My raised beds are filled with poor, sandy soil so I had to do something to get a serious amount of organic material into the beds. My solution? A ton or 2 of composting horse manure from a local stable. The trailer was fully loaded and piled high when I pulled it in. It took me about 4 days of serious shoveling to get the other poop out of the trailer and into the beds. I shoveled more out than is pictured. Have to find a good place to store the rest until next spring planting. I lined the trailer with an old tarp so as to not mess it up too much.
I put about 6 inches of horse manure into this bed and turned it in. This picture shows that I still had a few more inches to add to this bed. Since I had more horse manure than expected, I filled each bed to the top edge.
Another bed with the poop turned in to the soil and filled to the top edge of the bed. Notice the prolific blooming of the morning glories in the back bed.
Put a few wheel barrows of nastier horse poop ( had beg clumps of hay in it and some that didn’t smell quite so composted) into the compost pile.
Horse manure is high in nitrogen, so hopefully the leafy greens that I grow in the winter – kale, lettuce, spinach and swiss chard will use up the excess nitrogen. I don’t want an overload of nitrogen in the soil for the spring planting. Too much nitrogen will produce lots of green plants and little fruit – so I am hoping that it will work out well for the winter leafy greens. Will keep you posted.
I have prepared two of my raised beds for hoop gardens. I plan to do this for my 3rd bed that doesn’t have a raised cattle panel running down the middle of it.
The beds are made out of 16′ lengths of 1×6 treated lumber. The boxes are 5′ wide. I purchased four 20′ sections of 3/8″ rebar and had one of my sons cut them into 2′ sections. I decided to put 7 hoops on each 16′ bed. I pounded the 2′ sections of rebar 1′ into the ground, leaving 1′ above ground – the height of the bed side. I used 10′ sections of gray electrical conduit to bend over the bed for the arch. Each end of the conduit covers the raised 1′ section. Hopefully this will be satisfactory to anchor the pressured ends of the conduit. I plan to tie a piece of the gray conduit along the top of the arch to keep the pipes properly spaced. I will then cover the arches with clear plastic. I need to find a thick 50′ roll of plastic. Twenty-five feet will cover each bed with enough to gather at the ends. I need a roll that is at least 12′ wide so that it will cover the 10′ arch and leave at least a foot to lay on the ground and be weighed down by old garden timbers or lengths of wood.
I still need to work the ground around these beds – putting mulch around the beds.
The winters here have been getting colder each year for a while now, so I am hoping these covered hoop beds will allow me to grow winter crops better. On the list for my winter crops are: cabbage, broccoli, spinach, lettuce – both leaf and cos, turnips, carrots, fava beans, peas and whatever else I can’t think of at the moment. Garlic doesn’t need to be protected from the freezes.
This is an overview pic of the garden. I had to build raised beds because the soil is hard red clay. I knew that the raised beds would be an issue in this heat – the soil is literally cooked with the heat that passes thru the 1×6″ side walls that are 12″ high. The day time temps have been in the upper 90s to low 100s.
I mulch the soil surface with inches of dried leaves in an attempt to hold in the soil moisture, but I still have to water every 3 days or so. The sandy soil still dries crusty hard, even under the leaf cover. I have to put much more organic matter this fall and next spring. I know that it will take several years to get an acceptable quality soil in these beds.
The beds are on the east side of tall trees. As such, they get the rising sun after it clears the trees in the front of the house and mostly full sun until mid-late afternoon when the sun is beyond the western tree line. This means that the garden gets maybe 7 to 8 hours of full sun. That is enough sun with out beating the squash and cuke leaves to death with the hot afternoon sun. This is the best that I could do with what I had to work with. Total full sun would have been too much.
I scattered Blood meal around the yellowing plants – squash and peppers. Blood meal is nitrogen. I also fertilized with full label strength Miracle Grow. I then watered even more. This seems to have helped. The new squash growth is dark green, so I am assuming the fertilizer helped. For now. I am still worried about all of the sand in these new beds – and the lack of organic matter. I have to find an affordable way to load these beds with organic matter – then I need to get earthworms. In my last location, I had so much organic matter in the soil that I was over-run with pill bugs (rolly-pollies) that were actually damaging my plants. Also, I believe the soil was diseased – my beans and tomatoes yellowed with what I believe was virus issues. That is why I didn’t bring any of my old soil over to this new location.
This pic is from early May, when I finally got my raised beds built. I had to build them myself – quite a job for an old gal like myself! You can see in the beds near the bottom of the pic that I had already planted my heirloom peppers that I start from seed each spring. I put wood chips and mulch in the walkway between the beds – it covers the red clay. The beds were filled with a load of mediocre quality top soil mixed with 18 bags – added to each bed – of cheap Lowes compost and soil. Each spring I plan to add at least 6 or so bags of quality compost to the beds until I can build the soil up. If I am lucky, maybe I can get a load of rabbit poop like I did several years ago. That was wonderful stuff.
This picture was taken June 20, perhaps 5 to 6 weeks after the above picture. The pepper plants have grown in size, but are not as full as I would like. I need to remember that I am not growing in the rich composted soil of my old garden plot. I had been building that soil for 20 years.
Note the thick layer of leaves for mulch in the beds. The sand would dry up in a day and crust over with out mulch. I also like the weed repellant quality of mulch.
Still so much work to do. The garden is on a slope and thus I have to work on the run off problem I am having after deluges.
I want to expand my garden, to do so I will have to do some clearing of the woods. These woods are just beyond my raised beds and our yard.
The soil is mostly red clay. Clay. The woods has about a 12″ layer of nice black compost from decades of falling leaves, pine needles and tree parts, but that gets disturbed when the tree roots are dug up. I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll probably build raised beds, thus I won’t have to dig up the root stumps. However, I don’t want to cut any more of my trees down.
Another issue to consider is that these trees are very tall – the canopy is about 50 to 60 feet tall, thus the trees throw long shadows. I would get much of the morning eastern sun, some noon sun and a bit of early afternoon sun, but I wouldn’t get any late afternoon sun. I am figuring that my current garden gets at least 6 hours of sun. Really, I consider this OK because although garden veggies are said to need full sun, that late afternoon sun beats the plants down badly. So, for large leafed veggies like squash and cukes, partial shade seems to be OK. Whatever.
When we moved here, we had to build the garden from nothing – in April, it is TIME to plant tomatoes. I wouldn’t have the raised beds built for another month, so we had to use logs and put together a shallow, quick tomato bed.
A few weeks later the tomato transplants are doing fine, growing right along.
A month later the tomato plants are starting to producing the red prize.
We usually plant 3 times this many tomatoes, but couldn’t this year. Don’t think I’ll be doing much canning this year.
The raised beds are finished and the load of mediocre quality top soil to fill the beds with has been delivered. As you can see, we have already been digging in it – about a third of it is already in the beds.
The topsoil is very sandy and certainly not optimal for growing vegetables. In each bed, I mixed 18 bags of cheap compost/top soil stuff that Lowes sells. I also added a half of a large block of peat moss to each bed. You can see the darker compost before it was mixed together with the top soil.
The first bed is ready for planting. Those are 2 blueberry plants at the top of the pic – just before the utility trailer. I still need to get a load of pine saw dust and pile it around the base of the blueberries.
The last 4 beds are ready. I did not fill the beds to the top because I want to leave room to add premium compost to them next spring. I am rushed this spring – my garden should have been planted a month ago and I am doing just enough now to get it rolling.
I dumped wood mulch between the boxes and added my own pine bark that I gathered from the woods. Dead pine trees are quick to shed their bark and I gather it to put in my garden walk ways.
The garden beds weren’t ready, but the tomatoes needed to be planted. This is a quick, shallow planting.
Used some cut down trees to form the border of a shallow garden. We usually plant three times more tomatoes each year because we can and freeze tomatoes, but since we just moved, this bed will have to do.
We moved to a new location. The soil at this new location is red clay, thus vegetables can not be grown in the ground.
Eight foot garden timbers were cut into 2′ sections. A 1 foot post hole was dug – half of the 2′ post was buried in the ground and 1′ left above ground to which the two 1×6’s were lag screwed.
The long sides are up – each long side had to be leveled vertically and the post holes filled with dirt pounded in to keep the sides level:
A Close-up of the sides:
To keep things simple, I made the long sides 16′, which was the length of the treated 1×6 boards. (Half of my long boards were thicker – and more expensive – deck boards and half were regular, thinner 1×6’s. Each 16′ side has 4 posts along its length. The posts at each end are used to secure the short sides. Each bed used 48 lag screws.
I chose 16′ for the length of the beds because that is the length of my cattle panels. I plan to mount one cattle panel in each raised bed.
The short sides of the beds ended up being about 5′. I used the 16′ boards for 3 of the 4 sides of each bed and I had to buy 6 extra boards, 6′ 1×6’s.
Each board is secured to each vertical post with 2 – 1/4″ lag screws. I used 3″ screws for the top boards and mostly 2 1/2″ screws for the bottom boards. After the first 2 beds were assembled, I purchased washers and used them on each lag screw for the final 4 beds.