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High Yield Gardening: 6" - v - 10" deep beds

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HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

July 25, 2011
7:20 AM

Post #8713858

As y'all know we have had to deal with really hot weather this summer.

Last summer was nearly as bad, but I kept up with watering the beds on a daily basis. By the end of August I decided that spending money on water was not cost effective - I can purchase organically grown frozen veggies locally.

This spring I changed all my beds from 48" wide to 36" wide and replaced some of the boards from 6" to 10" to make the beds deeper. I also added worm castings that had been produced from fall leaves scattered around the garden.

Once individual transplants were "settled" I quit watering them. We had adequate rain fall until mid-July. Last night we had about a half-inch of rain - this is the first shower we've had in about two weeks.

Interestingly, the vegetables in the 10" raised beds haven't suffered too badly from the lack of rain. Most of the plants in the 6" raised beds dried up. I'm not sure if the roots are still alive. Once we get more rain, they may pick up.

My biggest surprise was the tomatoes. I was concerned that the lack of rain would make them quit producing. Just the opposite! I have more maters than I can use. I've given away several pounds to neighbors and my daughter shares with her co-workers.

The other surprise was the melons. Those in the 10" deep beds kept right on producing wonderful sweet melons. I had transplanted volunteer melons to some 6" beds back in May, and most of them did not make it through this dry period.

My biggest disappointment were the sweet peppers. Although the peppers hung in there, the fruit shrivelled, and those growing in 6" beds died!

Plans for next year will include changing 6" deep beds into 12" deep beds. I am also looking for sweet peppers that produce more quickly than the California Wonder I've previously been growing.

I'm also toying with the idea of changing the beds from 36" wide to 24" wide, and planting single rows of vegetables in each bed so they will not have to compete with each other for water.

I'm hoping the trend of hot, dry summers does not become the "norm" - on the other hand, having a deluge each day is not desirable either!

How have y'all been coping with the extreme heat?

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 26, 2011
7:19 PM

Post #8717295

Great science! That even sounds like a controlled experiment.

I would have loved to have known how the 6" beds did with some amount of watering in-between "daily" and "none". Like, 1-2 good waterings per month during the dry hot spell. Maybe some scheme for deep watering, like a buried soaker hose or a pierced pipe 4" down and filled from a riser.

It sounds like the plants in the shallow beds just plain sucked it dry.

How long had those 6" beds been in their location, and did you add compost or mulch most years? I have a theory that if you keep adding compost or any organic matter to an open-bottom raised bed, the humic acids etc gradually leach into and soften the soil below it (if there are drainage and worms).

If that were true, the 6" bed might in time have been able to create more water-holding root-friendly soil below itself. Anyway, that's what I'm hoping for in my yard. I was careful to create drainage away from my beds so that the heavy clay under them will at least have a chance to let water through and air in, those invite worms, thus some day make my RBs' root zone deeper. (And I've started planting Daikon radishes in odd spots.)

Corey

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

July 27, 2011
6:59 AM

Post #8718210

Corey - this is the 5th summer having a vegetable garden at this NC location. I had hoped by now that the underlying clay would have softened up enough for the roots to penetrate to the point that they would have become more drought-proof.

In previous summers I have faithfully watered the beds when necessary. But as I said above, last year our water bill became so high, that it was not cost effective. I was layed off from my part time job last September so we have to save money where we can.

Yes, compost and mulch have been added in great quantities each fall and spring and we have millions of earthworms. Leaves are collected each fall from around our neighborhood and are used as mulch and ground cover between the beds. The earthworms change these into wonderful castings, which are added to the beds each fall and spring.

One interesting thing I realized after writing the above account: The 10" beds that I created early this year were mostly filled with coconut coir, along with what was already there, and compost. The 6" existing beds lacked the coir. I'm not sure this made a difference, but the purchase of more coir is definitely on my list for next year.

Like yourself, we garden on a slope and I have noticed that it's the beds at the top of the slope that have suffered the worst from the lack of rain. This could be as a result of natural drainage, or the roots from our large oak tree taking up what water there is.

As you can tell, I have put much thought into this. As a long time (59 years and counting) gardener, I am not dissuaded, and will try as many approaches as necessary to come to the desired conclusion.

We have had a heavy shower since writing the above. Amazingly, the sweet peppers picked-up right away! I snipped off all the withered peppers and have hopes that (with some more rain) they will prevail.

I appreciate your interest in my experiment, and look forward to your future input.

HB

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 27, 2011
5:11 PM

Post #8719544

>> As you can tell, I have put much thought into this.

Totally!


>> coconut coir

That does hold a huge amount of water.

>> we garden on a slope and I have noticed that it's the beds at the top of the slope that have suffered the worst from the lack of rain. This could be as a result of natural drainage, or the roots from our large oak tree

Both make sense. All three, rather.

I would have expected that that many years and that much compost to have softened the clay under the beds, but if the amount of water added over several months is less than was taken out by downslope drainage & roots, "that's all she wrote".

Hopefully your shower supplied enough water to get some harvest.

Good luck with your garden budget and another job if you want one. It does seem that we either have time, or money, but seldom both.

Corey


HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

July 28, 2011
6:18 AM

Post #8720583

Corey:

Quoting: It does seem that we either have time, or money, but seldom both.


I had never thought of that, but you are absolutely correct!

We are supposed to get more rain this weekend, so I'm hoping it will. If the sweet peppers survive until September, I should get all the fruit I want before the first frost. I'm not concerned about the rest of the vegetables, my freezer is already full. I'm just giving away whatever else the garden yields. The other day, a neighbor gave us some gorgeous, sweet, white peaches from his mother's tree with the promise of sweet potatoes in return.

On one hand I would like another job because the extra cash is nice, but on the other, I don't want to work outside the home because it takes me away from my garden! Anyways, getting hired at my age is almost impossible!

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 28, 2011
12:22 PM

Post #8721189

>> the extra cash is nice, but on the other, I don't want to work outside the home because it takes me away from my garden!

Exactly. Sigh!

Another tradeoff is stated many ways:

"Too soon old, too late wise."
"Youth is wasted on the young."
"Funny how 'mature wisdom' is so similar to 'being too tired'".

Corey
Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA
(Zone 8a)

July 30, 2011
5:10 AM

Post #8724767

Good questions HB!

My beds are 16 inches deep, tho most of the time the soil settles through the season and the depth is more like 12 inches deep. The soil below the beds is very hard, so there's likely not much root growth further down. I use mulch and dense planting to help keep the soil temps down and I pump water from our lake and water a good part of the day when it's been so hot and dry. Rick's idea of putting a plastic liner in the corners is great - I'm planning to try that as I empty beds this season.

Does the coir hold water really well? I've added peat to the beds, but even with 3 - 3 cf bales per bed (in a few) that hasn't made much of a difference that I can see. Peat is expensive and I'm concerned about the environmental impact... I've been working to add organic matter to all of the beds in the form of compost and leaves, but without a source of inexpensive healthy compost, that's going to take years!

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

July 30, 2011
7:45 AM

Post #8725036

Cindy_GA - from what I have read, coir holds lots of water without becoming "soggy" - peat on the other hand can become as hard as a rock when it dries out and is hard to re-hydrate. Of the two, I prefer coir - it takes longer than peat to break down, which is another plus.

Wish I had a lake or stream near by to pump water from. My neighbor suggested having a shared well installed, but he and I are about the same age, so neither of us are likely to outlive the expense!

Have you tried using leaves in the pathways between your beds? That's what I do, and have found earthworms change them into wonderful castings which I transfer into the beds spring and fall. The worms also incorporate the castings into the hard red clay, so I take up what I can of that, too.

Putting the lawn mower on the very lowest setting will take the top layer of soil into the mower's bag - which I then add to the raised beds. Small twigs break up nicely this way, too.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 1, 2011
4:06 PM

Post #8730462

I agree that coir holds lots more water than peat, and breaks down slower.

I think coir has larger fibers than peat moss. I don;t know about sphagum moss.

Sgredded or chipped and screened pine bark (mulch) has even bigger fibers and I think it breaks down even slower than coir. But it holds much less water. What it does best is "add air" to soil. The big fibers hold open channels for air and water to pass through.

Corey
Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA
(Zone 8a)

August 3, 2011
10:47 AM

Post #8734324

Hey Honeybee...

The coir sounds like a good solution. Where do you find this? I did some searching last year, but there wasn't any available locally. The shipping costs start to get absurd for garden materials.

Our property is so spread out - the leaves don't fall near the garden, so hauling them becomes a challenge. I really like having the leaves in a leaf mold pile - once they break down, they're compressed and easier to shovel up into a wheelbarrow to take to the garden as an amendment.

Speaking of moving stuff - one item that I saw a neighbor kid using - a "Bagster" - this is a giant piece of plasticized fabric - you can get them at some HomeDepots - http://www.thebagster.com/ . We bought one to use for raking/blowing pine straw or leaves into to move to compost bins, etc. It's also good for picking up sticks in our "park" area - pines drop so much branch litter along with needles. It's a little awkward when really full, but it's quite strong and I can drag it across the gravel driveway. Not sure if anyone else has the hauling issues that we do, but this works pretty well.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 3, 2011
1:07 PM

Post #8734646

Cool! That looks like a canvas wood-carrying gadget I had - the straps are great.

As a kid, I just used a big tarp and twisted the corners together to drag leaves, pretending I was Santa Claus.

Cindy: look carefully at the label on coir. Some are "chunky" and some are "powdery". The best for soil structure is in-between: long fibers. But any of them hold a lot of water.

Since I read one article claiming that coir is sometimes sold a little salty, I rehydrate mine in a deep wheelbarrow and dump the water out and refill several times, to "rinse" it. I don't really know if this is a comon problem, but I wnated to use the fibers for starting seeds, where ANY salt would be bad.

Maybe the place I read about it was an article by the "Peat Moss Association"!

Corey

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

August 4, 2011
10:43 AM

Post #8736587

I purchase classic coir from Worms Way. Not had any problem with salt in the coir. I also used this same product when I grew African violets. If you mix classic coir with equal parts of worm castings and horticultural perlite, it makes a great seed starting mix.

http://www.wormsway.com/results.aspx?search=classic coir = classic coir

http://www.wormsway.com/detail.aspx?t=prod&sku=EC430 = worm castings

http://homeharvest.com/soilamendmentsperlitevermiculite.htm = perlite

Organic_Joe
Berne, IN

August 5, 2011
11:38 AM

Post #8738807

HoneybeeNC are you following the square foot gardening method? I just read the newest book, which says that 6 inches of soil is all you need. Would appreciate any feedback you may have.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

August 6, 2011
7:20 AM

Post #8739895

Organic_Joe - I have the square foot gardening book. When I first installed the 6" deep beds it was on the advice of this book. I have since decided that square foot gardening is not for me, and that my beds need to be twice as deep.

My beds that are deeper manage lack of rain, the shallow beds don't. As for the square foot method, I think that it is good if you have a small garden, or only want to "pick and eat right away". I have a large garden, and freeze vegetables for winter use. So, I prefer the row method.

We have hard, red clay soil, and I think this also contributes to the failure of 6" deep beds being successful. Some vegetables are able to penetrate the clay substrate, but others are not.
Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA
(Zone 8a)

August 8, 2011
8:54 AM

Post #8744094

I'll second Honeybee's comments. I have a double stack of bricks and cinderblocks - 16 inch deep beds. Usually they are full to about 12" of soil. And I still have issues with them drying out too easily here in Middle GA. I use a less rigid than Square Foot Gardening planting system. And I use a very deep layer of mulch in an effort to keep as much moisture as possible.
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 9, 2011
3:33 AM

Post #8745968

Honeybee - I talked with a local farmer's market vendor a couple of weeks ago. I was talking with her about having some problems with the clay soil below our raised beds. She said they use a cover crop called GroundHog Radish to breakup hardpan. They leave it in the ground. It dies off in the winter (at least here) and decomposes in the soil. She said you can break it up more by tilling it in.

I haven't done any research on it to see if I thought it is viable for using in the raised beds but it seems like it has some possibilities.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 9, 2011
12:00 PM

Post #8746766

>> they use a cover crop called GroundHog Radish to breakup hardpan. They leave it in the ground. It dies off in the winter (at least here) and decomposes in the soil.

I used Daikon radishes this year for the same purpose, want any seed? I bought a bigger pkt than I needed, and if these big seed pods mature before the fall rians, I'll have lots iof saved seed for next year.

I read about "Tillage Radishes", and apparantly "oilseed radishes" are also used for the same purpose.

http://www.TillageRadish.com

Corey
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 9, 2011
2:09 PM

Post #8746971

Interesting.

I found this site also. It talks a bit about the different types of cover crop radishes and the fact that they stink when going through the rotting stage. http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Radish_cover_crop/

and this one has spec sheets on it. http://covercropsusa.com/5420/5320.html

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 9, 2011
2:17 PM

Post #8746991

Thanks! Now I know not to blame the cats if that area smells like a cat box!

Corey
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 9, 2011
5:57 PM

Post #8747490

I missed the cat box comment. Where did you see that?

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 9, 2011
6:14 PM

Post #8747532

>> I missed the cat box comment.

Sorry, I said that on some other thread. In my manufactured-home park, turned soil seems to be rare. Cats asume it's for their use, and any raised bed that I turn or rake acquires "presents" from cats.

When seeds and seedlings are likely to be churned under, as happens often, I cover with chicken wire.

I know that cat poo contains human-transmissible parasites like Toxoplasma. Hopefully, only in the soil and not in vegetables.

Corey

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

August 11, 2011
8:00 AM

Post #8750198

Hmmm... I'm trying to decide whether or not to grow one of these radishes. Some sites say they attract deer, and I don't want to tempt them to jump our fence.
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 11, 2011
8:53 AM

Post #8750255

.How high and where is the fence? Is there anything you could interplant with the radish that repells them or by itself that does the same function as the radishes?
Cindy_GA
Eatonton, GA
(Zone 8a)

August 11, 2011
3:18 PM

Post #8750823

I grow daikons - we love them. But we didn't find that they went into the hardpan below our beds. When the daikon got 14-16 inches long, they just heaved up above soil level. I'm really intrigued by the tillage radishes tho. I wonder if I planted them in my shallower beds over winter if I'd see some improvement in soil depth?

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 11, 2011
3:40 PM

Post #8750854

I just went out and sacrificed a few Daikon radishes, hoping and expecting to see long roots. Nope.

The thick part was only about 2" long, and a hair-like tail ran longer until it broke off.

The funny thing is, this was in part of my BEST raised bed, or second-most-amended after a small spot where I put bulbs. (Heavy clay, yes, or clay-loam by my standards, but 5-10 times softer than unimproved parts of my yard. I can push a finger into it, wet or dry.)

Now I have serious doubts about Daikons "digging" into actual clay, let alone hard pan.

At least it looks like I'll be able to save a lot of radish seeds, based on the many big pods.

Corey

SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 11, 2011
6:34 PM

Post #8751170

Diakon is not an oil seed radish. So I'm not sure if a diakon would have the same effect or not.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

August 11, 2011
8:24 PM

Post #8751412

>> Diakon is not an oil seed radish.

I agree.

>> So I'm not sure if a diakon would have the same effect or not.

I was told it would, but then sometimes Internet opinions aren't worth the paper they're written on. Probably I should try the right kind of radish and compare the depth they penetrate.

I had hoped they would be forcefull enough to at least grow to size in a bed I had already amended! Oh, well, I already knew it needed more compost. This just reminds how BADLY it needs more compost!

Corey


This message was edited May 23, 2012 5:25 PM
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 11, 2011
8:43 PM

Post #8751442

Check with the agricultural side of your state extension office or state agricultural college. They should have information or at least an opinion on best cover crops for your area.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

August 12, 2011
8:59 AM

Post #8752052

Susan -
Quoting:How high and where is the fence


The fence is about five feet high and surrounds our backyard. Deer pass by on the other side of the fence to drink water from the drainage ditch up the street. Sometimes they stop in our neighbor's back yard to drink water from her bird bath.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 6, 2012
11:45 AM

Post #9032244

Hi Ya'll!

I was told to bring my post over here for advice about where to plant stuff in my new raised bed(s). HoneybeeNC, I know you do intensive gardening, and that's what I'm most interest in. I am NOT looking for the square foot gardening method. I want to do like HoneybeeNC, and as soon as something comes out, something goes in!

I just built my very first raised bed this past Friday, 4 x 8 x 11" deep, oriented East-West, and has wind blowing over it from the North-South, most of the day (a natural wind tunnel...). The ground was tilled to a depth of between 8-10", so I have at least 18" growing depth.

I should have another bed done by this weekend, and a third bed later. They'll sit side x side, with an 18" pathway between.

[I was considering constructing a concrete walkway between the boxes, but HoneybeeNC just stopped me in my tracks with the comment regarding worm castings -- which I definitely want/need, and if I can get them for free with a leaf pathway in-between the beds, then that's the way I'm going. I can put the concrete somewhere else I need to walk!

Oh, almost forgot. I'm hoping to rotate from bed to bed each season, so don't end up planting over and over in the same site. Right?

So, I'm asking for ya'lls expertise on the plant layout. I need help determining WHERE the veggies go in these beds, since I have never planted in the ground before. Been doing the eBuckets since 2008. Also, I'd like to do edible landscaping, so while it might not seem like a lot of veggies going into these beds, I would like to incorporate some companion plants like marigolds, nasturtiums & daylilies, chives, green onions, and geraniums and Zinnias in the space I might have left over.

I'd like to grow the following this season in the three beds:
Tomatoes (16 Heirlooms)
Okras (4-6)
Eggplants (4)
Sweet Bell Peppers (6)
Sweeties (could devote a whole bed for sweet potatoes, or use the SmartPots I have?)
Cukes (2 vines only - not much room for vining stuff to run)
Squash (1-2 vines only)

I haven't grown very many spring/summer veggies, other than tomatoes and bells. I can incorporate some of my buckets/large planters, as well as my 9 patented Earthboxes. This is all a work in progress...building the box was the first step!

Since fall/winter is when I TRULY grow lots of stuff, I know what I can do when those seasons roll around. It's making the best use of the RBs during the spring/summer that eludes me.

Thank you in advance. I look forward to working with you all on this latest challenge of growing in the spr/summer!

Hugs!

Linda

P.S. Sorry about the picture of the RB in place. It was dusk yesterday, and my cellphone camera was low on battery juice...I'll post a better pic tonight.

Thumbnail by Gymgirl   Thumbnail by Gymgirl   Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Click an image for an enlarged view.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 6, 2012
1:29 PM

Post #9032341

Gymgirl - Sweet potatoes use up a LOT of space, even the so-called bush varieties. I set mine on a ridge at the North end of the garden and let them wander.

Tomatoes and sweet peppers don't play nice together. Each wants to grow taller than the other. My peppers didn't grow "peppers" until August when the tomatoes finally gave up in the heat!

Ooops my phone just rang - I gotta go - will write more later.
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

March 6, 2012
1:49 PM

Post #9032366

Look at rotation criteria for ideas of what to plant where. Three year rotation between plantings on tomatoes and other nightshade plants (List of Nightshade Vegetables (Solanaceae Family: Peppers, Eggplant, Potato, Tomato, Tomatillo).

We grow out peppers and Eggplants in containers and then I don't have to worry about those.

We generally stick all the greens, Asian greens, and Brassicaceae in one bed. Garlic and peas in another. Watermelon in a third. Make sure when you build the bed that you have a set up for any vining plants you plan on putting in.

We have four x8 foot beds and if Ihad to do it again I would go with only three feet wide.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 6, 2012
1:50 PM

Post #9032367

Bee, et al,
Please post more!

Hugs!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 6, 2012
2:13 PM

Post #9032414

SusanKC,
Thanks. I have space to fit two more beds on the pad, and I've been toying with making them only 3ft wide. Very do-able since they aren't built yet!

Also, we're on the same page with the peppers, okra, and eggplants in containers. Mine have always done well in 6.5 gallon buckets, and I have lots of buckets to plant those things in.

I won't have any more Brassicaceae growing until the fall. Just ripped all the buckets they were growing in. The soil from those buckets is going to be mixed into the soil for the tomato bed. Will this be OK, or should that soil go in another direction? It's only been used one season, and I'd hate to lose it all. Or, tell me where it can be used if not with the tomatoes, please.

[We generally stick all the greens, Asian greens, and in one bed.] I could do one bed of all greens, no problem. The problem is that all the fall/wtr greens are now bolting in our heat. So what can go in the greens bed next, until the fall/wtr?

[Garlic and peas in another.] I missed the planting date for garlic here, I think. However, I have Kentucky Wonder Pole beans I started from seeds. My idea was to transplant them (I know --- very, very, very carefully...) into either buckets or large planters with bamboo tepees for trellising.

[Watermelon in a third]. Never have grown any vining plants. Would love to grow small, personal, sweet watermelons! Could you recommend a good variety, please?

[Make sure when you build the bed that you have a set up for any vining plants you plan on putting in.] The tepees will hold the pole beans. I think I could use them for the cukes, too, yes? I'm going to grow the cukes hydroponically in a closed garbage-can setup. Could put the tepees over it for trellising and camouflage.

As I'm interested in landscaping the yard too, with some flowers, I could fill in with some edible flowers? Never have grown anything but marigolds...

Thanks!

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 6, 2012
3:31 PM

Post #9032521

From what I read, you might want to put permanent trellisses on the North edges of beds, for climbing vines, so they don;t shade the rest of the bed. Similarly, tend to put tall plants in the nroth half of the bed, and short plants in the South half.

Pure speculation: for really sprawling things like sqaush, maybe it would be desirable to have an even wider sidewalk. Then the spralwers could leave their roots in the bed, but spread vines far afield over the walkway. I thought eggplant sprawled, and tomatoes could sprawl.

>> companion plants like ... chives, green onions

Have you considered the Asian version of chives - Allium tuberosum?
Garlic Chives / Chinese Chives / Chinese Leek / Gai Choy
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/278/
12-18" tall Herb, there are tall & short varieties, tall is more often sold in Chinese food stores
space 3-6" apart
Perennial Zones 4-8
reseeds freely & spreads by roots, can divide the rootball
may be invasive if not deadheaded
versatile: cutflowers, dried flowers, edible flower


>> The ground was tilled to a depth of between 8-10",

This question is irrelevant if your subsoil has reasonable drainage ("perk"), but it is an obsession of mine so I'll ask:

Did you need to add any drainage (like a trench) to keep the below-grade soil you've tilled un-flooded?

In my heavy clay, whatever I till and amend below grade promptly becomes a mud bath: just like a hole that fills with water from rain and then takes days or weeks to drain empty. Anywhere I dig below grade, I have to run a drainage trench from the "floor" of my bed to an even lower spot .


This message was edited Mar 6, 2012 4:31 PM

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 6, 2012
6:10 PM

Post #9032673

Rick,
I have no clue what the drainage will be. Short of flooding the bed now, I really have no way of knowing what it will do once it's filled. I know the mix I'm creating is fast draining, but I don't know the "perk" rate below the grade.

Do I flood that bed now?

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 6, 2012
7:09 PM

Post #9032744

Well, do you have much slope to your yard? If it is flat as a pancake, there is no low spot to run that trench TO ... so don't bother. If there is a signifigant problem, you'll soon know. At the end of the growing season, big into your bed and see how deeply the roots flourished. They might well have found plenty of food and water in the first 11"!

Also, if heavy rain never cauases standing puddles or runoff in your yard, even where there are shallow depressions, you have enough "perk".

If you have very few heavy rains during the growing season, no problem. Just don't over-water hugely.
If your subsoil DOES drain even a little, probably no problem.

If Houston is an arid part of Texas, those 8-10" tilled below grade might be the "reservoir" in your Earth-Box system. It could hold water until the bed above dries out, then water will wick up to where the roots are.

Because I obsess on drainage and aeration, I would want to test it after a relatively heavy rain. Basically, do the perk test. You almost certainly already know what I'm going to say, but maybe someone reasing this thread next year might not.

Dig a small hole in the bed as deep as the 8-10" you tilled below grade. Reach the "floor".

(To be unecessarily over-fancy, or to keep the walls from collapsing when wet, maybe insert some PVC pipe with drilled holes near the bottom or cut-up & nested soda bottles. Or just make the hole big enough that the walls don;t collapse when wet.)

Then wait for heavy rain - or water more heavily than you expect any rain to be, during the growing season.

If the drainage can't keep up with the rain, there may be a problem. Standing water is a fairly bad sign.

If the hole doesn't drain within 15-60 minutes of the end of a rainstorm, my theory is that root hairs and small roots will suffocate or drown. Each time you get that much rain, some roots will die, and then the plant will start growing them back, putting enrgy into the roots instead of growing bigger.

It's a little worse than just having a shallow root zone: the plants will keep trying to send down roots and they'll keep drowning. As long as rain that heavy isn't frequent, you'll still get by. But with my preoccupation with aerating the soil, I might try to lay down a tarp or strips of plastic during the heaviest rains to encourage runoff.

Actuaully, in my alter ego as Human Mole Person, I would probably dig some deep sample bore holes here and there in my yard, to see if any part of the yard DID have well-drianing subsoil within a few feet of the surface. If you can reach a well-draining layer, dig one small hole inside your bed down to that layer, and back-fill with gravel or coarse crushed rock, plus maybe some filter cloth. like a vertical drainage ditch or "French Drain", I think the term is.

Then your bed would drain straight down, and the roots would be slightly happier, and I would be much happier.

In my yard, everywhere I've checked, the clay just gets purer and the rocks just get bigger. I've checked 2 feet down in several places and 4 feet in one place. I think the builders bulldozed down to a hard layer they could build on.

Where I left test holes, the water stood there for days. Did it drain or evaporate? :-(

But is trenching or testing really necessary? Not if your plants are happy with the "raised" part of the bed being most of their root zone.

P.S. If you have any trees or bushes near the bed, I would expect them to help your drainage, by sucking water away from the floor of the bed. Maybe till a path from the bed to your bushes, in effect a short trench, encouraging their roots to grow towrads your bed and help it drain. Of course, you might prefer a little veggie-root-drowning to bush-root-competition!

SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

March 7, 2012
6:09 AM

Post #9033075

The only time we have drainage issues in the raised beds is with clay soil. Since we used composted manure to fill them up it's not an issue. If you are on hardpan that might be another issue. Check with the Texas area forum to see what they say.

Permanent versus mobile trellis is going to be a judgment call on your part about what is going to work in your yard. Personally in our yard for veggies we use something that comes down or is moved to a new location every season. Google "raised garden bed trellis" for some ideas.

We have a small suburban yard so space is at a premium. Any vining items we trellis including the watermelons. Use a sling to tie the melons and squash to the trellis. That will keep them from breaking off of the stem too early.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 7, 2012
7:40 AM

Post #9033168

Rich and SusanKC,
THANK YOU, SO MUCH! for the feedback.

Rich,
I have a tree that sits next to the bed. I was about to have it cut down, but thanks to your feedback, I'll wait until after this weekend of heavy thunderstorms to make that call. They're predicting heavy rains, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If the bed holds too much water, the tree stays. I had French drains run behind my patio because the water rain toward the house. If after the rains, I see the perk is really bad, i may have to run a drain directly underneath the site and tie it into the existing drain. Better now, than later, since I haven't filled the bed(s) yet...

SusanKC,
I love the idea of portability, multi-tasking, and convertibles. My dream yard would include all sorts of designs that become "this or that," or go "up or down" as necessary, and maybe even "go away" for awhile. I like things and structures that can serve more than one purpose for a given time.

I've been thinking on Cricketsgardens tomato setup. Have you seen her site? She's growing phenomenal tomatoes in 4-gallon grow bags. She has a frame over her line of tomatoes to which she anchors each plant via a drop line. The line is tied loosely to each plant, then wound around the line as it grow upward. She trims the vine to only 1 main vine (sometimes 2 vines).

I've been envisioning some sort of narrow pergola type structure over the beds that would be decorative, yet serve as the frame for the drop lines. I could use stout lumber for the ends, and smaller (yet, sturdy) lumber for the overhead. It could serve a number of purposes as a frame for shade cloth or frost protection, as needed, and to anchor the drop lines for the tomato plants. Could probably install portable screens on one side for trellising the cukes and/or melons.

Multi-tasking. It could be a lovely structure with many uses. And, in the totally off season, it would serve as a simple focal point over the bed, with flowers.

Yep.

Thanks, again, guys!

Keep talking to me -- I'M LISTENING!

Linda
LiseP
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 7, 2012
8:33 AM

Post #9033218

I don't have much smart advice, Linda, but your raised bed looks GREAT!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 7, 2012
8:47 AM

Post #9033233

LiseP,
That WAS smart advice! LOL!!!

Linda, and all her friends who are helping her get this started after 4 years of trying! ^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^^:-)^

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 7, 2012
11:40 AM

Post #9033418

Rick -
Quoting:I think the builders bulldozed down to a hard layer they could build on.


I think that's what the builders did here, too. Im trying to get my 8ft t-posts a couple of feet into the ground, but I keep hitting rock at around 18"!

I'll have to make the raised beds deeper to compensate.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 7, 2012
12:48 PM

Post #9033465

Gymgirl - I have nine raised beds 24ft long. In time they will have 12" boards on one side, and 10" boards on the other to allow for the slope. Each bed is 3ft wide with a 3ft path between.

From closest to the house going down the slope...

Bed one: will have herbs: parsley, basil, french tarragon, and thyme. This bed gets too much shade in the summer and gets infiltrated by tree roots, which herbs don't seem to mind. I already have sage, Greek oregano, and Rosemary in perennial beds.

Bed two: already has two rows of garlic. The other two rows will be planted in Dixondale's "Candy" onions next week. These will be pulled at the end of June beginning of July. I will probably follow these with broccoli.

Bed three: I'm preparing 1/2-bed for "Tasty Bite" melons (on a trellis.) These only grow to about 2lbs, so the individual fruits don't need support, just the vines. The other half will have onions. I'll probably follow these with beets.

Bed four: I've just pulled one row of broccoli and prepared half the bed for snap peas (on a trellis.) The pea seeds will be sown tomorrow. The other half will be planted in onions. Both will be out by the end of June or early July. I might try growing carrots next winter, seeing as we are now supposed to be in zone 8b they should do well with the milder winters.

Bed five: will have two rows of bush beans. I'll probably follow these with Brussels sprouts.

Bed six: will have two rows of sweet peppers. I've purchased some seeds, and DG members have mailed me other seeds to try.

Bed seven: two rows of hot peppers (for my Italian neighbors)

Bed eight: will have two rows of tomatoes. I won't try to interplant them this year, they shade everything too much.

Bed nine: I'm going to try growing seedless watermelon. From what I've read they are rather tricky!

Then there's the area where hubby has been removing the bamboo...

The soil seems to be much lighter than the rest of the garden, so I'm going to sow summer squash and pumpkin seeds that DG members mailed me. There's a large open area amongst the trees, so they can sprawl all they like.

Between the main garden, and the bamboo-less area is what I call the "crescent bed". This will be sown with flower seeds.

On the North end is a perennial bed of asparagus in it's sxith year. Next to it is the area where I grow sweet potatoes.

We also have two pear trees (yet to have pears!) and a fig tree - which gave us lots of small fruit last year for the first time.

Arugula pops up everywhere and manages to reseed itself all year long. Love arugula in my lunch time sandwich.

Under our oak tree (which I'm now thinking is an Ash) are daffodils and irises. Along the path to the garden are roses. With any luck, the hydrangea beside the lean-to has survived. The area beside the garage is always shaded, and is planted with evergreen ferns.

In yet another area are four blueberry bushes. So far the birds have not shared any fruit with us. LOL

I have lots of left-over seeds from previous years, so if something doesn't do well, I'll throw in a few of them too.

JoParrott
Richland, WA
(Zone 7b)

March 7, 2012
12:51 PM

Post #9033467

Honeybee, I (we) would love to see photos !

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

March 7, 2012
12:56 PM

Post #9033477

Jo - I have shared some in the past. Once summer is here, I'll share some more. Here's one from July 2010

Thumbnail by HoneybeeNC
Click the image for an enlarged view.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 7, 2012
1:05 PM

Post #9033492

Gymgirl,

>> I had French drains run behind my patio because the water ran toward the house.

I had forgotten that was you - the patio runoff that had to be diverted ... maybe to a drain in a public road??

P.S. Your photos reminded me that wooden RB walls do look good. I like my conc rete pavers for mobility, convenience and price, but wood does look good.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 7, 2012
1:38 PM

Post #9033547

HONEYBEENC,
YOU ROCK!!!!! ^:-)^!!!

Rick,
Yes, those were my French Drains! We're expecting 3 days of heavy thunderstorms starting tomorrow night, so, I'll get to see firsthand what the tilled up soil below grade will do with a gullywasher! It'll either be a bathtub, or not! Of course it'll fill up from the rains, but I'll get to see if, and how fast, the tub drains!

Once I assess, I can determine if I need to lay a small drain just below grade to divert the water toward the other drain.

I already know I'm not digging down 2 ft. to tie it in!

Regarding the RB. Since I didn't have $$$ to use cedar, I used pressure treated pine and faced the outside of the box with the cedar fence pickets I had left over. It does look nice -- even empty!

SusanKC,
Do you have any pics of your small space setup? My yard isn't all that big, and I'm interested in how others have set up their small gardens.

Thanks!

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 7, 2012
1:54 PM

Post #9033582

>> I already know I'm not digging down 2 ft. to tie it in!

I think I figured out one reason I have such an obsession with trenching and deep turning: I just like to dig in soil!

I may have some Mole ancestry.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

March 7, 2012
1:56 PM

Post #9033587

"Mole Man!" LOL!

It's ok. I'm obsessed with boxes. Any kind. decorative, empty boxes... can't pass one up...

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 7, 2012
2:08 PM

Post #9033596

At work, I go past large, small, flat, huge and tiny boxes being thrown away, every day.

Fortunately I learned that Shipping grabs most opf the smnall ones for re-use, or they would all have to "follow me home".

Big ones without many glued-on labels go into my trunk for weed control or rasied bed flooring.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 23, 2012
5:37 PM

Post #9135770

The original topic was 6" vs 10" depth ... a new neighbor just moved in next door. Show's been chopping things down and made me remove a perennial bed that the p;rior tenant had let me puit in on her side of the sidewalk.

Well, that was a long, narrow 6" deep bed, and things kind of grew OK, considering it was in part shade or even heavy shade.

After she made me transplant everything, I took back my amended soil and pavers, perhaps as many azs 20 wheelbarrow loads combined, and now I have smaller but deeper beds in nearly full sun! I'm sujre things will grow better there due to the sun, and perhaps the deeper soil.

But I learned some things:
- don't plant pernennials where you might have to move them if the n eighbor moves

- if the soli will need lots more amendments turned under for a few years, plant annuals instead of perennials. Tilling and weeding is much easier if you can make a clean sweep in spring and fall.

- when you start a new kind of perennial, take lots of pictures of the seedlings! Some day you will ask yourself 100s of times: "Is this a weed, or is this that fussy perennial I've been trying to establish for so many years!

Before Al introduced me to the wonders of pine bark, I never trusted containers. But maybe I should do my first year or so of a new perennial in POTS. Then at least I will know what's a weed and what's precious.

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