raised bed questions...again

jclepine(8b)May 4, 2009

I know I've asked about raised beds before, but, this time, I've got established plants in the beds.

So, main questions are:

If I want to spend my garden dough on fixing up my slightly raised beds and there are plants that are somewhat established, what do I do with the plants? Do I take them out, amend, then put them back or do I amend and let them get a little covered with compost and stuff?

There are a few teeny tiny ones from the fall swap that are not established but are there. One is a sprout with a few leaves and is only about half an inch all around. Hmm, I think that one is a Pelargonium of some sort...cranesbill? One is a one-leafed nub of the pineapple mint.

I imagine I should just take out and replace the little Sedum spuriums and the other tiny tots including the sempervivums. Although, some of those two are gigantic and well established and probably wouldn't mind being covered some. But, really, I'm guessing.

The other stuff is pretty well off: irises, day lilies, catmints (six hills?) Veronica umbrosa, tons of Campanula persicifolias, lots of woolly thyme and mother of thyme and cranesbills. Oh, and the Campanula (sp?) cherry bells!

Does that stuff get potted or just dug up and set aside?

And, one bed is roses so I doubt they need to be moved...right?

I don't think my project will take more than one day. Just remove (if needed), add amendments, then replace and mulch...right?

And, should I wait? We are supposed to have June 15 as our last frost date. Some person at one of the nurseries I like told me to wait at least two weeks before adding compost and food. Does that sound right? Whoops, I already fed the roses!

Okay, one more question while I'm here! The nursery person also told me I should not be using mushroom compost. Whoops, I've used that this whole time I've been up here! Nothing seems unhappy but there is one rose that did not make it. Poor Kaitlin Ainsley died a quiet death, alone at the back of the bed. Maybe I killed her with mushroom compost?

Anyway, I would love some help figuring out how to get these beds happier and a little higher. Not that high, just so they are not slinking out soil through the cracks between the stones that serve as the walls.

Thank you!!


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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Im about to go to bed for toniteÂgot home after midnite last nite, and got NO sleepÂbut a couple questions for you!

Are you going to actually be making the soil in the beds deeper, or are you just trying to improve it?

IÂve never used mushroom compost because IÂve always been afraid there would be spores in itÂand I already have WAY too many mushrooms coming up in my perennial bed anyway, but did they say why you shouldnÂt use it??? I doubÂt that it killed your rose!!!

And, you may not have had anything to do with the rose dying. Ever since I moved in here my roses have been coming back just fine from the old canes which I cut back to about 12-18". This year, I think because it was SO dryÂand I didnÂt really water themÂalmost all the canes on my roses have died back most or all the way to the ground! TheyÂre starting to grow back, and looking ok so far, but only flowers will tell for sure if theyÂre growing from above or below the graft! The roses that were in here are all grafted hybrids. DonÂt dig up your rose yet! Wait to see if new growth comes up from the base. If it wasnÂt a grafted rose, itÂll be the same as it was before if it comes back!


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 1:05AM
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Thanks, Skybird!

Okay, first off, all the roses are own-root. The one that "died" seemed to die before the winter. It looked as if it was drained of its glow or life and the bright green foliage turned whitish green. I could probably take it back because it came from Harlequin Gardens and they are nice that way. But, I'll wait a bit...

I want to raise the beds a tiny bit and I don't think I need to go deeper. The perennial bed is already at least a foot deep. The rose bed is deeper than the roots were when I put them in the ground but not the whole bed is like that. Only the gigantic holes I dug for the roses are like that.

I also plan to prop up the big rectangular stones that line the beds, which is where all the sedums are. I like stepping on them and they are showing proof of that!

The guy from the garden shop said that mushroom compost was too salty. I'd never heard that. He suggested Grow-Plex menefee humate...for $24 a bag!



    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:12PM
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Dan Staley

Mushroom compost is not too salty.

But back to the questions, you have found you are getting settling; this happens in raised beds. You can't raise grade without having impacts on plant crowns. You want to raise plants before the heat comes so they aren't even more stressed. The more OM you put in, the more settling you'll get. So either you want to get used to raising grade all the time or add wood chips to lower the visual impact. ;o)


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Thanks, Dan!!

Is it bad to cover up the crowns? Or, is it worse to dig them up, add stuff, put them back in and wind up with the crowns more exposed?

See, Mr. Staley, the more you know, the more questions you get asked!

I added wood chips (shredded cedar) in '07 and '08 (since those are the only planting seasons up here I've bothered with so far) and it looks like they'll be needed again this year. Not sure where they go, they just do. Maybe I'll use more this year, so they hold up a little better all year round.



    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 1:28PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Just refreshed this and sow you've been back while I was typing this, Jennifer. This will answer your "crown" question! Nope! You can't bury them!!!

So you do plan to add to the depth by adding more soil on the surface? Like Dan says, you cant bury the crowns, so youll need to dig and lift the plants. Except for the sedums, everything you mentioned would need to be lifted. The sedums, depending on how much you plan to add (how much is a "tiny bit?"), you could just add some soil on top of them, making sure at least some of the foliage is either still showing on the surface, or that you pull some of it to the top. You could do that with the mint too (mint will root anywhere along the stem), if it were bigger, but from what youve described I think youd kill it if you buried it now. 

Ive been gradually raising the soil level in my bed, which as you know goes the whole width of the backyard, for the last 3 years. But Im doing it one plant or one section at a time. Theres no way in a million years I could have done the whole thing at once. So you can either do it in parts (how big is it?), or you could dig the plants out, lay them in the shade somewhere with a damp cloth or newspaper or something over them to keep the roots from drying, then do your soil thing and replant themthe same day. 

As Dan says you can fake it to some extent by using extra mulch, but you still need to be sure that the mulch isnt too deep right around the base of the individual plants or youll wind up with the same problem as you would if you were burying the crowns with soil. (Extra mulch is how Ive been keeping my bed looking "even" as I gradually raise parts of it.) 

The plants youve described as very small, if it were me, Id give them time to grow up a little bit more before I dug them. They sound awfully small yet, and theyll fare better if they have more of a root system. 

And remember, with any spring blooming things you transplant now, they may either not bloom at all or may bloom less than normal, so you may want to wait till theyre done blooming before transplanting them. Also, transplanting when things are budding or blooming is harder on the plants than things that arent blooming. My Campanula persicifolia is spiking, is 21" tall, and would definitely loose the flowers if I moved it now! 

Since youre generally colder out there than we are down here, Im assuming your plants are behind ours, so I think you have way plenty of time yet, and even in summer youd have less heat than we do, so if you did some of it late in the day or on a cloudy day, I think you could do most of them even in summer out there. (You can shade them for a few days if it is sunny and hot out.) I do stuff in the middle of summer even down here, but it is harder on the plants. And as many of you know, I cut almost everything all the way down when Im transplantingdid that with the purple coneflower I dug and moved the other day when I was digging things for the swap. Doing that gives the roots time to establish without their needing to support a bunch of foliage at the same time. 

Since youre colder than us, Id give the rose at least another month to make an appearance before considering it a gonner! 

My flagstones need to be raised some frequently too. I usually just take some of the heavy clay Ive dug out of somewhere nearby, lift the flagstone, fill in the "outline" of the stone with an inch or two of clay, lay the stone back in placeand jump up and down on it several times to settle it! If it seems uneven after jumping on it, I fill in a little more on the low sideand jump some more! 

Happy fillingand jumping,   

P.S. BTW, I think the guy at the garden center just wants to sell his $24 a bag "fancy" stuff! Id go with the $1.50 cow manure from WM!!! $24 a bag??? I hope its gold plated!!!
    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 2:41PM
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You totally rock, Skybird!!

No, not gold plated but ruby encrusted ;)

I got that feeling too. He wouldn't mention any of the composts or soils/mixes or even fertilizers, just the humate.

I think I will wait some as I forgot about the Coreopsis virticillata 'moonbeam' which is still a nublette! Too many tiny tots...

The beds aren't that big, each is about four to five feet by eight to ten feet (uneven design). I am going to buy more of my anti-dog white wire "fencing" so that it is on the outside of the stone edge rather than on the inside but that won't make them bigger, they'll just look bigger.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 3:03PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Just inside for a potty break from doing swap stuff, but if you were to put in green wire fencing, it would blend in with the surroundings more and make your plants more "visible" since it wouldnt be a visual distraction. But thats obviously a total matter of preferenceand youre the one who likes the RED mulch! ;-)

The guy at the garden center may be getting a "bonus" of so-much-a-bag for however many bags of the stuff he sells! The first garden center I worked at here in DEN did that occasionally: like 25 cents a bottle/bag for each "whatever" we sold! I still had trouble selling stuff I didnt believe in! The one I remember was "root stimulant," and it was basically just a very weak version of soluble fertilizer. Duh! If you wanted to you could do the same thing by mixing a weak solution of your regular water soluble fertilizerwhich was WAY cheaper! I didnt sell many bottles!

Gotta get back outside!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 3:40PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

I am very careful with the mushroom compost, of course I am also that way with the cow crap as well.Years ago I used both, the mushroom compost goes into the compost before it touches my babies.I included a link below.And yeas it has to do with some of the salts.They can very from batch to batch.
The cow poo, prevented me from getting my organic license at the time.Which really bit.
I know that not everyone is looking at doing what I was at the time.Just a little warning since alot of steer manures are produced at feed lots.the feeds are different then if they are pastured causing some build ups that may be unwanted.
I went through the compost thing with the girl at the nursery the other day.I was looking for compost for my vege garden.They sold three types, glacier gold a standard here.I will not use it since I know its human based,not on the food crops, even if it is sterilized no thanks, the other two did not list ingredients.So instead I found a great rancher who had 4 yr compost thats fantastic

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 7:37PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Hmmmm ... all I have ever used is mushroom compost. I did lose a few wintersown sprouts after planting them out recently, and I blamed the weather, but maybe it was the compost. That article said most of the issues are with seed germination, or young seedlings. My carrots, radishes, parsnips, cucumbers, melons, etc. have germinated just fine in it, so I'm not sure about the effects on germination.

So if you shouldn't use mushroom compost, and you don't have your own compost pile, what should you use when planting young seedlings? I'm not selling anything, so I don't have to worry about being certified, though I do try to stay organic.

Sorry Jen, I don't mean to stray from the topic, but if I'm doing things wrong, I'm interested in knowing a better way.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 11:18AM
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No worries, Bonnie!! I wanna know too. Frankly, I'm tempted to just buy my usual stuff from the local Ace, which means more mushy compost! Although, they might have something else that I've just never noticed before.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 12:42PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

I do know that mushroom composts very from growers and batch to batch.I think it also depends on some of the areas they are in as well.I know the article I sent was out of Oregon, because when we find it here it tends to be from there or Washington..

Mushroom compost is not bad it just does better mixed in with other soils or composts.I have used lots of it.Just not on its own after having alot of problems with it killing things.In my opinion I had 20 bags one year no problems, next year went with 50 bags huge problems.I really believe it was based the differences in salts.First time I never had salts drying in planters, next year it was obvious looked like hard water residue on flat after flat.I had a large plant failure that year.
My own compost piles have not been in long enough at this house to be productive.Hence buying the big truckload.
For my babies I do buy pro mix,its what most nurseries use.This is my first year back into doing serious vege gardening.I have been through 3 bales of this stuff.It is alot like seed starter.It allows for a bit better rooting system.I also use it to do many of the cuttings.
My seedlings when I am potting up have went into pro mix this year.Until they settle into the larger containers in the greenhouse.I will be mixing that, its peat, perlite,compost , small bark fines, and a decent bagged soil, I also mix in my organic fertilizers.especially for my perennials that will be growing in containers until fall planting.
Next year hopefully we are back to being able to do all our own soil mixes.
I typically start with promix, then move onto mixing according to my plants, adjusting the soils acid and alkaline.I also adjust my organinc fertilizer mixes to cater to the differences between the maters and cabbage etc,,

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 6:15PM
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mayberrygardener(z5a, Broomfield, CO)

Okay, I have been out of the loop due to some crazy stuff at home since the swap, but have finally read this post, now that I know some of you nice peeps!

Skybird, the visual that I have of you jumping on your flagstones will have me chuckling for the next couple of days--you barely weigh a feather anyway... Oh, I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead! Thanks for sharing that--it was too cute!

Totally OT; so sorry. Just had to "jump in" here! Wish I had something to contribute to the original question, but I think you've gotten some great advice! I agree with being able to move things around later in the season than some might; I have planted stuff on the 4th of July, and in a couple weeks (after only 1-2 days of using some row cover for shade), they're as good or better than new. And I wonder if your friend at the used car lot--I mean NURSERY--has ever had success selling his $24 bag-o-crap?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:19PM
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The funny thing is that I never bought the stuff, mayberry! I couldn't see it being a good idea even though my plans are to spend my garden cash on just that kind of stuff. Nooo, too pricey for me.

I did go to McGukin's because I love their support of older employees. AND, my favourite older guy is always nice and helpful. Not as cheap as wallymart but I bought a ton of stuff and got WAY more than my money's worth. Way more.

I'm thinking of Skybird jumping on the stones too. I think she has to jump because she is too tiny to get them to sink down just by standing on them. Hee, hee, sorry D!

And, I did not buy paving stones because someone posted free stuff and I got a ton of what I was going to pay for...for free!!!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 12:55AM
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