How do you fill raised beds?

rsts(Z8GA)March 21, 2006

No, I am not talking about wheelbarrows with training wheels. What I am really wondering is what you use and where you get the material you use to fill raised beds.

As I said earlier, I am working off and on, building a raised bed. It takes a large amount of material to fill a raised bed. I have a very small compost pile, but don't have much waste, so don't have a lot of compost. Buying it is expensive. Some places in GA offer free horse manure, or free chicken manure, but they are too far from me (like 175 miles). So, just wondering what others do.

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numama(z7 AR)

I ordered a dump truck full of topsoil (unsifted as it was cheaper). Cost me 170.00. This was last year. I still have a little more than half left.
I gathered tons of rock from the creekbed that separates my property from my sister. I stacked the rock up and left one end open so I could haul in the materials. I have a tree company that dumps their chopped wood on my property. I use it mostly for mulch but it is composting in parts of the piles.
After stacking the rock how I liked it, I laid down about a 3 inch layer of wood from the piles...most of the wood is cubed..1/2"x1/2"...made sure got some of the composting stuff mixed in too. I haul this stuff in my two garden hand for each cart....LOL! Then a one and half inch layer of topsoil, then another 2 inch layer of the wood stuff, then the top soil. I topped it off with 2 inches of wood (as mulch) on top. I christened this new bed with some early spring bulbs, daffodils, tulips, freesia, alliums, asiatic lilies and whatever else I forgot to mention. I dug a hole in the bed same as I would in the ground. What I dug up I used to even everything out. I filled the holes with my dirt mixture consisting of 1 part topsoil, 1 part peat moss, mixed together, then an equal amount of potting soil mixed into that. Here is a pic I took not too long ago. Notice the piles off in the distance? That's about 1,000 feet away from this bed. I didn't measure the bed, but it is HUGE. Pic was taken facing West, there is about 9 feet more of bed on the east side not showing in this pic of which I have ferns, hostas, lungwort, merrybells and other shade things.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 2:01AM
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highjack(z6 KY)

Many of our more recent beds are raised beds and we used just about everything to fill them. There is a forum here on composting or lasagna gardening here on the GW which can give you all kinds of info on materials used to create rich organic beds. Here is a picture of a hosta bed that is now three years old but was done with different layers of material contained by railroad ties. It was started in late summer and basically cheap, cheap wood mulch in bulk form, with layers of green stuff added between the layers. It was piled several inches above the ties and set all winter composting. To get it started, 10-10-10 fertilizer was broadcast over the area. By spring, it had settled and was ready to plant. We again added 10-10-10 and eventually Epson Salt because some of the hosta were not as dark green as they should have been.

Here is another raised bed, that also has a bed in front of that, that we used pure pine bark fines to fill. This one could be planted immediately since it didn't need to cook and compost. Unlike numama, we never add any form of "dirt" to the raised beds. The composting material will make all the dirt you need as it composts. Here is another area that was done last spring and planted in immediately because there was nothing "hot" in the bed. This was cheap wood mulch with the good compost/pine bark mix.

My only word of warning is be careful when you plant daylilies in it because it probably will be so light and fluffy the crown could sink and you can create rot. We lost a couple of new intros last year during our wet winter, that sank and couldn't take the moisture on the crown. My hubby has a problem of planting daylilies too deep but that's OK, I have a habit of planting everything very high. It was also a great excuse for him to let me plant all new arrivals. Somehow, I think he snoockered me!

Like numama, we have a couple of huge piles of wood chips sitting in the field composting. We will use this material for the new raised beds in the seedling field. The wood chips we used last year for a new hosta area were run through our chipper/shredder. We will add some compost/pine bark, which we have to buy, to the mix when we add plants to the new area.

With your long hot summers and adequate moisture, you should be able to "cook" a raised bed fairly quickly and be ready to plant in the fall. Throwing fertilizer on it will help the "cooking".


    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 7:53AM
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Thanks for the info. What is the attitude of the tree companies about dumping the chopped wood on your property? Are they glad to find a place to dump it or just do it as a favor?

Brooke, did you find a place to buy pine fines in bulk, or did you just buy it in bulk from one of the box stores? I think there is a place in south GA that sells it in bulk and delivers. Don't know where exactly, but with gas prices now, I expect delivery prices would be very high. I did find some bags at Lowe's and bought quite a bit, but as you and Nancy know, it takes lots and lots to fill a raised bed.

Starting this thread caused me to do some thinking and searching. As a result, I ran across a web site with ads for poultry litter for sale. One place is about 50 miles from me (I think). Sent them an email asking if they would sell as little as a half ton. Don't think they deliver. If so, I will mix it with the pine fines and a little peat moss I have and might get it done. Thanks for the pictures and information and for just letting me ramble. It helped me to "get it in gear" and look for something.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 9:40AM
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highjack(z6 KY)

The tree service that dumps the chopped wood is a private service the city/county hires to trim trees under powerlines and they LOVE having a place to just dump the stuff. When we use it for a bed, it is again run through a chipper/shredder for faster decomposing. We use the bigger stuff to put around shrubs and trees we have planted on the outside of the fence. I love it for that purpose because the chunks are big and rain can penetrate through the looseness of the chunks. I don't have to worry about it packing down and deflecting water. Inside the garden area, we use the purdy stuff!

Email Pryor from the Robin and ask where he gets his pine fines and cost of delivery. We were there about four years ago and he had a semi-trailer load on property. All of his very elevated beds are made of pine fines. I think he said Pickles also uses this.

We have a company here where we can buy bulk. Hubby has a trailer and he can get about four scoops on it without fear of weighing it down. Buying it by the bag is expensive. Glad you're in gear.


The ads below the pink words of "return to dl forum" are for raised bed gardens and hobby gh's, raised flower bed, raised bed and raised bed.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 12:20PM
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numama(z7 AR)

Brooke and Royce,
I had no method to my madness. I just thought it sounded good to me so I did it. The bulbs coming up in that bed sure look healthy and good!
The tree service dumping on my property is happy to do so. They don't like having to pay to dump it somewhere. They also dump next door at my sister's house where they have about 12 piles now. My sister's husband has been filling in parts of their land with this wood stuff and he has outlined their pond with it too.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 2:25PM
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Haven't heard from the guy with the chicken litter for sale. I sent him an email asking if he would sell me a pickup load. He charges $25 per ton. He might be too busy laughing to reply. I later looked at the wanted side of the site. There are 4 ads that want chicken litter. The amounts wanted in the 4 ads are: 100 tons, 500 tons, 6,000 tons and unlimited tons. Hmmm, wonder if wants to sell me 1/2 ton? lol

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 10:27PM
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I get my mulch from a local tree trimmer who lives around the corner from me. He told me he'd bring me all I want, for free. Saves him about $10 a load at the city landfill. One year he brought me about 15 loads in two weeks! I was crying "uncle"! I still have one load left to use and now it's deteriorate almost to soil. Perfect for raised beds.

I line the bottom of my raised beds with several layers of newspaper and/or cardboard. It helps the recycle center clear some of it out and it helps smother out any weeds I might have missed. Over time, it biodegrades and enriches my soil. And of course, it's free--one of the best words in the English language. LOL

Call some tree trimmers. They work all over the county or state. And if they're trimming trees out your way, they'll be happy to drop you a load when they're done, probably for free. Be sure to ask them in their blades are sharp. If they haven't sharpened them recently, they spit out shredded stuff that is too big to use as mulch. Asplundh dumped a load here last year that was totally unuseable. I couldnt' even get a pitchfork in it. My tree trimmer knows what I use it for, and he won't bring me diseased stuff or anything that's not properly chipped.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 10:30PM
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Brooke and numama,
I loved the pics of your raised beds. I enjoy the landscape photos the I can steal your ideas for my own garden!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 11:19PM
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numama(z7 AR)

Thanks Kat, It's hard work, but when you're done and see what you have accomplished all by yourself....well no feeling like it really! it's the what to plant part that is hard for me to decide. I think Brooke is a lot better at that, as hers are drop dead gorgeous!


    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 12:06AM
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highjack(z6 KY)

Thanks Kat and Nancy for the compliments but this place is a work in progress and probably always will be. I guess no garden is ever finished. Feel free to steal Kat, I'm sure I stole my ideas from someone too - just don't remember where!

I agree with the one who chases butterflies - we never dig a bed or kill the grass/weeds prior to building a raised bed but use newspaper or cardboard in the bottom and pile the organic matter right on top. Any bed that is not raised also gets the newspaper placed in the open areas with mulch on top. Between the newspaper and mulch, the KY clay has become great "dirt".


    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 7:56AM
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Here is the only raised bed I have ever made. It is the future home to all my seedlings. They get between the strawberries and the hosta.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 5:10PM
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Thanks for all the comments and pictures. Today, I purchased a pickup load of pine fines (ground pinebark). The place is 70 miles from me and a pickup load cost $28. I am very pleased that it covered a larger area than I had expected. I think I need one more load for the raised bed I am filling. Good thing the place isn't closer. I would go wild in buying the stuff. I can only look at the landscaping you guys are showing and wish, but at least I am now getting the raised bed filled.

BTW, Brooke, we discussed that it was a little surprising that I only had two responses to my post to the email robin asking for sources. It occurred to me today, while driving, that I might have gotten more responses if I had said ground pinebark instead of pine fines. I only learned the term "pine fines" a few months ago on this site. Always knew what ground pinebark is. Possibly some others are not familiar with the term pine fines.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 7:55PM
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highjack(z6 KY)

I'm surprised more "southern" people didn't know the term pine fines because I learned about it from people in TN. Up here in the almost north, they had never heard of pine fines so I couldn't find it.

It was during my quest for bonsai potting mixes that I heard the pine bark soil conditioner term and finally figured out they were the same thing, just different terminology.

Today I have to go out and get the bagged pine bark. I have 20 something daylilies coming next week, about the same number of hosta the next week plus I still have some late budding bonsai trees to get out of their grow out containers into a bonsai pot. I will go through several bags of the stuff in the next couple of weeks. It is cheaper to buy the bulk form, which we use in the garden, but we would have to buy containers for storage and have the problem of squeezing the containers into the garage, where hubby stores his big boy toys.

Yesterday was the first day I could actually work outside and not wear a sweatshirt (or two) and even got a little warm in just the turtleneck. Today, I might actually have a teeshirt on - time for the sunscreen!


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 7:48AM
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I know this is an old post, but down here in Florida, I found pine fines at a place called Bushel Stop. They have a 2 cubic foot bag for $5.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2007 at 11:40PM
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