Vegetables and Fruit forum: I'm building my first raised vegetable garden!

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Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Feb 15, 2012 7:56 AM CST
I started gardening for the first time last year but focused mainly on landscaping my completely bare yard with perennials and grew lots of herbs in containers. This year, I want to start doing some vegetable gardening! Thumbs up

I have the perfect place for a raised bed. It's the only place in my yard that gets full sun from spring to fall, almost from sunup to sundown. There is a bit of a slope back-to-front, so I'll have to either dig out the back or raise up the front to get it level.

I have some questions for you experienced vegetable gardeners:

What kind of raised beds do you have?
What's the material? Stone? Wood? Prefabricated? Plastic? Did you build it yourself?
How high?
What would you do differently if you had to start all over?

I think I'll start with 1 4x4 bed and maybe add another one later. I'm going to start with a few tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and melons, and about 10 varieties of basil. Hilarious! Boy, do I love basil!

TIA!
Name: Jan
Hustisford, WI
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Daylilies Dog Lover Irises Region: United States of America
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philljm
Feb 16, 2012 7:59 AM CST
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I make my backyard raised gardens with wood. This bed is 4 x 8. I can go to a lumber store, pick up 4 8 foot long pieces, and then have them cut 2 more to make the sides. I also buy 4 1x1's perhaps 3 feet tall?(I think that's the size) to help me form the corners. I originally planned to cut them off level, but have discovered that by leaving them on, that I could attach fencing to them.

Also, using them to form the corners helped me to make my bed level.One corner has more of the 1x1 on the bottom whereas the other 3 are flush to the bottom of the sides and the ground. I actually used some scrap plywood on the inside on my sloping corner. It's not visible, but it keeps the dirt from falling out.

I can build one of these by myself in an evening. Also, the size fits well in my little jetta car without any problems.

I now have 2 beds, and when building gardens & raised beds, I discovered that you need to leave enough room between them so it is easy to mow.

This original one is supposed to be my vegetable garden. I built it for a blueberry a friend gave me as a gift and because I wanted some asparagus. Currently I have 2 rows of young asparagus, and 3 blueberry plants - along with a dozen daylilies and some bee balm..... Whistling This summer I should be able to move most of the flowers, and actually plant a few more veggies.

I too love Basil - but planted basil, parsley and cilantro in a plastic kitty litter bucket. I drilled a couple of holes on the bottom, and put some gravel in, then filled with soil. The basil and parsley did GREAT. Haven't a clue what happened with the cilantro. When fall came, I pulled the bucket into the garage. The Basil died off about Christmastime, the parsley is still growing and doing well. I water it a bit once a month or so, and it is growing a bit "leggy" but still tastes great in my dishes.~Jan
Name: Jo-Ann
Zone 9a, New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a)
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JoAnn
Feb 16, 2012 8:40 AM CST
I've been planning my new garden, once the purchase of the lot next door is complete. I've used raised beds before & plan on making mine out of wood, probably 2x10. I want 4 beds each 4x8 foot each, along with some that are 2x20 along the fence for a bed of blackberries & one for onions/garlic/shallots. The biggest expense is good garden soil for the beds.
Jo-Ann - Gardening in New Orleans
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! The WITWIT Badge Raises cows Region: New York Farmer
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Kathleen
Feb 16, 2012 8:51 AM CST
I have a wooden raised bed that is about 24" high by 4 feet by 16 feet. I have a couple different versions of arthritis and this height makes it possible to garden without kneeling or bending much. I usually raise beans, peas and carrots. occasionally cucumbers, in that. The tomatoes have been in a bed to the east of the raised bed recently, but will be finding a new spot this year. I have an old bathtub that has grown lettuce, peas, potatoes, carrots and now strawberries.

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 17, 2012 6:45 PM CST
Unless you have long arms, I bet life will be easier if you make that bed 3 feet wide instead of 4 feet. Most of the time, you won;t even have to walk around it!

I use concrete paving stones, stood on end, for walls. They make it easy to widen or lengthen a bed, like re-arranging lawn furniture.
12x12 x 1" or
8x16 x 3.4"

Just lean them in a little, and they're quite stable. Chink the angled corners with a broken piece, or pebbles, or let a little soil spill out. Or line the inside of the corner (below soil level) with a bit of heavy plastic cut from a soil-amendment bag. That keeps soil from spilling out, AND helps keep the corners from drying out first.

>> I'll have to either dig out the back or raise up the front to get it level.

Personally, I like a LITTLE slope to the base or floor of the bed. I have very imprevious clay, so I slope the floor to let water run off towards the downhill edge or corner. Just a few inches across the 3-4" width is probably plenty of slope for drainage.

To be sure I have drainage, I not only slope the floor, but also cut a few shallow trenches (just another inch or two deep) into the clay underlayer to help assure that the roots have air right down to the clay level.

If you have a very dry climate and want to water as seldom as possible, a little plastic under the bed and part way up the downhill wall will make a "bathtub" and hold water all too well - at the cost of drowning those roots! Maybe leave some gaps or holes in the plastic but still expect it to slow down the run-off.

P.S. I expect that, over several years, organics and roots and worms will pentrate even my hard clay, uner the good soil. The "florr" will gradually become pervious to water and roots. So I made sure that even if the clay softens to an extra depth of 6" or so, there will still be drainage from the bottom of that new soil.


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[Last edited by RickCorey - Feb 17, 2012 6:50 PM (+)]
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Feb 17, 2012 7:29 PM CST
My raised veggie bed is in the center of the veggie patch. It's made of free scrap lumber that was cut the wrong length at a manufacturing facility. We drove corner stakes into the ground and then attached planks along the length using connector pieces on both the inside, and the outside of the joints. So far, it's holding up remarkably well. It's been in place for about 10 years now. It's really a back-saver because I can perch on the sides and scoot along the rows during the daily green bean harvesting. The dark shade cloth is on the west end to filter the worst of the blazing hot, late afternoon sun. Shade cloth can be temporarily draped over the wire stretched between the two triangular ends on the south-facing side to help new transplants and young seedlings settle in with less stress, whenever necessary. It's wider than most, so I lay planking down the center during planting time and walk along it to reduce soil compaction.

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Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC (Zone 7a)
And in the end...a happy beginning!
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Horseshoe
Feb 17, 2012 8:13 PM CST
Great pics, Corey! Those look really nice!

Same to you, too, chelle. And those A-frames on the ends are perfect for hanging shade cloth or remay or plastic from.

Jan, my beds are like yours but I use 2 x 10's. I love 'em. I make them for folks around town as well as for here on the farm. Although I still do "row crops" and field gardening the raised beds sure are "funner" to work with (and show off!) :>)

SSgardener, to answer your questions...
I use untreated 2 x 10's with coated sinker nails to attach them together.
And yes, build them myself, very easy to do.

Most vegetable roots will be in the top 6 inches of soil so going with about 10 inches of depth you'll be fine.

I make most beds 3ft wide because it is the easiest distance to be able to reach into the beds from either side. Four feet wears your (or my) back out too much, especially for weeding, seeding, etc. Some of my beds that run along side a fence are only 2 ft wide which is plenty of soil and width. I tend to grow lots of vining plants (peas, beans, cukes, etc) in those beds and they grow upward on the fence. You can plant a row of plants in the back, near the fence, and still have room to grow other plants (lettuce, radish, spinach, for example) in the area closer to the front of those beds.

Hope this helps.
Shoe

First pic is of beds built two years ago (or 3?) The beds against the fence are 2 ft wide; the beds in the center are 3 ft wide

.

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Second pic is a close-up of a multi-crop bed...spinach, Swiss chard, onions, lettuce


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And a close up of a lettuce bed with carrots growing on the perimeter, a great combination!



Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! The WITWIT Badge Raises cows Region: New York Farmer
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Kathleen
Feb 18, 2012 5:37 AM CST
lol, I do actually have long arms for a person of my vertical dimension, but Stan is the one with the really long arms and he built the thing. I just move around it - motion is a good thing.

Name: Jan
Hustisford, WI
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Daylilies Dog Lover Irises Region: United States of America
Region: Wisconsin
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philljm
Feb 18, 2012 7:39 AM CST
For me, 4 feet wide was the longest I could reach from all sides, and the easiest to have the lumberyard cut. I found that they do better cutting a board in half, than actually measuring one precisely. But I will certainly keep the 3 feet width in mind. The new bed I build this year will sit lengthwise next to my current bed, but now that I have my own sawsall, I think the next row I start (in the future) will be thinner and at 3 or even 3 1/2 feet wide.

I never thought of turning pavers on their side! Great idea. For some of my front flower beds I use those "bullet" shaped blocks (they fit into each other). But turning pavers sideways & leaning inward are great ideas. I will keep that in mind. Plus, I like re-using the plastic from the bags of garden soil, compost - whatever.

Shoe, I like your garden design. I don't have deer problems here, just rabbits, and that 3 feet high wire fencing works great to keep them out (unless the snow is too deep and the buggers get over the top like they did last winter) My dogs are falling down on the job and not chasing them enough any more. ~Jan
Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC (Zone 7a)
And in the end...a happy beginning!
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Garden Sages I sent a postcard to Randy! I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horseshoe
Feb 18, 2012 9:59 AM CST
Jan, I have a great rabbit and dumplings recipe! Smiling
Name: Jan
Hustisford, WI
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Daylilies Dog Lover Irises Region: United States of America
Region: Wisconsin
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philljm
Feb 18, 2012 10:08 AM CST
hahahahaha. Believe it or not I have eaten rabbit before (venison & lamb & pheasant are a staple in my freezer) Problem is, IF my dogs catch one, there is nothing left. The other problem is that I have an invisible fence, and those darn bunnies know EXACTLY where that fence line is - it's actually pretty funny to watch the squirrels and bunnies taunting my dogs on the other side of it.... ~Jan
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Feb 18, 2012 11:30 AM CST
Thank you everyone for your input! I don't have long arms at all, so I'll be keeping my beds at 3 feet wide. Smiling

I just need to go find lumber that's appropriate. I'll post a pick when it's ready!
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 20, 2012 1:53 PM CST
Thanks, Shoe and Jan. The pavers don't look tidy unless you nudge a few back into alignment a few times per year, but I prefer "messy" over glued or mortared in place.

If I ever compete for a garden club award (as if!) I'll tidy them up that year.

P.S. If you want to double-turn a bed, or mix in compost until the bed is almost overflowing, you can make some of the walls double-tall for a day by stacking a seocnd row of pavers with their feet inside the existing row.

Then you can pile up soil and compost 8-12-16" deeper in part of the bed while digging up the other part of the bed. Just pile dirt high NEAR the edge, prop the paver upright AT the edge, lean it in, and pull some handsfull of soil right up agsainst the paver to support it.

P.P.S. It is tempting to try to turn soil right at the edge of a bed by resting the shovel blade on the wall, but this knocks the wall over. Instead dig or turn soil by inserting the blade parallel to the wall, and levering soil up or inwards.

If you dig away the soil from only HALF of a paver at one time, the paver never moves and you never have to support it. For example, turn half of one whole edge by digging out around EVERY OTHER junction between pavers. Return mixed soil to those holes. Then dig out the OTHER alternate joins.

Often I leave a thin layer of heavier, clayey soil right up against the pavers, or the bottoms of the pavers. This mortar-like layer holds in more water and makes the walls really secure (for example, 16" pavers stood up the long way).
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Feb 20, 2012 2:10 PM CST
We have not made any raised veggie garden or any raised garden..but it is interesting to see how most of you do it..! Such talent and patience! I wish we have the space for it too.

Btw, we saw this in a home and garden show the other day. I posted a question on the landscape forum, but maybe no one has done anything recently..maybe some of you have seen or used this one..just wondering how effective it is, or any thoughts about it:
[url=www.bearinterlockers.com]www.bearinterlockers.com[/url]
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 20, 2012 3:50 PM CST
I've never used it, but if I did decide to make my walls permanent, I would use "concrete glue" instead of mortar.

This product is supposed to be somewhat flexible. It comes in tubes like caulk, for a caulk gun. Squirt, squeeze together, done.

I tend to rely on the wall sloping inwards for stability, instead of thick retaining walls. I do very small-scale stuff! This is my biggest prject, done over three years and still not finsihed: really three beds on a slope, then a wlakway and stump, then two more raised beds.

Acrtually, this plus the sidewalk is most of my front yard!


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from below, -- also below, ---- from above , adjacent bed
distant shot ---- zoomed closer
[Last edited by RickCorey - Feb 20, 2012 3:57 PM (+)]
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San Diego, CA (Zone 9a)
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Dawgboy
Feb 23, 2012 1:13 PM CST
Hi Folks. New here but have been gardening a bit. I just moved into a new place here in San Diego and it has an awesome place for Veggies, except the Gophers are extremely bad. I am going with raised beds and planter boxes and try to source everything for free.

Here is a 4X8 I built from bought 2x6 treated planks, I stapled Poultry wire to the bottom before filling.


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I sourced a bunch of free Wooden crates from Craigslist yesterday and these are all getting drilled for drainage and will be placed this weekend and filled with a soil mix from a local Dairy:



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Here are a couple of Potato bins I built: First layer is cardboard, then soil, then Potato slips, then potting soil mix and as they grow I will add straw and potting soil. These are open to the Gophers as potatoes are poison to them...


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Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Feb 23, 2012 6:35 PM CST
Hi Dawgboy! Welcome!

I have some unknown critters that like to dig at the roots of my daylilies and astilbes. I don't know if they're actually eating the roots, but they sure like to dig. I'll be putting down chicken wire as well. Thanks for the pics!

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