Raised Beds

FireMidgetMarch 28, 2014

We are growing our garden from our vertical garden by adding 2 raised beds. They are aprox 2'x8'. We have a slightly compact lot, so this is the biggest foot print (and time) that we can commit to at this moment. My question goes to a few things:

1. How full should the beds be? They are built level on a hill, so one end is 16" deep and the other is 10"
They are built out of cedar with supports at the corners and at the 4' mark. Do I fill to the top, few inches below?

2. Growing up I never put down mulch/cover after the seedlings started (in Iowa), and I've read a lot of people are doing this now. Would bark or straw be better?

3. Slugs/Snails are the bane of my existence. Seriously, they get picked up ever week and thrown into the street for the passing cars/birds to enjoy. I have Sluggo, any other items that can easily be purchased, or just keep up with that around the beds/vertical garden?

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Slugs/Snaiils seem to be the bane of the Northwest, at least in the couple of places I've lived around Portland.

I use Sluggo (I think I actually have Sluggo Plus, but probably doesn't matter). I do find it works pretty well, but I have to be diligent with it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:33AM
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Depth of the planting bed is dependent on the type of crop being grown. Most veggie crops will be happy in about 8-10" of soil. A lot of root crops will want deeper soil.....in some cases, the deeper the better.

Generally, soil used for raised beds has a fair amount of organic matter in it so you should expect some settling. I'd fill to a level so that you have enough room for any mulch layer yet still remain just below the top of the bed. By next season you may need to add some soil (or compost) to get back to that level.

You can use straw but it is a bit ungainly in that size bed. Personally, I'd go for compost. Provides the same effect as any other mulch yet offers a much greater nutrient contribution. I'd avoid wood based mulches around veggies - many of these plants tend to be shallowly rooted enough to experience some nitrogen deprivation from the wood mulch products.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:29PM
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Tomatoes and peppers will be fine anywhere in your beds--you may want to put carrots at the deep end.

I would fill the beds to the brim because of the above-mentioned settling. Settling can be reduced by filling your beds in three separate layers and tamp down each layer. If you just fill in one fell swoop, it will shrink a lot by mid-summer after many waterings. The use of mulch in 2x8s may not be critical as the vegetables will largely self-shade the soil in such a compact area. If you were going to put small blueberry plants in one bed, mulch would be helpful.

You can help keep the slug population dented by going out on a few warm nights and plucking--but the street traffic and birds will not be at full force then!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:48PM
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Awesome! The kids had a huge stomping party on the beds then we layered a few more inches on it before stomping again. It's getting a good amount of rain today, so we are going to call it good. Started some seeds last night with the kids so that they can see the entire process too :)

I think I've heard about beer for the slugs, but not thinking I want to share ;)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You want loose soil for good plant growth, and you don't want to be working or compacting wet soil as it grinds down the soil particles and crushes the air out of it. Strictly speaking roots grow in the air between soil particles, rather than in the soil per se.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:41PM
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Yes, "stomping parties" should not be encouraged! You need to allow the soil to settle naturally. With our spring rains, that typically happens after about 10-14 days. Compressing soil, and especially wet soil, can destroy the structure and cause drainage problems, not to mention eliminating the pore space needed for healthy growth.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:59PM
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Well crud. They are 1 and 3, so not that big. :(

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 4:58PM
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I recommended tamping the unwetted mix (like with the flat surface of a hoe); it did occur to me to advise against walking on it as the tamping method, but one can go overboard on details. Depending on the soil composition, it may spring back slightly, post-stomp.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:35PM
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It fluffed up easily to the same level with a rake today, so their 30lbs might not have done much. They did it to the soil that had been setting for for a week with just the few days rain we've had.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 12:20AM
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You'll be fine. The initial stomping was much more fun than tamping.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:18AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

If you have lots of slugs, you may not want to use mulch. They will hide and thrive in it, especially if it's wood. They will even hide in the crevices along your raised beds. I put down slug pellets early in the growing season, then I go out with a flashlight every night after 9 p.m. and spray them with a 10% solution of ammonia. It does them in and does not hurt the plants, even lettuce can survive it. I also put out old margrine tubs with beer and holes punched in the lids. It works, but is tedious: you need to change it quite often, replace when it rains, and if you forget to you face a smelly mess!!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:37AM
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In my limited PNW experience, I think slugs especially love straw. I had a couple of half-rotten bales I popped some extra pumpkin starts into and the slugs mowed them down, over and over again.

I moved here from Colorado where I used tons of mulch and had zero slugs. After the number of slugs I found in some leaf mulch, then the mowing down of the pumpkin starts, I didn't mulch the majority of the garden last year.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 2:44AM
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