jjdbike

Raised-bed for dummies please: how-to, what to plant, etc?

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Hey folks,

As we're at home more now and working on our garden, we figured this new reality being established by COVID is a good motivation to start to grow some food.

We live in southern Chester County PA heartiness zone between 6Ab and 7a - . I'd like to install a small raised bed. Unfortunately we don't have any place on out small borough property that gets full sun all day. The spot we picked out, gets full sun 2/3rd to 3/4 of the day and filtered sun the rest (morning). I intend to try to trim a tree to give a bit more shade. 

I'm the opposite of handy and have very limited tools. I've heard of many people who hacked a raised bed and failed. I'd like this one to last for the long hall.

I'm currently torn between purchasing a kit and asking a bud of mine who is very handy to build it. Any tips on important things to keep in mind when designing and building a raised garden bed?

What are some good that you would recommend to start with for a beginner? If there are any that are perenial or reseed that would be awesome. Examples of  what we'd like include some herbs, greens, beans, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. I planted a cherry tomato a bunch of years back and it reseeded itself for a few years which was great. 

I've heard that the most expensive and important element is the soil. Any recommendations? Remember, we're starting form scratch.

We do not have a watering system but do have close access to a hose.

 

Any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

JD

 

 

 

 

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of the crops you mentioned, only some of the herbs are perennials. Thyme, oregano, sage. Parsley is bienniel, but really only good the first year. Chives come back year after year, the purple flowers that come in June are great in salads. Basil is annual, and is very frost sensitive. Rosemary can be wintered over,but is tricky to do unless you are further south. While these all can be started from seed, you will have much better luck buying seedlings.

 

As for the veggies, none of those you mentioned are perennials. Tomatoes will drop seed (from tomatoes that fall on the groud and left to decay) and you get volunteer plants the next year, but there is no guarantee of their quality.

 

Beans and cucs can be direct sowed, the other started from seed (though for most you are already too late to do that) or just buy seedlings.

 

 

Greens, depends what you like. Leaf lettuce or buttercrunch (Boston) types do better than head lettuce. There are also chard, mustard greens, arugula, cress, all of which add some variety to salad. And then you can get into the Asian greens, but that is a bit more exotic. Might already be too late for spinach, as I would usually seed that in late March or early April.

 

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I have some raised beds made of composite decking, and some made of box-store landscape pavers.   Both were being used for other purposes when I bought the house so I repurposed them at no cost.   You can often pick up bricks or pavers on craiglist for cheap or free if you want to go that route.   Don't have to be too handy to stack bricks/pavers in a rectangle.  

 

My suggestion for lower cost soil is to avoid the big-box-store bags and pick up bulk from a mulch/compost supplier.  In southern Chester County there should be plenty of options.   I'm in northern Cecil Md and between Cecil, Chester and Lancaster there's plenty of old-school home and garden spots.  Cecil waste management might have cheap or free compost for sale as well.  You can get fancy with pH amendments and what not, but our neck of the woods has pretty good soil anyway, and I've always had good luck just by combining compost with what I dig out of the yard.  

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3 hours ago, fishfood said:

My suggestion for lower cost soil is to avoid the big-box-store bags and pick up bulk from a mulch/compost supplier.

This is a great suggestion.  If you don't have a truck many will deliver.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

4 hours ago, fishfood said:

My suggestion for lower cost soil is to avoid the big-box-store bags and pick up bulk from a mulch/compost supplier. 

This. It is FAR cheaper, and better quality. Get some top soil and then some compost.

 

To give you an idea, here is a place near me. Prices are pick up (second column) and delivered, (first column), 6 yard minimum on delivery, pick up, whatever you want.

 

Loam   $ 26.00 $ 23.00
Compost    $32.00  $29.00
Compost Loam    $28.00  $25.00

 

One yard covers about 300 square feet (say 10' x 30') one foot deep.

Edited by Steve in Mass

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SIMmer down there, Boy.  A cubic yard is 3ftX3ftX3ft or 27 cubic feet - not 300 cubic feet.  Unless you just came down from your sermon on the mount.....

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1 min ago, fishnfriar said:

not 300 cubic feet.

Oops, pressed the wrong button on the calculator (actually, forgot that extra divide by 12, that is what happens when your brain is 15 steps ahead of your fingers, just like my typing). :o

 

Let's try again,a foot deep for 3 foot by 9 foot bed per cubic yard.

 

Thanks for the correction. :th:

 

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

On 5/14/2020 at 8:00 AM, fishfood said:

I have some raised beds made of composite decking, and some made of box-store landscape pavers.   Both were being used for other purposes when I bought the house so I repurposed them at no cost.   You can often pick up bricks or pavers on craiglist for cheap or free if you want to go that route.   Don't have to be too handy to stack bricks/pavers in a rectangle.  

 

My suggestion for lower cost soil is to avoid the big-box-store bags and pick up bulk from a mulch/compost supplier.  In southern Chester County there should be plenty of options.   I'm in northern Cecil Md and between Cecil, Chester and Lancaster there's plenty of old-school home and garden spots.  Cecil waste management might have cheap or free compost for sale as well.  You can get fancy with pH amendments and what not, but our neck of the woods has pretty good soil anyway, and I've always had good luck just by combining compost with what I dig out of the yard.  

 

On 5/14/2020 at 11:48 AM, sbcbmx112 said:

This is a great suggestion.  If you don't have a truck many will deliver.

 

On 5/14/2020 at 0:57 PM, Steve in Mass said:

This. It is FAR cheaper, and better quality. Get some top soil and then some compost.

 

To give you an idea, here is a place near me. Prices are pick up (second column) and delivered, (first column), 6 yard minimum on delivery, pick up, whatever you want.

 

Loam   $ 26.00 $ 23.00
Compost    $32.00  $29.00
Compost Loam    $28.00  $25.00

 

One yard covers about 300 square feet (say 10' x 30') one foot deep.

Thanks Gents, I see you're so right with this suggestion.

So local to me is "Mr. Mulch". 

Here's my question. Home Depot sells "Miracle Grow Organic Raised Bed Soil" for $7.97 for 41lbs.

Mr. Mulch sells "peat moss", "soil conditioner", "mushroom soil", "leaf compost" and "top soil", and "potting soil".

Which product or what combination should I get to grow food?

Thanks!

JD

Edited by jjdbike

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Well, densities vary , but a top soil/compost mix averages about 2000 lbs/yard, so the Home Depot stuff comes out to ~$388 a yard :eek:

 

Not sure what he means by soil conditioner. I would get 2/3 topsoil and 1/3 compost. As to how much, you would need to measure your bed.

 

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I put in about 2' of commercial planters mix over the top of the clay in a raised planter... 20-25 CU YDs, if I remember correctly... It has performed well...

gTRV2T3.jpg

I also removed all of the clay for a depth of 5' to build a 5'W X 22'L planter in my front yard... I then put in this same planters mix... 22 CU Yds... Again, it did well...

anXKUKp.jpg

Kind of extreme, but it worked for me... The tropicals, citrus, dropped seedlings and weeds ;) seem to love it... I have replenished this with another 10 yds  of the mix as it has broken down.... Lottsa work for a 72 yr old man, to wheelbarrow this stuff from my driveway to the respective planters ... But worth it.... I have also used this same mix for a vegetable garden...

Butch

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1 hour ago, Midnightpass said:

I put in about 2' of commercial planters mix over the top of the clay in a raised planter... 20-25 CU YDs, if I remember correctly... It has performed well...

gTRV2T3.jpg

I also removed all of the clay for a depth of 5' to build a 5'W X 22'L planter in my front yard... I then put in this same planters mix... 22 CU Yds... Again, it did well...

anXKUKp.jpg

Kind of extreme, but it worked for me... The tropicals, citrus, dropped seedlings and weeds ;) seem to love it... I have replenished this with another 10 yds  of the mix as it has broken down.... Lottsa work for a 72 yr old man, to wheelbarrow this stuff from my driveway to the respective planters ... But worth it.... I have also used this same mix for a vegetable garden...

Butch

Oh my goodness, that's beautiful! 

Thanks for sharing that.

JD

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On 5/14/2020 at 7:44 AM, Steve in Mass said:

of the crops you mentioned, only some of the herbs are perennials. Thyme, oregano, sage. Parsley is bienniel, but really only good the first year. Chives come back year after year, the purple flowers that come in June are great in salads. Basil is annual, and is very frost sensitive. Rosemary can be wintered over,but is tricky to do unless you are further south. While these all can be started from seed, you will have much better luck buying seedlings.

 

As for the veggies, none of those you mentioned are perennials. Tomatoes will drop seed (from tomatoes that fall on the groud and left to decay) and you get volunteer plants the next year, but there is no guarantee of their quality.

 

Beans and cucs can be direct sowed, the other started from seed (though for most you are already too late to do that) or just buy seedlings.

 

 

Greens, depends what you like. Leaf lettuce or buttercrunch (Boston) types do better than head lettuce. There are also chard, mustard greens, arugula, cress, all of which add some variety to salad. And then you can get into the Asian greens, but that is a bit more exotic. Might already be too late for spinach, as I would usually seed that in late March or early April.

 

 

On 5/17/2020 at 0:17 PM, Midnightpass said:

I put in about 2' of commercial planters mix over the top of the clay in a raised planter... 20-25 CU YDs, if I remember correctly... It has performed well...

gTRV2T3.jpg

I also removed all of the clay for a depth of 5' to build a 5'W X 22'L planter in my front yard... I then put in this same planters mix... 22 CU Yds... Again, it did well...

anXKUKp.jpg

Kind of extreme, but it worked for me... The tropicals, citrus, dropped seedlings and weeds ;) seem to love it... I have replenished this with another 10 yds  of the mix as it has broken down.... Lottsa work for a 72 yr old man, to wheelbarrow this stuff from my driveway to the respective planters ... But worth it.... I have also used this same mix for a vegetable garden...

Butch

Thanks again Gents.

As in most things, I dove in head first.

Built one box, building another today & considering getting a container for greens.

getting plants tomorrow.

Hopefully I’ll be able to join into the garden thread soon enough.
I’d post pics if I could figure out how to get my iPhone to save them as the right kind of file.

Take care!

JD 

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Look for them on sale locally online, many different and good ideas. Most folks want to stay away from treated lumber, theres some bad stuff in there (arsenic) and other things that could possibly leech into the food. Cedar is always a good bet, or pavers, stone or brick are forever with little maintenance.

 

If $$$ are an issue, some 4 x 4 posts with galvanized sheeting can be had for short dollars, safe, long lasting and  easy to assemble.

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4 hours ago, Highlander1 said:

Look for them on sale locally online, many different and good ideas. Most folks want to stay away from treated lumber, theres some bad stuff in there (arsenic) and other things that could possibly leech into the food. Cedar is always a good bet, or pavers, stone or brick are forever with little maintenance.

 

If $$$ are an issue, some 4 x 4 posts with galvanized sheeting can be had for short dollars, safe, long lasting and  easy to assemble.

Thanks.

One is already built, the other will be built tomorrow. Also getting a container for salad greens.

I heard that treaded lumber had arsenic in it & was pretty toxic. 
That changed that a good number of years ago. They say the stuff they use to treat it now is safe.

Thanks 

JD

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