Garlic in a raised bed?

beesneeds(zone 6)September 16, 2013

I'm starting garlic for the first time this year.. And putting in our first raised bed to grow it in.

I'd like to share what I think we will do to set up the bed, and looking for advice on if I am making major mistakes or helpful additions to the plan.

I have had the area the bed will be going into under black plastic since last midsummer. The earth itself is a fairly light sandy loam. It's in a very sunny with some dappled evening shade location.
We are going to be building a 10 inch deep bed around 6x6 to 8x8. We have some boards for it, I haven't measured off the final dimensions yet. It's using scrap wood.

We have a huge heap of a couple year old horse manure the neighbor kindly dropped off for me, and soon I will have tons of leaves to add in from some sugar maples and fruit trees.

I was thinking of digging down the bed by 6 inches or so and setting the dirt on a tarp to mix with an equal amount of the compost. Line the bottom of the hole with newspaper first and then a thick layer of leaves, then wet it all down well. Fill the rest of the box in with the removed dirt and compost mix. Mulch over with either more leaves or more newspaper.

I have wood ashes and ground eggshells to dig in if needed. And several gallons of water siphoned off from cleaning the fish tank. Lots of kitchen scraps and a bunch of coffee and tea drinking leftovers. Not sure what else would be needed for possible amendments.

The garlic I was given to try growing is Russian Giant, Leningrad, and Up North, all hardneck kinds I think. A head of each. If I have room in the bed I want to try some other garlic too if anyone is willing to trade me some or I find something locally.

I think I'm going to try square foot planting for this bed, giving all bulbs 6 inches between each other. I don't think doing rows in this size box will work very well.

So any advice about how I plan on setting up this bed would be helpful. Thanks in advance.


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Sounds like you have a great spread there!

If you can access the bed from both sides, I would make it 4 feet or less in width. If you can only access it from one side, I would make it 2 feet or less. Length can be whatever is convenient for you.

If you make it 6 feet wide (or wider), it will be too hard to reach the middle area for planting, weeding, etc. You could make it 8 feet wide, and put a path in the middle, I guess, but unless you are very careful, you will end up compacting the soil in the bed more than you want when you walk on the path.

In your space, maybe you would be better off putting in two beds.

I think 6 inches spacing might be a bit too close. The leaves will be touching each other.

Consider adding hardware cloth to the bottom of the bed to keep out gophers. Where I live, it is foolhardy to go to the trouble of making a bed without gopher-proofing the bottom. You would use 1/2 inch galvanized hardware cloth, stapled or screwed or nailed securely to the bottom of the bed with no gaps big enough for a gopher. What I do, since the hardware cloth comes in 4-foot rolls, is make the outside dimension of my bed exactly 4 feet. This gives me a little overlap for screwing down the hardware cloth. You need special cutters to cut it as the wire is steel (many wire cutters are only rated for copper).

I don't know that much about soil stuff, but you may be doing more work than necessary. I think all you have to do is mix the manure with the sandy soil you have now and you will be fine. That is what I am going to do this year.

Hope that helps, and I hope the weather is favorable for you!


    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 7:37PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

RAISED BED can be any dimension. But if it is 8 ft. wide, and you want to do Sqr-ft gardening, then you will need to have a walkway in the middle. If the walkway is 2 ft wide them you will end up with 3 ft on each side, which is fine. This way you use less material (lumber, blocks ,..) but more soil to raise it.

I also think that 4 garlic per sqr-ft is pretty good.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 4:29AM
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beesneeds(zone 6)

Well, got out and measured the boards. I have two 7 foot boards and one 8 foot board. So the final box dimension will be 7x4. It's being placed in an area that will have clearance on all 4 sides. It will be short end pointed at the fenceline- the first in a stretch about 120 feet long or so that I plan on putting in more boxes as I can.

The suggestion about the hardware cloth is probably a good one. We got something living in my yard that leaves lumps and bumps all over the place. Don't know if it's something that will eat my plants or not. I've seen holes and lumps, and when I smush them down they seem not to get used again, but I haven't seen anything entering or leaving holes.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 1:56PM
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Sounds like it could be gophers. I don't know much about moles and voles. I haven't had to deal with them. But I assume the hardware cloth will keep them out, too. Not sure if they are likely to climb over the board and get in that way, but gophers don't do that.

Looking through this forum, I was probably wrong about the spacing. Lots of people seem to use 6 inch spacing, so I guess that is OK, based on that.

Since you haven't received any knowledgeable replies about the soil question, I wonder if you should go over to the vegetable forum and let them know that you have this question over here (not cross-post, but just prompt them to come over here).


    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 2:15PM
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cleocrafta(z4 MN)

I made a 4ft X 25ft raised bed last fall. Used recycled retaining wall blocks on top of 1/4th inch mesh. Filled with good black dirt, compost, and topped the planted garlic with straw & leaves. I placed a plastic mesh fence material over top to keep out the wild turkeys etc. I removed the mesh early in the spring just as the plants were sprouting. I planted several varieties(carefully labeling each row). Had a fabulous crop of garlic to use, share and plant this fall. Highly recommend a raised bed style of planting!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 1:04PM
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