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Height of raised beds?

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Hello--how wonderful to find a site where I don't feel embarassed to ask questions.
I am looking forward to establishing my very first vegetable garden. The soil here on Cape Cod is very sandy, so I am planning to have raised beds of amended soil. My question is: how high should the beds be raised above my sandy soil? Five inches? Eleven inches? More? I plan to grow tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, squash, watermelons, and peppers. The good news is that my veggie plants will have good drainage, but I want them to have enough good soil to do well.
Thanks in advance,
Emily

Garland, TX(Zone 8a)

Welcome to the site, Emily! I live in an area with soil opposite to yours - it's all clay here on the Blackland Prairie. I've grown 4 of the 6 veggies you mention in a bed raised 6 inches above grade with well-amended soil. That depth seems to be the minimum recommended by most of the "pros" I consulted prior to venturing into this wonderful endeavor. The range is from 6 to 12 inches - I think any more would be superfluous. You might consider drip irrigation if you haven't already. I use the black soaker hoses that "sweat" out water along their lengths. I think they're great!

Anyway, best of luck to you!
~nifty

Blyth, ON(Zone 5b)

Hi Emily -- and welcome! My veggie garden is in a low spot in my yard, so last year I did exactly what you are proposing to do. I raised it with amended soil. Mine I raised about 8 inches, and everything did extremely well - even the carrots.

Good luck and happy feasting :-)

--Ginny

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thank you, Ginny and Nifty! I really appreciate your advice--I'm going to aim for between 6 and 8 inches of well-amended soil. And thanks for the advice about using soaker-hoses. Regarding the shape of the beds: did you heap the soil up to form them, or did you use wood or another material to create the sides of the beds? I realize that there are many ways to shape the beds, and I'm going to aim for creating four "plots" about 4' x 6' with some space separating them, perhaps with straw as a walkway in between. It's very exciting; today is the first day that my soil doesn't feel frozen! Spring may be coming after all to Cape Cod.
Thanks again for your welcome.
--Emily

Blyth, ON(Zone 5b)

I heaped the soil and left a drainage "trench" around the outside of my veggie garden - about 4 inches below the level of the adjoining ground. Since the main purpose of raising this bed was to improve the drainage I wanted to make sure it was really well drained.

I have other raised beds though that I've done differently, depending on the look I was going for. My herb garden is divided into 9 different 3' x 3' squares using old railroad ties. Looks very rustic but still well ordered, and helps to keep some of the more aggressive herbs in check. Then I have some raised flower beds that I simply heaped the soil up as you say. For these I was looking for a more natural, "always been there" sort of effect. So really, how you form them depends entirely on what "look" you are going for.

One word of caution though - if you just heap the soil, make sure you edge the beds, either with a lawn edger or with something to form a physical barrier, or you'll constantly be fighting grass and weeds creeping up in even if you mulch. I ran out of time last year to do this little part with my new raised beds and did I ever regret that! First item on my 2007 spring to do list :-)

Garland, TX(Zone 8a)

I used landscape timbers stacked 2 to 3 high (garden's on a slight slope, thus the need for one higher side). They were here when I bought the house, lining the straight rows of hedges which are now long gone! I'll add a caution about using landscape timbers since many people are aiming to be strictly "organic" gardeners. The timbers are treated with chemicals to delay their decomposition. So, planting close to the edges may be a concern, as some of the chemicals could potentially get absorbed by the veggies' root system. Mine were old enough that I felt I'd be safe as long as I didn't plant things right at the edges. :-)

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Oh, thank you for the warning about edging my raised beds--I am sure you are right because although it's really wintery today on Cape Cod, I remember how those weeds grow once the soil warms up. . .And thanks for the information about treated timbers. I'm going to research other options. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt--today we've had snow and sleet, which is a bit discouraging!

Calais, VT

I use 2x6 wood with 18 and 24 inch paths, that I cover with bark mulch, it is the best combo I have found. No weeds no grass. I did previously 'double dig' my beds to 12" deep but I had hard packed clay and basically dug it out and composted it or used it as fill! My beds are 4x4 and 3x3 but this year I am adding some beds 1 x 8 just for my tellised plants.

Columbus, OH

Please help, today I purchased in 3" pots lots of perennials. well it is
suppose to snow tonight and tomorrow. I am in zone 5. Would it be
sale to set the plants under the patio table & cover with plastic?

Thanks'
confussedlady

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Dear confused in Columbus:

I'm no expert on Zone 5, but I wouldn't put any tender perennials out if it's going to snow, or get anywhere near freezing. Check the little labels on the plants for information on how hardy to what temperatures your plants are. For instance, gardeners in my area, Cape Cod (zone 7a) don't put any tender perennials or annuals until after Memorial Day!

You'll probably get more expert answers if you post your question as a whole new separate thread on the Beginning Gardening Questions forum--this one is actually on "raised garden beds" and not many people will see your question.


Good luck!

Independence, MO(Zone 6a)

My soil is beautiful loam (gardened in for 89 years now), but I don't bend in the middle like I used to, so I'm using a raised bed and some big pots. My raised bed is 12" high and I used landscape fabric in the bottom, untreated cedar boards on the sides, and a mixture of topsoil and composted manure. 36 40-pound bags, oof! It will need a fair amount of fertilizer, topsoil is notoriously thin of good stuff. Depending on which seedlings survive long enough to get out of the house, I'm growing tomatoes (which are looking good), husk cherries, bok choi, an artichoke, lettuces, chard, snow peas, and assorted herbs & flowers to attract the good bugs. In the big pots I've planted potatoes and will add leeks if they ever get big enough to take outside.

Columbus, OH

CapeCodGardner, thanks so much for your advice. I am so confussed
with am I sowing for the spring or winter & the weather is not giving me much help. Guess I will have to research each type of seed & find out
if I am dealing with a tender or hardy plant.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thank you, carrieebryan, for your detailed description of your raised beds and what you will put in them. That was helpful. May I ask: how did you form your 12-inch high beds? Did you use those 12-inch raised bed corners to link your cedar boards--or another more "custom" system?
I'm also starting seedlings for my beds--mostly by the winter sowing method, which I've never done before--hope this works. Also under lights, which I've never done before either. It will be interesting to compare!

Independence, MO(Zone 6a)

You're welcome, CapeC! I bought 6" plastic 'stackable joints' made expressly for raised beds. Gardener's Supply Company has them, also Stokes, Park Seeds, and others, at wildly differing prices. I stacked them 2 high and inserted 4' long 2"x6" untreated cedar boards from the 'deck lumber' section of Home Depot. Pine was cheaper but it would have rotted away in a couple of seasons.

BTW I ate my first home-grown lettuce at dinner last night! Just a sprinkling on top of the hot-and-sour chicken, as it was the thinnings from my first sowing back in early March, before a week-long cold spell (down to 19 F) in early April. Plants that can (or should) be sown in place outside and that don't mind frost include peas, lettuces, and potatoes. The latter should be planted when the soil is 40 F, so you can imagine there'd be a few frosts here & there between planting the potatoes and putting out more tender items like artichokes (any time after last frost) and tomatoes (a month after last frost). I hope to make my 3rd sowing of lettuces this weekend, along with the chard and planting (yippee!) a couple of rose bushes at last. We still expect one or two more frosty nights here in the Kansas City area before the end of April.

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