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filling a large raised bed on a budget

Posted by singingkkatt Zone 5 (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 14, 13 at 0:45

I am building a large raised bed across the length of my back fence (about 70' long, 4' wide, and 2' deep). Because I'm not a millionaire, I'm looking for thrifty ways to fill it. I found a farm that will give me their horse manure, but I'll only have a couple of weeks for it to age before I need to mix it into the bed.

I have come up with mixed opinions online of people saying that horse manure would burn or isn't a problem fresh. If I mix it down to 50% or less with other stuff when I put it in, and wait a week or two before planting seedlings, what do you think?

I also have a message in to what I think is a local mushroom plant... but i don't know if they grow the mushrooms here or just process, and so I don't know yet if they will have compost...

I'm thinking about filling the bottom with the cheapest gravel I can find, and throwing in some wood that was around the yard starting to rot. I also have lots of leaves and pine needles that I might bury... but none of it is decomposed yet, so I don't know if it would be problematic to have it decomposing underground while plants are growing or helpful?

My only gardening experience previously was in Hawaii, where anything grows any time of year anywhere you put it... So I'm a little nervous about trying to make a successful vegetable garden in Nevada. At least I have lots of trees, so it won't be the dry heat that it would be otherwise.

Does anyone have any other recommendations? Are my ideas all terrible and I should chuck them out and go with something else? Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

you will need a lot of Molasse


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Leave out the gravel, it would be better to not fill the bed in hopes of getting better materials later that to put filler at the bottom where you can't get it out when you have better stuff ready to go in.

Leaves mixed with fresh manure is a good start on compost, but as you are already guessing, it needs to spend some time mixed before it is going to be a good matrix for planting in. Around here, even mushroom compost needs a few weeks to calm down before putting plants straight in it (though if you can add mushroom compost to the mix of manure and leaves, so much the better).

A time I was forced by circumstance to plant in a fresh bed where the mix was still cooking, I used a good bagged potting (not garden) soil that did not have many big chunks in little pockets around each seed or seedling so they had a "safe" area to get established while the rest of the bed cooked down around them.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

If you are set on using it, you might consider taking extra precautions in cleaning after gardening and when you harvest your vegetables. Since it won't be fully composted or pasteurized, there is significant risk of disease.

Example: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/zoonotics/horses.aspx

Medical bills are likely higher than finding a better source of manure. I know folks will say they've used it for years with no problems but, is it really worth the risk...penny-wise, etc.

Just food for thought ;-)


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Yes, you usually want manure to compost for two years (not two weeks!) before you use it.

I think you could get away with filling the bottom half of the bed with manure, wood, and leaves, and putting something more finished in the top half. Then just avoid deep digging or tilling for the next two years.

Can you get compost or planting mix by the truckload where you live? That would be great for the top half, and should not cost too much. Not like bagged stuff!


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Just yesterday I filled a 20ft X 5ft X 10 inch raised bed in norther virginia. I placed two layers of newspaper on the bottom to prevent grass from growing. I put in 1 to 2 inches of shredded leaves on bottom, I received the gift of 100 gallons of composted horse manure and that became the next 1-2 inch layer. Top soil was on sale for $0.98 per cubic foot bag at Home Depot; I bought 10 bags and that became the next layer. 1 cu ft bags of miricle grow garden soil was on sale for $2.50 at HD; I bought 10 and that became my final layer. That leaves me with a couple of inches room for mulch after I have planted.


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Since your bed is so deep, I recommend that you layer the bottom with limbs/wood and leaves to use as a fill.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

My suggestion (and I live on a horse farm) would be to begin with a good deal smaller size for your garden, for starters, especially since you are just starting out. 70 x 4' is a HECK of a lot of SFG. Along a fence, assuming it is a solid wall, also raises a lot of challenges as to orientation, light, access and so forth. The 4' width assumes access on 2 sides, if I am not wrong. Why don't you consider starting with one 4x4 or 4x8 bed to learn by doing? And also read the book if you have not already. You may well find you can achieve your food production goals with a much smaller garden. Perhaps a combo of a SFG and a conventional garden would be better?

We compost our manure and bedding (which are inevitably combined) for about 2 years before we use it in the garden. There are health issues with both horse manure and mushroom compost which are easily sourced using google. EG, try mushroom compost issues for starters.

Gardening is a lot of fun, and I hope it will become so for you. I do think you need to do a little more thinking before jumping into it, but we all have learned a great deal just by making some mistakes, so good for you for asking up front for the thoughts of others.

Take care and good luck.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Countrygirl is right on.
I see quite a few discrepancies here in regard to using Mel's Mix..
Always remember, if your not using your own home made compost you need 5 different types (TYPES) of compost, not all manure.
I've only just started this program and feel like I am exhausting myself, however, my first bed is done and I planted last week...that feeling working in the mix was fantastic..
I now have two 4x4x4 compost piles working along with a tumbler.
I've always heard how important compost is, never did realize how much..


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Thu, May 9, 13 at 10:46

This is the best soil to grow in without question. You might try to make some adjustments-due to the high price-and you may have a good garden but it's not guaranteed. If you don't use Mel's mix you lose all the benefits of the SFG. But I was amazed at the cost of course vermiculite a few weeks ago. I'm experimenting with a mix that folks might be interested in. It's definitely a heavier mix, but so far everything is up and growing very well....just some ideas


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

To quote in part your post: "This is the best soil to grow in without question. You might try to make some adjustments-due to the high price-and you may have a good garden but it's not guaranteed. If you don't use Mel's mix you lose all the benefits of the SFG. "

With all due respect to you, sir (and I have obtained and read several times your helpful "the wealthy earth"), these are pretty broad and unequivocal statements! Would you please expand on each of them?

And also of course describe the mix you have developed?

I am genuinely perplexed by what you have stated in your post and would very much appreciate further insight into how you arrived at and would document your conclusions.

Thank you.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Thu, May 9, 13 at 20:03

What's so broad or unequivocal?

On page 87 of the ANSFG book Mel says; "Mel's mix may be the most costly part of SFG, yet at the same time it is the most cost effective...if you skimp on this item, you'll be disappointed in all the rest. But, if you do it right, all the other advantages of the SFG will fall into place and you will be the richest gardener on the block. Sorry to be so adamant, but this is really what makes SFG so different and successful. We have never had a failure of SFG except when someone decides to skimp on the ingredients to save a few buck." All I was doing was reiterating that point. I'm not even saying people have never failed at the SFG. In fact they do, but it's usually due to 2 simple reasons.

I also think that asking folks to spend $60-70 for one 4X4' box is a lot. Some don't have that kind of money to spend. I guess I don't know what I said that was seen as so incorrect. I think the proof lies in the pudding.

We've had a lot of neighbors who have tried a SFG but it didn't work. And when you look at what they did, they did all sorts of things like: getting free "soil" from the municipal dump, amending their previous soil with just horse manure, using only steer manure, buying "top soil", buying Miracle Grow soil, etc. A couple of them had a garden that was very mediocre for the money they spent year one, but it was very poor year two.

My point was simple: use this mix and you don't need to know anything about soil composition, organic content, or even fertilizer-especially if you make your own compost. Anything will grow in this stuff-there's very few vegetables I haven't tried in 13-14 years. I document my conclusions based on what I've been able to do, and what I've seen others do after they have failed. I've seen 2 common patterns that emerge after many years of observation and comparisons. And please don't take that as boasting at all, it's not meant to be. I know very little about gardening. If I had to rely on reading books and buying amendments, fertilizers, and chemicals to make a soil as good as this, I probably could. But the point is you don't have to do all of that. I hope that makes sense. maybe it doesn't-it wouldn't be the first time.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Thanks for your response. I don't want to be tedious or argumentative, but would like to explain why I said what I did about your statement that " If you don't use Mel's mix you lose all the benefits of the SFG. "

In checking the SFG website the benefits stated include "yield for area used; less weeding; efficient use of water; easy to understand; user friendly; locate anywhere; economical; efficient; easy to protect; earth friendly; very productive." I wouldn't disagree with any of these claims except for it being economical. But every single one of these advantages except for that one would *not* be lost if one were to use some other soil mix for the beds. There are numerous examples on this and other boards indicating that many of those who have dared to modify the recommendations have been very successful.

Obviously the cost of the mix is high and steadily increasing. Thus many people are forced to modify the recipe. It is difficult for me to believe that any decent soil would not produce good crops using this method, and/or that making a modification such as using only one kind of compost rather than five would doom one to failure. And it is also difficult for me to believe that after several years of adding only compost back to the original mix, essentially reducing whatever is left to only a small percentage of the soil content, would essentially be any different from starting out with a decent soil and lots of good compost (rather than the mel mix).

I realize that this will be called heretical in some quarters, but it makes sense to me. I started out with the mix done as best as we could possibly do it, and didn't have much luck. After adding in a mix of good garden soil and compost, drastically reducing the percentages of peat and vermiculite, we finally have a nice garden. I just wish we had done that in the first place.

Many aspects of SFG are really great. I do think that the insistence on using the MM is spoiling it for a lot of people who could otherwise be successful gardeners.

Thanks for listening. Take care. Over and out.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Fri, May 10, 13 at 15:52

I think you're right about the insistence of using Mel's mix ruining it for a lot of people. But without it you're back to the same old problems of the traditional single row garden that begins with the soil. At many social or neighborhood gathering, when the subject of gardening comes up, there is always a mention of someone(sometimes several people) not being able to have a good garden because "my soil stinks." Soil is the biggest thing that home gardeners complain about, and Mel's mix does take care of that issue for those wanting the perfect soil in less than 30 minutes.

Efficient use of water, yield area used, weeding, and a few of the other advantages spoken about above etc. are examples of things that definitely leave you with an advantage using this mix. Single rows can't keep up to the yield for the space involved-you will grow 16 carrots in a single row garden that takes 4 linear feet, or you can grow 25 carrots in 1 square foot-huge advantage with the SFG. There's no question about it-you will use less water because of the vermiculite. There's no weeding because there's no weed seed in the mix. Peat moss has none, and neither does vermiculite. There shouldn't be any in compost if it's finished because it would have been heated to 140-150+ degrees or even hotter. That kills weed seed. Many a home gardener can talk about the weeds they have from their own homemade compost. You can use just one ingredient if you'd like, such as horse manure. The advantages of a blended compost are clear, I believe. There are some flowers that can grow in poor soil-tulips as one example. I've seen those grow between cracks in the cement. Granted the cracks in the cement had to be large enough, but it's happened. You're going to need more fertilizer to grow vegetables than you might for flowers. You can fix a variety of ills by buying commercial fertilizers, etc. and many, many gardeners/farmers do. This is another advantage of using a "blended" compost-you've got more trace elements available. Many people will use horse manure for a fertilizer and call that their compost. As good as that might be, it's basically two ingredients-what the horse ate and what it was bedded in-maybe 3. That's it. And then you've also got to deal with the weeds in that too. There are many home gardeners who have great gardens and they have to work very hard to get/keep a good growing medium. My point is that you don't have to do any of that. Folks like this spend a lot of time in their gardens trying to get or keep their soil in good condition, and some of them succeed. Many don't. They work hard in the spring and fall trying to amend their soil, bringing in loads of leaves, manure, etc. That's a lot of hard work! I guess I've decided to be a lazy gardener(and I am!)

I've had a lot of people who have tried to have a SFG using all the points you brought up. They used a grid, they knew the spacing, they knew all the vertical gardening tips, they learned about how easy it is to protect, etc. And every time they failed, it all came back to the soil-without exception. I don't know how you get around that. When MB teaches in a 3rd world country they don't have peat moss or vermiculite, so he teaches them how to make compost. They have to wait a long time to produce it, but they eventually get it. Their gardens are 100% compost and they work very well. It's a heavier mix and you do have the time factor. I liked the comment by japus-"that feeling working in the mix was fantastic." And look at that garden-it looks perfect and my guess is it will be a great success.

For me it all comes down to a few simple things that make gardening so much easier. 1)Build a box. 2)Fill it with Mel's mix. 3)Put a grid on it, and 4)Start planting. As I commented on earlier, Mel's mix has become way too expensive. I have been experimenting on a new "mix" that might be pretty good while still maintaining most of the benefits of the original mix without such a steep price tag.

Oh well, thanks for listening back. I didn't take your remarks as either offensive or argumentative. You and I are just two friendly gardeners who have a difference of opinion on something we love to do. The fact is that you and a whole host of others on this site probably know a lot more than I do about gardening. I just wanted to keep it simpler, that's all....


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Thanks for taking my response in the spirit intended. I think the only thing I would disagree with you about would be the possibility of varying the soil composition for the beds, but to each his own, go for whatever works! Would be very interested in learning more about the new mix you are experimenting with when you have a chance.

Also meant to mention that your idea of classifying plants as fruit, leaf and root really helped me plan this year's garden with a view to crop rotation. It really does make it easy.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Sat, May 11, 13 at 15:08

Countrygirl...no problems here my friend. I'll mention in a little bit about the mix I'm using in a bit-in a rush and gotta go..


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Mon, May 27, 13 at 1:02

Well my experiment continues but with pretty good results. As talked about earlier, I'm a huge believer in Mel's mix-it really is the best medium to grow in. But it comes with a big price tag-too much for a lot of folks. I had a friend that offered me all the space I want to grow vegetables and produce for other people. I don't need a lot of room, and in the late winter I built 5-4X4' boxes. To fill this with Mel's mix would have cost $60-70 dollars a box. I didn't have the $300+ dollars to do that.

So I experimented with something else. In other parts of the world Mel teaches SFGing using 100% compost. Peat moss and vermiculite aren't available. With that thinking, I filled each of these bed with what we all know of as the equivalent of lasagna gardening. I started with a layer of leaves, then added aged horse manure, some dried grass clippings, shredded paper, etc. I did this for about 3 layers. I filled each box to about an inch from the top.

I then purchased some peat moss and 1 bag of course vermiculite. I mixed them together-equal portions by volume until blended. I then used a large container-I think it was a 12 oz. container of Greek yogurt-and filled it with this peat moss/vermiculite mix. I added one full container to each of the squares in 3 boxes. I thought that would give me some of the benefits of the original 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 of Mel's mix. This would provide me with a lighter soil mix, and I would get the added benefit of water retention with the vermiculite. The last two boxes I filled with straight, finished homemade compost.

First, and most important, everything is growing very well. It's all up and it's all very healthy.

But I can say for certain that the mix is not light and fluffy, and, without question, it does take on a lot more water than my SFG's at home which are all Mel's mix. It's not even close. The benefits of the full Mel's mix is hard to get away from if you want perfect soil right now. It definitely has it's advantages. The 3 boxes that used the peat moss/vermiculite combination did use less water, but not that much less. The 2 boxes filled with lasagna/compost mix are doing equally as well as the 3 filled with the Mel's mix hybrid.

You can have a successful SFG without using Mel's mix. You do lose the benefits of the soil, but many of the other advantages of this system are still in place, namely you get 100% of the harvest using only 20% of the space. You still don't need to do any heavy digging, and you still can save 95% of your seeds and a boat-load of money.

I hope this gives others some options. If you've got the cash to spend it on soil, by all means get the Mel's mix. If not, you can still do it successfully without the huge output of cash. In a few weeks I'll post some pictures of this whole experiment on my website: www.thewealthyearth.com. In addition to using much more water, the other drawback in all 5 boxes was the element of weeds-just like a traditional garden. In Mel's mix you have zero weeds because there is no weed seed in vermiculite or peat moss. There shouldn't be any in a good quality commercial bag of compost.

Thought you might find it interesting....


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Thanks Snibb, this is very interesting, and sounds like a wonderful alternative.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Mon, May 27, 13 at 11:02

Just trying to give some different ideas Japus. I think you've got a marvelous garden. Keep us posted with pictures and all that stuff


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Thanks very much for posting this. It sounds very workable and the best part is it will open up SFG and its many benefits to those people who have been unable to cope with the costs associated with MM.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

is it too late to start a raised bed for this season?
thanks


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 2, 13 at 9:41

Maybe a little late for a lot of the summer things but it can be perfect for the fall


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

I havent posted recently on this thread, however here is a pic of my Mel's Mix garden back in the beginning of June.
This has been just an experiment for me, and this experiment is now over...
I am going full tilt on 5 raised beds, all filled with Mel's Mix.
I'll post another pic as soon as I can..July and this bed has exploded with growth, and I do mean exploded.
For compost I used our local recycle centers offering, added a few ingredients of my own and I really cannot believe whats happening.
I ate 7 kohlrabi's that were DELICIOUS. everything I planted went crazy except for spinach, carrots, and radishes.
I will find out why in my next planting, I am now in the process on converting a large cold frame for cold season crops..
All in all this has proven to me Mel's Mix does work.....


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Here is a pic of the very same bed about 6 weeks from the last picture..
Mel's Mix is for me...


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

I am in Australia, and new to SMG. I recently constructed a corrugated steel raised bed, 0.9m x 1.5m x 0.6m. I put down a covering of weed mat, then a layer of chipped bark, and placed the frame on that. I put in a layer of wet cardboard and newspaper as a base, then built up alternating layers of pea straw/chicken manure/compost.

I filled the bed almost to the top that way, ending with a thick layer of straw mulch. I have created small pockets in the top, filled with Mel's Mix, and planted seedlings into those. So far, they are growing well - it is Spring here.

I made about 100 litres of Mel's Mix with vermiculite, coir (as an alternative to peat) and compost. Planning a second raised bed, with a top layer of Mel's Mix. I was a bit taken aback by the cost of making the Mix, but I hope it works well. I do want to use it, and to follow the method outlined in the SMG book, but just don't think I could afford to fill many whole beds with it. I am also beginning to create Bokashi compost.


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I have a raised bed that is about 12 inches high and shaped like a kidney (about 5 feet across and 18 feet long). In each end I have planted a goji berry bush. I have planted 6 artichoke plants down the middle of the bed between the goji bushes that I intend to overwinter by cutting them back to 12 inches and covering them with leaf mulch and a flower pot. When spring comes I want to use the SFG technique to plant the available space until the artichokes take it over. My initial thoughts are to plant radishes and lettuce. Any other suggestions?


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

Cecilial
Remember, once MM is finished all one needs to add in the future is compost, (5 types)
Never need to be concerned about PH, or adding fertilizer as long as your compost meets the 5 different types.

CharlieBoring,
Whatever you enjoy growing/eating, I tried a kohlrabi this past season and loved the taste, fortunately for me, kohlrabi grows great in my gardens.
I may devote an entire bed to them next season.


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Japus - What five (5) types of compost?


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According to the fellow who developed SFG, one must use 5 types of material to attain good compost.
Manure
(chicken, horse, cow, rabbit, goat, etc)
Leaves
(maple, oak, poplar, pear, apple, etc) no black walnut
Discarded veggies, all types.
Plant growth, from season's end or cuttings.
Sea (ocean compostables), seaweed, lobster shells, shrimp
shells,
plain Cardboard,, newspaper, paper plates, many items that are not coated.
Vacuum bag contents
chicken feathers
The one thing that should not be added is any food items that will draw rodents.
I know fish will, however I have added fish remains (from 15-25lb fish after fillets, added them and made sure to have covered and protected...
No meats or poultry items.
Composting is quite interesting, I enjoy it as much as gardening...


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Japus - I used to have a very large compost pile. I used leaves, left over vegetables, grass clippings, vegetable table scraps, bush trimmings, horse manure mixed with straw, and shredded paper. Always had good compost, but my fence deteriorated and it became an eyesore so I removed the pile. I think I will start a smaller one with no fence. I will use two barrels to allow easy mixing.


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I was on a budget also. I put in 9 beds, 4ft x 5ft. I got compost delivered from our local recycle/compost center. I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands or millions of composites composting in there. I didn't add anything else to the beds. They have performed beautifully!

I'm not sure where you are at so this may or may not apply. If you aren't growing a winter garden because of climate, my family has always turned fresh manure into the soil come fall, once harvest is finished. With an actual winter, the melting of the snow and ailments seems to water it in well and doesn't burn the plants. The soil is turned again in the spring. This is conventional rather than square foot gardening so you will have to consider that you are using a very shallow depth and make a judgement call on your own there.

Personally, I would fill the box with what you can find and afford. Add amendments as you go and continue to build up the soil. I'm too impatient to wait! But that's just me!

Btw, I did not read all of the posts in this thread.

Best of luck!


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This is one of my raised beds. I filled it using the layering technique. 1st Layer - Cardboard/newspaper on the bottom to inhibit grass growth; 2nd Layer - free leaf mulch from the country recycle center; 3rd layer - composted horse manure with straw free from a neighbor; 4th Layer - top soil puchased on sale from home depot; 5th layer - garden soil purchased on sale from home depot; Last Layer - free leaf mulch from the country recycle center. It has been a cold winter and I am trying to get the artichokes through the winter by covering them with leaf mulch and buckets/baskets.


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Looks really nice Charlie, you did a fine job there


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Charlie I am so envious of your talent. My veggie boxes are plain boxes, you have incorporated some landscaping techniques to make the veggie bed much more appealing.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

To give you some additional options concerning your landscaping, I am attaching a picture of my patio with some associated raised beds, a pergola, and kiwi vines which are in their first year. They should start to cover the pergola in the second year, if the winter was not too tough on them.


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Wow, that is lovely!! A perfect spot for gardening and entertaining too.


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

I used bales of straw to fill the bottom of my deep beds. Don't use more than half straw.
Water well and try to mash them down as much as possible. Then, fill with your desired material.
The straw will decompose over the first year so you will have to add more soil or compost next fall or spring, but at least you won't have to do it all at once!


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 22, 14 at 16:50

For more on using large amounts of organic material in planting beds...

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost Overdose

This post was edited by bboy on Sat, Mar 22, 14 at 16:52


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RE: filling a large raised bed on a budget

  • Posted by corrine1 7b Pacific Northwest (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 10:34

Remember we're talking about growing vegetables not landscaping permanent plantings. Great ideas shared to start smaller & expand.

I agree that compost filled beds will....
be cheaper
shrink in volume
hold more moisture

If that's what you have for the 1st fill go for it just know that you'll need some more soil in it not just compost later on. Plus be on the watch for weeds depending on the compost source. Mulch works if you patrol for slugs & bait.

Try perlite if you can't afford vermiculite. It does help lighten the mix & will stay in your garden bed without shrinking in volume. One 4 cu ft bag of coarse perlite is a huge bag. I found it locally at a potting soil facility & paid $16.65 (about the same price of HD's 2 cu ft bag). Call around to find what you need. A local hardware store had 30% off sale, which made peat & vermiculite cheaper than HD or anywhere else. It may take some time get the soil amendments you want for the mix & you can always add that in the fall or spring for next year if you're not a year round gardener.


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  • Posted by snibb Salt Lake City (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 12:54

Well Corrine, it actually is compost later on. In 3rd world countries where there's no access to peat moss or vermiculite, they teach this method using only 100% compost. Even if you use the prescribed "Mel's mix", the only thing you end up adding in the future is nothing but compost. After 15 years of my original purchase of Mel's mix(expensive), my garden is now 100% compost. The peat is gone and so it the vermiculite.

And perlite is a waste of your money. Folks use perlite instead of vermiculite to save money. Vermiculite is used in this system not only to add fluff, but more importantly to hold moisture. Perlite holds no water. If you doubt that, just look at anything that's got perlite in the mix. It's the stuff that floats to the top. If it's floating, it's not holding...ie, water.

If you're trying to save a few bucks just go with 3 bags of 3 cubic feet of commercially available compost. That's enough for a 4X4' filled with 6" of soil and it will only cost you $30. I've got my favorite, but there may be others out there equally as good. But not all compost is created equally.


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I'm jealous that you have 70 feet length to grow in, but I think you should work that into smaller sections.

For example, you would need a few feet in between to be able to access sides of a bed. Let's say you did a bed at 4x4. So the next 2-3 feet (whatever you think you need) would be space for you to access the beds, not grow more stuff on.

At the same time, trying to fill them all in before you start planting is still a possible but daunting task. You might actually consider to start a few right away, with plants in that spot.

Then, within a 2 week period, get another few beds set up. Now you can plant the additional veggies that you may be doing at 2-week intervals anyway. Continue in 2-3 week intervals for getting some of the additional crop this way, with focus on certain plants that need a longer maturity time to go in at the beginning.


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