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My yard is very shady-getting more so every year as my trees get bigger. I have a 4x12 garden bed, but it really doesn't get enough sun anymore. There are a couple of places in my town that offer reasonable community garden plots-I have used the raised bed method for many years, does anyone have any suggestions for working this into a community garden? The beds could not be permanent, but it looks like I might have the option to request to keep the same plot each year. I have always used boards around my beds but I think that setting up and breaking down the beds (and hauling the wood back and forth) each year might get old-what do you all think? I'm thinking ahead to next year so I'm planning on touring some community gardens this year to get some ideas. Any suggestions are very much appreciated!
I'm a fan of using paving stones to prop up the walls of an RB. You could re-posses your pavers at the end of the gardening season. But yes, hauling them is heavy work!
How about just removing topsoil from the periphery of your community plot, and hilling it up in the center of your plot? Add some fast-acting, light fluffy amendments like compost, fine pine bark mulch, peat or coir to part of the raised part. The "French Intensive" method is based on the idea that a small bed of rich, raised soil is more productive than a big row of poor soil.
If the topsoil is deep enough, you could cut yourself a depressed walkway around the raised part, impriving drainage. Shovel the soil back into the walkway at the end of the season, and you've even turned their soil for them.
The walkway might get muddy, depending on slope ...
Thanks everyone! LiseP, that video was really good. I need to check out the rules for the gardens. I assumed that they just plowed up the entire garden at the end of the growing season, but I could be wrong. I'm going to take a look today and see if people have permanent raised beds.
I went to check out the two garden sites. One (the free one) looked like a plowed up farm field with weeds and water standing in multiple areas (it has been an extremely wet spring). The other, in the City park looked much better-the plots are 10x20 for $25. It didn't look like raised beds were a possibility, but the soil looked very nice. I think I could rake up raised beds and put marsh hay or straw in the paths between the beds. I've emailed the City to see if I can still get a plot this year-I may try a few tomatoes and see how they do there. I might add that there were only two plots plowed up-this is a farming community so the community garden idea might not be too popular :) There must be other folks besides me that don't have access to a sunny garden area, though.
It's not absolutely necessary to have sides on a raised bed. In his book the New Victory Garden, Bob Thomson wrote that he excavates 3 to four inches of soil from 2-foot wide-pathways and adds it to his raised beds. The beds are 8 inches deep and 4 feet wide at the base. The sides taper in at a 45 degree angle and the top is 3 feet wide. The top of the bed is flattened with a rake. I wish I could post a picture from the book because it all looks very neat and tidy, but the picture is too dark. (beautiful dark soil!)
I really like the host of the video you linked to; I have seen some of his other videos and he is quite enthusiastic! However, I disagree with him that raised beds without sides should be used only as a last resort, and that the pathways would be weedy. Pathways are pathways, and you still have to cover them with something even if your beds have sides.
That said, my favorite walls for raised beds are the black plastic ones sold by Gardeners Supply. They represent an initial expense, but they are modular, lightweight and easily dismantled at the end of the season if necessary. They last indefinitely and will never rot or attract termites. I have had them in my back yard for years.
Those look good, but $4-5 per linear foot, 10" high?
I like concrete paving stones stood on edge, around 1" thick and 8, 12 or 16" high. Around $1 per linear foot. They are heavy to haul, but very easy to re-arrnage and no tools for installation. One of the few materials even more eternal than plastic!
The only stability comes from leaning them into the bed a few degrees. If you don't tidy the "leaners" up every few years, they start to look straggly, but I'll do that toi save 75% - 80% on the cost (or to get beds 4-5 times bigger for the same cost!)
They do tend to dry out faster on the corners, I guess because concrete "breaths". Now I save plastic bags that soil amendments come in, and cut strips to line my corners so they don't dry out fast.
Plastic liner also keeps the little open triangles on the corners from leaking soil, or you can chink those with gravel or a stick. "One of these years", I'm going to get out my angle grinder and kind of "mitre" the corners so they meet flush.
They come in brick red or gray, but someone piojtned out you can dilute house paint and color them cheaply. "Sand color" looks nice.
Here's one, 11 square feet, 16" above grade. It has 5 8x16 pavers on each side (3' 4" square).
Total cost: $20, since it's so small it is "mostly wall".
This is made of 16"x8"x3/4" pavers - kind of thin and least stable.
Since this is 16" deep, I have room left to build it up deeper with compost etc.
The corners are TOTALLY random and crumby - chinked with big bricks. I was in a big hurry that day to plant my first bulbs ever! You see a leaner in the back-right corner: bad Rick! Prop it back up! Maybe spot-glue that one.
For $48, you can have 12 pavers on each side:
16" deep x 8' x 8' = 64 sq ft
12" deep x 12' x 12' = 144 sq feet
8" deep x 16' x 16' = 256 square feet (square is an "efficient" shape if your arms are 8' long)
Or, laying 48 pavers for a bed 4' wide:
16" deep x 4' x 12' = 48 sq ft
12" deep x 4' x 20' = 80 sq feet
8" deep x 4' x 21' = 84 square feet - - not bad for $48 - $2.30 per linear foot of 4' bed.