Building a raised veg bed

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compoQ

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Building a raised veg bed
« on: May 25, 2010, 22:39 »
I'm a first timer who has a 50ft by 30ft plot which I want to set out with raised veg beds due to back problems.

Is there an optimum  height / width / length?

I have old house rafters to use in the construction, but would welcome thoughts on the best way to construct

Any suggestions on how to line it?

I'm planning to start making them in a couple of weeks and very excited to start work

thanks in advance for taking time to read this and possibly comment

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Swing Swang

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2010, 07:33 »
Get to know your plot before making the beds - which means to say work the land for at least a year first - unless you know where the damp bits are/sunligt falls/frost pockets are etc you'll probably want to move them after a couple of years.

If you've got a back problem then the height will depend on how far you're prepared to stoop and what is comfortable for you, although the higher you go the more it's going to cost you to fill/make them. Maybe you should make a small raised 'stepped' bed - 4foot wide by say 12 foot long with four square 'steps' of heights in multiples of your floorboards (say 6"/12"/18"). Work this for a year to see what the best height is for you, then use it as a 'feature' because it will then look different to all of the other beds that you'll make.

Anyway although I'm not a fan of raised beds I'm rather envious of all of your old floorboards - there must be a shed for my plot in there somewhere!

SS

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stompy

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2010, 08:54 »
You can build them to any height you want really, it all depends on how strong you can build them.
Like swing swang said though it won't be cheap to fill them if their deep.
If the roofing boards aren't treated then you could line them with black builders plastic sheeting, but if they are treated then there is no need to line them at all, and to be honest even if their not treated their about 1 1/2" to 2" thick they will last a good few years any way, i used scaffolding planks for mine and diddn't treat them and im in my 6th year now and they are still ok!
You need to plan the plot carefully, raised beds are going to be there for a lot of years so you want to make sure you put them in the right place.
Just go down to the plot one day and do a rough sketch, pace the plot out marking roughly where you want to put things.
Mark on permanent structures like shed, greenhouse compost bins/piles (etc) first and then work out where to put every thing else around these.
Plan Plan and Plan again you won't regret a couple of days just sitting and working things out  ;)
I didn't when i got mine, and spent 3 years putting things right the hard way  :(

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compoQ

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2010, 09:09 »
Thank you both for the quick and insightful comments.
I have a lot to learn clearly, however I'm looking forward to it and the challenges to come.

I'm looking to move the shed already there to a part of the plot which is in shade, I also plan to place the greenhouse by it as it has good sunshine most of the day in that bit. I took 2 roofing tile crates for composting and look to place them in a shaded area.
I'd like to build a cold frame to go alongside the greenhouse and use two old water tanks as my waterbutts and place them by the greenhouse.

The land is very much heavy clay once you go down about 8 to 10inches so I'd thought that raised beds would also help this problem.
I was considering getting in some top soil and manure (50/50) to fill the beds. I'd also heard that putting stacks of old newspapers at the bottom would help with moisture retention.

Can you tell I'm keen? Ha

If you don't mind I'd really appreciate your valuable thoughts on this. 
The majority of the site benefits from good sunshine all of the day

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stompy

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2010, 09:31 »
You can' really convert sub soil (usually heavy clay) into top soil, well you can but at takes many many years to do so.
I was in a similar situation to yourself with soil depth which is why i built raised beds, also i like the fact you can clearly see the growing space and have permanent paths.
A 50/50 mix is a good balance but the manure will rot down to aproximately 25% of it's original mass, so you will need to top it up every so often to keep your levels up.
I wouldn't put the green house in any shaded place at all, you want it to warm up as early in the year as possible and stay warmer at the end of the year for as long as possible to maximise the length of your growing season.
You can always shade it and ventilate it as and when needed through the year to control the temprature.
And the shed, i have my shed at the far end of my plot with the door faceing north and the back faceing south, this gives you a south faceing wall to grow things like a grape vine or a peach or kiwi, the list goes on  ;)
The news paper thing i have seen on a program (the big dig i think) and that was to hold the moisture in for potatoes, not sure if it actually works, i would shred it up and add it to the compost bin.
Also, buy a good book or two. johns books on the site are great and a bargain too.

Hope some of this helps,

Andy


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compostqueen

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2010, 11:23 »
If you've a bad back the building of large raised beds could be difficult. I had a very bad hip when I got my plot and could hardly do anything so I bought two kits from Link a Bord. They worked out at £44 per bed as opposed to £45 for the same amount of timber. I did collect them though saving on the postage. I really like them as they twin-walled recycled plastic, and plants grown on them seem to grow faster as I think they're heat retentive

I have timber raised beds as well (one made from an old pergola)

On our communal plot we have waist high raised beds made from thick conveyor belting and lengths of Superbox (all scrap) which are held in place with scaffolding poles. Again, very labour intensive to build, and if you've a bad back you're going to struggle

Good luck with it all  :)

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JimS

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2010, 11:29 »
I'm on chalk soil, with very poor topsoil on top of about a foot.

I decide to build a couple of beds after reading about them on this forum last year.

I built mine from floor joists, gotten from when a neighbour decided to build a new extension.

They are 3m by 6" by 2". (I know, I still go into the hardware shop and ask for "10mill bolts, 2 inches long please::) )

It made deciding the size quite easy, just 3 lengths needed per bed, 3m x 1.5.

I screwed them together using decking screws and used some old 2 by 2 for corner posts. These I cut about 15 inches in length so that I could have  3" in the ground and 6" sticking out to use to make a deeper bed, if need be, I just need to screw another set of planks on top of the first 'bed'.

Then I layered the bottom with cardboard, the thick, corrugated stuff. Mainly scrounged from skips, neighbours and supermarkets. This was to stop the weeds coming through and help retain moisture.

On top of this I filled the beds to the top with a mix of compost, topsoil and a few bags of commercial compost, all mixed in.

It seems to have worked well, everything is growing very healthily.

The plan for next year is to add the second 'floor', lay down more cardboard and top up so that I have a good 12" deep bed. Of course, you could go as high as you like.

They are very versatile and have made my life a lot easier, in terms of keeping things organised and succession sowing and such, I wish I had done them sooner.

One of the beds I have turned over to the "Square Foot" method, as an experiment for this season. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

My Onions, Garlic, Spinach, Lettuce, Beetroot, Carrots and Broad Beans seem to have taken to it with gusto.

At the moment it looks good and certainly makes weeding a heck of a lot easier.

I am now using the ground I have left for my spuds and stuff like Broccoli.

Having only a half plot, it does seem the raised beds make a better use of the available space.

Hope this helps. I would say, just go for it. It can always be dismantled if it doesn't work out for you.




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compostqueen

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2010, 11:43 »
my brother built some raised beds in the part of his plot that floods. He didn't know his plot flooded when he first got his plot,  so the waiting a bit is good advice

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goodegg

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2010, 12:08 »
i also have a bad back so i would advise you to make your beds only three foot wide because my four foot ones give me back probs trying to reach across were as my three foot ones are just fine the length of them you make how you want .

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compo

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2010, 12:48 »
 We used the footpath soil to fill our beds up. Using a rotovater, it loosened it up which was then put into the finished beds. Cant see the point of walking on good usable soil.
17102007148.jpg
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compo

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2010, 12:49 »
 Oh, and this is the result..
lottie june.jpg

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Siouxfly

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2010, 13:02 »
Mine are about 5 and half foot square (call me lazy but the planks came that length and I didn't fancy sawing them as they are nearly 3" thick) but easy to work as I have access on all sides and like everyone else says the filling them up is where the cost comes in. You could be lucky with soil/compost/manure prices but I find prices quoted for my area are ridiculous. I've been going on gumtree, freegle, freecycle etc and picking up top soil/compost etc as required it's free that way.
The only thing I would have done different is I would have used full lengths of 2 x 2 for the corner posts rather than cutting them to size as with a bit of wood along the top I could have had great fleece or net frames.
Enjoy. :)

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compoQ

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2010, 16:11 »
Considering I only signed up to this site yesterday, I am overwhelemed by the reponses, advise and positive / constructive comments from everyone.

I feel so much better having this forum to hand and the fantastic advice of so many others already in 'allotment world'

If I use old internal doorson the base of the raised beds to help suppress weeds but allow moisture to seep out would that be ok, assuming the bed is at least 3f high? Or is it posible that I could end up growing things that go that deep?

Thanks one and all!!! Great site, great support!! Cheers

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Trikidiki

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2010, 16:31 »
I would heed the revious advice and try different height beds for the first year.

3ft high beds will cost a lot to fill and you may find as I do that bending down to a 2ft high bed puts more strain on my back than bedding right over to an 8" bed. Half bending for me is akin to the stress position used for interrogation purposes.

Only you will know what is good for you but better to try it first before going to the expense of filling very deep beds and finding it too uncomfortable.

Re. the doors. I wouldn't use them as if you choose to use shallower beds the roots of carros, parsnips etc won't be able to go down into the soil below. Also as the wood rots it will take nitrogen from the soil and will be a breeding ground for lots of nasty creatures such as slugs. A good thick layer of newspaper wil suppress the weeds enough for the first couple of years until they give up.


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compoQ

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Re: Building a raised veg bed
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2010, 17:53 »
Thanks, advice heeded.



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