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High Yield Gardening: Raised bed, soil and other?

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Forum: High Yield GardeningReplies: 6, Views: 149
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New York, NY
(Zone 7a)

April 18, 2009
7:40 PM

Post #6428836

Raised bed about 20' x 81/2' was done last season with stone. Have 8 plants in there from last year. I am getting a mix of mostly shade perennials and ground cover, and a few evergreens and small shrubs to try to see what does well in this heavy shade spot in upstate NY.

The current level of soil is about 4" from the top of the small stone wall making up this bed. Was considering making the soil more like 1" from the top of the wall. Cubic yard calculator with 20' x 8' and 3" depth gives around 1.5 cubic yards needed for this area.

-How close to the top of the raised bed barrier is the soil level typically?
-Wondering if 1/3 top soil, 1/3 compost (composted manure?), 1/3 peat moss would be a good mix?
-Having top soil/compost delivered and dumped in the driveway has a lot of different prices, is this more of a multiple bag scenario? (about 41 cubic feet in 1.5 cubic yards)
-Some deliver compost, but composted manure?

Piedmont, SC
(Zone 7b)

April 21, 2009
12:34 AM

Post #6439499

I would use bags since you only need to raise the height 2 inches. The top soil really adds nothing for your plants. I don't know about the manure compost because I use Mushroom compost from Lowe's or Walmart. I would use 3 parts compost to 1 part peat moss unless you have very dry conditions there. I hope this helps.
New York, NY
(Zone 7a)

April 21, 2009
4:02 PM

Post #6442385

Read somewhere (general internet search on mushroom compost) that mushroom compost is not all its cracked up to be and steer manure compost has somewhere around 3 times the nutrients? Something about chemicals also?

Found, a local to this property, landscape supplier that has topsoil, compost (not sure what type of compost),mulches, and something they call premium blend. For the 41 cubic ft. I'll need it's way cheaper to buy by the cubic yard. If I got lowes mushroom compost at $3.00/cu./ft. bag . To make the mushroom compost 2/3 of my mix I'd need 28 of these 1cu./ft bags. costing $84.00. 1 cu. yard (27 cu./ft.) of this companies compost delivered is $32.00.

Need a lot of mulch for the property also.
Gilmer, TX
(Zone 8b)

April 21, 2009
11:58 PM

Post #6444550

I would skip the peat does not add any nutrient quality to the mix and the harvesting process reportedly damages the environment. I would use compost, quality garden soil, and possibly manure.
New York, NY
(Zone 7a)

May 23, 2009
4:25 PM

Post #6587274

A lot of work on this raised bed project...hope to start another thread with progress pictures...

Got a 4 cu. yrd. top soil delivery dumped in the driveway (topsoil. as the companies compost was not "ready" and needed further screening. They stated that the top soil had some compost mixed in and would be fine for growing

I'm concerned and annoyed with myself for not sticking with my original thoughts of mostly compost and some topsoil (originally wanted 3.5 yrds. total, with mix of 2.5 being compost and 1 topsoil)

The topsoil that I purchased, when being shoveled and wheel barreled from the side driveway to the back raised bed. At times has big hunks of what to me seems like clay. Some chunks were taken in hand and can be broken/crumbled up.

-Am I dealing with clay soil -heavy clay, problem soil?

-Already added about 8 cu. ft. total of peat moss (bags) This 1" layer was added approximately 4" deep from where the surface layer of topsoil will be. With 1' to 2 " more of topsoil still to add, Should any other soil amendments be made?

This message was edited May 23, 2009 3:43 PM
New York, NY
(Zone 7a)

May 24, 2009
2:40 PM

Post #6590812

Put some more though into this, and am considering some options.
Thinking maybe slight raised bed up the side fence where pachasandra (spelling) is with the remaining top soil. Wood border or some smaller sized stone are both possible. Not too high or thick/heavy as other stone wall.

-Then I could purchase 1cu.yrd. compost from the company I got topsoil (this would allow aproximately 1" layer over entire raised beds (stone back and side fence) maybe 2" in some separate areas.
This with 2 more bag's of peat moss would give me a 2" top layer of peat/compost mix
A1/2 and 1/2 mix of topsoil and compost in some areas

-Add aprox. 9 cu.ft worth of bags of composted manure and that gives the whole area another 1/2" on composty good stuff?

-Add a small amount of sand to the 1cu. yrd. of compost order? drainage reasons? I know it's recommended at times for clay soil, but clay and sand is scary like it makes cement?

This message was edited May 24, 2009 11:16 AM


Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

February 28, 2011
6:57 PM

Post #8398950

>> -Add a small amount of sand to the 1cu. yrd. of compost order? drainage reasons? I know it's recommended at times for clay soil, but clay and sand is scary like it makes cement?

I think that clay gets hard when it is compacted - with or without sand.
Any pressure on it when wet (like walking on it, maybe even its own weight) will compact it.
I dug out some clay so bad that a pick would barely break it up when dry (I should have gotten it moist first!)
And yet, after i screened it into a loose heap and put NO pressure on it, it was still loose and friable weeks later.
One footprint turned it hard and impenetrable!

With or without sand, that clay needs lots of OM (organic matter). My limited experience is that i have to KEEP ADDING compost, because it tends to break down rapidly.

I think that "good soil" also needs a relatively coarse mineral component like sand or crushed rock, to keep it friable, support drainage channels and air pores. Not everyone seems to feel that way, but "sand is forever", and I've seen clay+compost take on a structure like pudding: soupy, gooey, no air and poor drainage. (It may have needed 4 times as much compost, and coarser, less-decomposed compost.)

I've become a big fan of very coarse sand. Indeed, technically the name may be "very fine gravel" because I've read that the dividing line is "2 mm" grain size. Anything from 10% to 25%, depending on what else is int he soil, and how fast you want your drainage.

My theory is that very coarse sand (or other hard particles like Perlite or Turface or pine bark chunks if you can find them) help aeration and drainage - being large, they encourage void spaces, pores or channels.

Does frost help them carve out new pores? I've also read that soil with a lot of clay expands and contracts a lot as it gets wet and drys.

Another theory I have is that fine sand may help keep heavy soil friable, since it is less sticky than clay, and the finer it is, the more surface area or "cleavage points" it can provide, per pound of sand. I've noticed that sand that is too fine, and wet, if unmixed, will cling to itself and form big clumps. Of course, pure clay and heavy clay soil also clump. But when I mixed the sand well into the heavy clay (with some compost), the result was much more friable than either component by itself.

Just my theories and observations - don't take my word for it until you see it yourself. For example, fork a bag of sand into just one spot in a heavy bed. Mix well. A month later, can you push your fingers into that spot easier than into the other side of the bed? When you wtaer, where does it soak in and where does it puddle on the surface and refuse to go deep?

This year I also discovered shredded pine bark (fibers and bigger shreds). They add structure by being long and somewhat stiff (or chunky, in the 1/6th" - 14" range)). They hold some water, and encourage excess to drain. When they break down, they will add OM deep in the soil, without my having to turn it over. And they last much longer than peat, and are coarser than peat (for drainage and aeration).

Decades ago, reading "soil books" that might have been old even then, it used to be an "of course fact" that good soil had three things in very roughly equal proportion:
colloidal and larger composted organic matter (but it is hard to keep OM above 10-15%, it oxidises so fast).

(You can also say that soil needs three things: soil, water and air.
OK, four things: and mineral nutrients.
Five things: and flourishing organisms, "soil biota", microbes worms and others, especailly mycorhizia (spelling?))

I'm told that gypsum (CaSO4) helps clay particles stick together into "crumbs", but the effect is not dramatic (or visible to me). But I'll give it a chance.

In any event, do beleieve this: the first and most important way to improve clay is to restore a lot of organic matter to the clay. The best amount of OM is probably "all you can afford and haul". The "lasagna" enthusiasts would have us plant in pure composting plant matter, with no mineral component in the top layers at all! And yet it seems to work.

If your experience is like mine, and you can't afford to add 6" of compost every year, sand helps friability, drainage and aeration ... as long as there IS some organic matter. And the more OM the better: if exzcess is even possible, it will self-correct.

Wheras more sand than 20-40% is bound to make naything drain too fast, and even your clay may elluviate away.


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