>> Some people swear they will poison your food and you can drop dead by merely glancing at one in your garden.

Yes, I've read posts like that, mostly in the old DG site. I think there is no shortage of REAL things to worry about in life.

As a kid, I had DDT sprayed on me from the sky, and used a "DDT bomb" inside a Boy Scout tent every night for two weeks. So it's hard for me to take low-level exposure to not-very-toxic chemicals as seriously as some.

>> I guess the difference really is in the labor (energy) to handle and place all the blocks

Absolutely! I hauled my paving stones around gradually by buying no more than no more than one small trunk-load per day.

I try to keep my beds narrower than 36" wide, so I can reach everything from one side.
Name: Tom Cagle
SE-OH (Zone 6a)
Old, fat, and gardening in OH
Coppice
Feb 15, 2014 8:26 AM CST
Only for myself; if I plan on being on that site fewer than eight years, I'll use dimensional lumber (2 by 8 etc). If I think I'll be in residence eight or more years I'll use cinder blocks.

Very often the first year or two all I use is a bed raised by double digging and lots or organic additions.

Untreated-unpainted lumber has about a 6-8 year shelf life in garden. Or did for me in NY, VT, ME, NH, IL, OH.

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