Raised Beds Pros, Cons, Observations

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Containers, too! Pictures are welcome, have you tried them? Where you live and the difficulties you had, and changes you will make NEXT 😎 time. What plants do you want to have in those areas! I would rather not see small flower pots, but I realize some parts of the world face challenges, AND large containers are less easy to relocate when issues arise.
Below are cattle lick tubs as containers and set up as wicking tubs. 2) a painted cinder block herb bed 2 blocks high. 3) a cedar bed 18" high. 4) bricks as a bed and LOTS of heavy wire and stake reinforcing. 5) reclaimed weather treated wood and zinc plated steel sheets, reinforced inner bracing midsection.

This message was edited Dec 13, 2020 10:10 AM

Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana
Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

I have 30" hts on some of my beds. Wish I didn't since I put cucumbers and tomatoes there, I have to use a ladder to chase the fruit up the trellis, chuckl. I do like the beds that are only 24" high, especially for tall fruit. I could have trailed the vines over the edge and onto the ground but left only 36" between many of my beds and vines of what I grow can get 12' long. I also have heavy dew points that would have rotted ground vines. I LIKE the ht of the beds as it reduces moisture lingering on plants low to the ground. Am trying to keep the grass and weeds down in the walkways, but that is an ongoing issue since the beds allow water to escape the bottom and it feeds pesky tree roots, weeds, and grasses. I love my beds that run lengthways from north to south. This allows sunshine on them all day long and is important when my winter sun barely clears the tops of neighboring trees and pines. Some of my plants do better in a raised bed that is 5" tall and mounded- my oregano for instance.
My sisters brick beds, and concrete enclosures are still new, and ash and table scraps are still being incorporated thru the winter as she adds to her garden. She told me the sweet potatoes gave her a huge crop while planted in the black tubs. Unlike her, I have moles so my raised beds are set upon the top of the ground with metal fabric between the ground and the bed. She also has LOTS more room and no deer issues, chuckl.

Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana Thumbnail by kittriana
Oxdrift, Canada

Hey Kitt, I admire your attempt to get some conversation going on this website. I hope you will attract some active conversation. I am extremely happy with my 3 foot high beds. Thank you again for the inspiration you gave me to go this way. They are so easy to work with, no bending over. I was concerned with keeping them watered but filling them 2/3 full with rotten logs has made them very manageable. We had a very hot dry season and they required minimal watering. You have seen these photos already but hopefully this will attract some who haven't

Thumbnail by oxdriftgardener Thumbnail by oxdriftgardener
Oxdrift, Canada

I grow sweet potatoes in this 100 gallon horse trough . This year's yield in 2nd photo

Thumbnail by oxdriftgardener Thumbnail by oxdriftgardener
Oxdrift, Canada

My largest floral container is this reconstructed oxcart with the wheels of my great grandfathers cart. I add a generous dose of slow release fertilizer at planting time to last the season

Thumbnail by oxdriftgardener
Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Keith, what have you discovered about width of walkways with what you grow? I love your beds, your plants are always so colorful! I am happy with just getting stuff growing that wouldn't normally grow. Houston plants die about July and August, then again Jan and Feb when outdoors. In Canada I know you have less outdoor season tho.

Oxdrift, Canada

I have my beds spaced at 36 inches. At times a little more would be nice but for everything I wanted to fit into the 32 feet inside the fence that was all I could afford. It gets a little crowded with the watermelons and cantaloupe hanging into the aisles and also on occasion when I use a wheelbarrow in there it is tight for turning. I have a couple inches of wood chip mulch in the aisles to keep the weeds manageable.

Fort Worth, TX

I am in North Texas, and my tallest raised bed is about the height of a tidy cat bucket. It is a bag bed, sewn from pond underlayment, filled with dirt, and the surrounding tidy cat buckets hold the sides up. I have used it for onions, sweet potatoes and this year my tomatoes were in it.

The disadvantages to raised beds here are 2. One fire ants. Two: keeping adequate moisture in the beds.

My other raised bed that is still in use is a low hugel kultur bed, maybe elevated 8 inches. Had way too much nitrogen last year, but did reasonably well with onions and tomatoes this year, now has some garlic and broccoli planted for winter.

Pictures are not current, as right now more weeds than swiss chard, and only weeds in the fabric bag bed. It did have a nice crop of squash this fall, spaghetti, buttercup and a couple of yellow summer squash. I started the seeds August 9th.

The hardware cloth cover was for the guinea, the feral cats, the squirrels, you get the idea. this was an April 2019 pic, onions in the bag bed and I think swiss chard and broccoli in the hugelkultur bed.

2nd pic, bag flowerbed in my front yard. I had extra dirt after I converted a giant turkscap to a pond hole, and needed to expand it to make the pond look decent. piled it all there, it actually isn't a bag, dirt on top of dirt., but it is surrounded by the pond underlayment material I thought I would grow azaleas but couldn't get enough water to stay put

Thumbnail by Gypsi Thumbnail by Gypsi
Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Love that working bed, Gypsi. Is there anything you would do different if you rearrange it? First time I have seen what you did in front of the girls paintings!

Fort Worth, TX

I think it is as big and as tall as I want to deal with Kitt. My area is dryer than yours, really tall beds are almost impossible to keep moist enough for anything but cactus. It helps control waterflow down the hill, and so does the hugel kultur, keeping it away from my pear tree and heading it toward the paths and out, when we get a 9 inch rain (here lately it's 0, 1 or 9).

The tidy cat buckets have worked out well too, don't take as much dirt as 5 gallons, so I can lift them. I did a lot of thinking before I put that together. There are cinderblocks stacked 2 high on the fence side of the bed. I thought about herbs or flowers in them but that hasn't happened yet and really the area is too small for scattered seeds to not be a problem

Edmonton, Canada

Hi Guys
All the gardening i do is in a small raised bed about 1 foot high, and 4 foot square. It is under an apple tree, which i suspected made the bed acidic.

Last summer I mixed in two(5 gallon) buckets of clay, 3 buckets of compost, about 1 bucket crushed charcoal, a couple cups of ashes, about a pound of crushed igneous rock (like granite or basalt - made from solidified magma) i think i had peridotitie, and also some crushed rock from the outer rocky mtns - probably a limestone like rock, and 1 cup each of seaweed puree and fishmeal. I didn't get the best returns but compared to the year before - my chard and carrot seedlings hardly grew more than 5 inches - it was an improvement at about 12 inches high top growth.
I plan on improving my ability to grow these two plants and also spinach. Hopefully i didn't mees up my garden bed, I've heard mixed reviews about the biochar (charcoal i should say), but I don't really have any doubt i can work with it.

Fort Worth, TX

I would cut the ashes, I use them to kill weeds, having discovered the bed I used them in didn't produce nearly as much as before the ashes.

I myself use dirt, compost (from plants and fish stuff), eggshells, a little rabbit manure, and it works pretty well. Don't overdo the manure unless you compost it first

Edmonton, Canada

Yeah, the ashes... i was hesitant, thinking this could really do some long term change. Do you think coniferous needles would neutralize them, or is it something else about them - not just the alkalinity. I've heard you can add lemon juice at 1 or 2 tbspoons per gallon to lower ph as well.

I've heard that the rock dust brings things to neutrality (i think granite dust i the study i heard). I think it neutralized the pH in 6 months - my thinking is that it builds such a healthy microbe base, that it would smooth over a lot of problems in the soil, but this is somewhat speculation. I should try to find that web page again.

This message was edited Jan 9, 2021 3:01 PM

Fort Worth, TX

you need organic stuff to build a healthy microbe base, rock dust and ash are not organic.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

ANYTHING you add to that bed is not an instant fix. Give it 2 yrs to actually settle down. Also, it depends on ph you are actually working with. I keep hearing pine trees need acid soil so you have to lime them. Not mine, my soil, water, pine needles are always a steady 7.0 ph. If I were to lime them it would kill them. Pines, like oaks need an iron they can digest. Not lime. Iron and lime are not friends.
The soils, rocks and dust work in specific situations. Not in general. Gypsi's soil may be black gumbo, she needs composts, shredded aged wood, I have sand and I require composts, mulches. Tons of it or the root knot nematodes kill my plants.
What ph is your water? It will also change the soil ph, but, within a short time, it will revert to the original ph anyway unless in a contained isolated (vehicle. Pot?)
2 materials lowering ph are aluminum sulfate and sulphur. Vinegar can increase acidity thus lowering ph, but too much can kill a plant. Other ways are Canadian sphgnum peat, acidifying nitrogen, iron sulfate, and organic mulches. Not sure what you are trying to achieve, but rock, rock dust, are simply there with zero contribution to ph in any form. Lime, gypsum, baking soda, THESE things add to the soil ph.

Fort Worth, TX

mine is black gumbo Kitt, good guess. Not as thick a gumbo as I had in Arlington, there is topsoil mixed in out here and I bought 9 yards of good top soil and a yard of mushroom compost in 2015. With limestone underground I would never add lime, I do occasionally add iron sulfate but it's been 10 years. Most of my raised beds are not high, and there is no bottom, they are just elevated to avoid the occasional floods around here.

Oxdrift, Canada

Hi Mike, nice to see some new blood on here, especially a fellow Canadian. Welcome! As for the ashes, I used to use ashes in my garden a lot before I had raised beds with no negative results. However we don't tend to be too careful what goes into our burning garbage, like plastics etc. so I stopped more from concern about contamination of the soil that our food crops are growing in. I had always been taught that the ashes was abrasive to the skin of insect pests like cutworms and was a good natural way of fighting those off. Now I just try to add as much compost as possible and am a heavy fertilizer user. Not sure if you read all the posts at the beginning of this thread but I just put in new 3 foot deep beds this year. Following recommendations from Kitt, backed up by lots of Google searching, I filled the bottom 2 feet with well compacted rotten logs from our property. This seems to be working wonderfully. Easier to keep hydrated that my former 1 foot deep bins.

Fort Worth, TX

Wow a real discussion. Now, on materials, I am thinking about building an open bottom cedar raised bed to put under my cattle panel arch and use for stuff like squash and cantaloupe. I won't use treated wood. Do you think cedar is a good choice?

Edmonton, Canada

Thats really interesting about the "iron to digest", that just changed my perspective of the ecosystem - thank you.
I have not done a soil ph test, but the water is slightly above neutral - i think 7.2 or 7.5(?).
I got into rock dust because i am really interested in alternative science. I think they may not be telling us the truth about it due to basically "the fertilizer lobby"(as stated in "bread from stones" by Julius Hensel), thats just where I'm at with things, couldn't say i know for sure. But I do believe the studies which say there is aclhemy in plants - the ash of sprouted seedlings grown in inert media, with all know chemical imputs, contain elements that are not in the ash of the unsprouted seeds. These tests, i have heard, have been done "thousands" of times revealing a process not documented in main stream science.So i think there mat be some conspracy in this regard.

How ever, this may put the hole rock dust remineralization thing in a different light, if the plants themselves are creating new elements. Probably a succession of difeerent plants would create a healthy soil - or maybe each one creates what it needs for a healthy colony of it's offspring. Call me a dreamer.

Do you have practical experience or knowledge that the rock dust will not neutralize the ph,or is it just a common sense idea - that the rock is inert. It's got the "paramagnetism"(?) and rare elements... I believe it could work. I will have another look at the study I came across the other day, and I wil share it here.

Sorry if that was a little off topic. Potentially a huge conversation. But thanks for sharing that info on the soil ph - haven't really looked into ph yet.

Oxdriftgardener: Hello! nice to meet you as well! I am quite interested in gardening, so i think I'll be around for a while.
Yes, the "huegel culture"(hugel?). I got a friend who was telling me about it. I think he said he had a tall bed with gravelly soil in the bottom - not sure if this was with the logs. But i like the idea.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Gravelly soil in the bottom- more of a french drain than a hugelkulture- but would be great if you lived places with high rainfall areas. In ref to: Rocks and dust, they are finding that many rocks and granite are still radioactive- in differing amounts. Never done any actual testing, but Hawaii comes to mind as do The Rocky Mountains and Coeur d'Alene, Id areas...you would need to read up on the hugelkulture gardening, there are several types. My branches are deep enough I don't think they actually add to the plants as a hugelkultur- I simply used them as fill, chuckl. Not sure the materials that are being used with the rocks and dust, but it may be they haven't enough of real soil and are planting in composts, shrug.
Changing the soil around your apple tree could kill it if it is happy with its place in life, but I have heard they aren't as long lived as some fruit trees. Could just plant compatible plants there.
Iron to digest...chuckl, I had a stepdaughter who was extremely anemic-even when taking pregnancy strength iron. Dr took me aside and told me that girl could chew on an old iron t post til she was toothless, but wouldn't get any iron at all from it. It has to be in a form that the tree (and the girl) could use...I have had folks tell me I was wrong, but there are gardens I have grown that had liquad iron added- especially to the onions-and it was the only way they would grow.

DO look into ph. DO get a soil test even if it is a homegrown one as it affects the plants that can grow in that ph

Oxdrift, Canada

Gypsi, if you are going to use wood that is not treated, cedar is your best bet

Fort Worth, TX

limestone will raise pH, and so would limestone dust. Other minerals, you would have to research them. Hugelkultur is interesting, I have a couple of beds that have some really old pecan wood at the bottom. But they are not deep, just about 8 inches above grade.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.