Raised Garden Beds in San Diego

AggieGraceMarch 9, 2013

I'm planning on putting in 2 4ft x 6ft raised beds over the next couple of weeks. I'll be using one for strawberries (yes, I know I'll need to enlarge it after a couple of years) and the other will have pickling cucumbers and tomatoes. I'm going cross-eyed from all the research, but have a few (hopefully) basic questions....

1. Best material to build the beds. If lumber, treated or untreated? I worry about chemical contamination. What kind of lumber is best? I've heard cedar is, but not sure if they carry it at the local Lowes or HD (or how expensive it is).

2. If using lumber to build the beds, will those attract termites? The beds will be approximately 15 feet from the foundation of the house. We had to treat the house when we bought it and that's a headache I don't need again.

3. I've heard of people using concrete blocks, but worry about chemical contamination and cost.

4. Best kind of soil? I'm looking at a mixture of 70% Sandy Loam Textured Soil- 30% Humic Compost from the municipal composting facility and mixing in perlite and maybe manure as well. I have a compost bin started, but it's not ready yet so I'm stuck going with store-bought products for now.

5. Gopher control. We've got a major gopher problem in our yard. They're cute, but if they get into my garden, there's gonna be trouble.

Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

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If you are building directly on your existing soil, I would attach 1/2 inch hardware cloth to the bottom of the wood to stop gophers. How deep will the beds be? Will you have access from both sides? If you are concerned about the life of the wood and do not want to use pressure treated, you can coat the inside to protect the wood. Al

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:20AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I use plain old lumber and it rots after about three years- termites, but also fungus. I do not believe the wood attracts termites; I think they are already there, at least in our neighborhood. We get swarms all over the street at the first warm rain.

You can use redwood if you want it to last longer, and redwood is more termite resistant. Concrete blocks are not very pretty, but you don't have to cement them together, so you can move the beds. I wouldn't worry about contamination from concrete blocks. You can plant strawberries inside each cell, too.

A few tips- mine are 4 feet wide and I wish they were only 3 feet wide so that the plants in the middle were easier to reach.

What Al said about hardware cloth. It's expensive, but so worth it!

Your main problem will be keeping root knot nematodes at bay. Some soil already has them. You can also import them from nursery stock. The main plants they infect are strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers, eggplants, and squash, and they kill the plants just when the first fruits are setting.

I have nematodes and my beds are now useless. I have tried digging all of the soil out and replacing it, planting marigolds, solarizing, letting it go fallow, you name it. Do not import the nematodes in the first place! Grow your plants from seed. Build more beds so that you can rotate the crops that are susceptible to nematodes. Grow nematode-resistant tomatoes. Grow your strawberries in pots so that you can throw the soil away if necessary.

And it sounds really, really yummy.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 5:43PM
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jxbrown(z10/24 SD, CA)

Contamination isn't really an issue, but if you are worried, you can use redwood. Another option is Trex or one of the plastic decking materials, but you need to support it a lot more since it is flexible. Three foot wide beds are easier. Hardware cloth will control the gophers. I use native soil, homemade or store bought compost, fine redwood "groundcover" bark, and used potting mix containing "Dry Stall" horse bedding in mine.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 7:13PM
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