Questions regarding raised beds and composting

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by Hosster, Jun 20, 2013.


  1. Hosster

    Hosster Monkey

    Here is an overhead view of my property and a brief description.

    5acres

    Where the red is, a house used to be.
    There is now nothing but dirt there.

    Where the blue is, there was a shallow pond 6ft circumference that serves as a burn pit.

    The green patch is my home.

    Obviously nothing is to scale.

    e8y6eme2.

    My intentions are to use the spot where a house was to have two raised gardens.
    One will be used as a compost pile, which I will cover the fresh compost with some ash from the burn pile and then roll some heavy mill black plastic over.
    The other raised garden will be for growing.
    I plan on alternating off each year. One for gardening, one for composting.

    My questions are.

    1. How raised do they need to be?
    2. Will ashes from the burn pit mess with the Ph/fertility in any way?
    3. If I am covering the compost with ashes do I need to use black plastic over fresh compost?

    This will be my first attempt at a raised garden or composting. I am familiar with gardening, but I would like to try my hand next year at gardening organically.

    I'm sure I will have more questions, but that's all I have so far.

    Also, the reason there is no home there anymore is a tree fell on the previous owner's home. Hence there are less trees in that area and so there will be full sun for my plants there.

    Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 4 Beta
     
    chelloveck likes this.
  2. Let me start by saying I know you wrote this back in June but as you recieved no replies and this happens to be my area of expertise I figured I answer you now anyway. You have a good idea about rotating your garden and compost areas every growing season. This will fertilize the ground for your new garden while you grow veggies from the old one. When the plants are done growing and producing for you, you can churn them up into the dirt and add compost scraps all year round which will also continue to fertilize the ground.

    1. Raised beds are usually 2 feet deep. That is deep enough for small trees, bushes, and roots to grow without issue, though many people will say even 1 foot is ok. It really depends on what type of root systems your plants are going to have. I like to go all out when I garden so I double dig. This means that I don't set up a 2' barrier on the ground and fill it with top soil like many people do, though this would work almost as well, I digout 2 feet deep and either turn the soil or replace it with fresh top soil as needed. This way your final garden is the same height as the ground and the ground helps keep the dirt in the garden area insulated. BE SURE NOT TO STEP IN YOUR GARDEN BED! Compressed soil completely defeats the purpose of raised beds.

    2. Ash will most certainly change the pH of your compost. Have you ever heard of lye, aka caustic soda? Well they make that extremely alkaline substance from wood ash. Wood ash has been used for centuries to raise the pH of garden soils. If you mix something like urine or manure into your compost piles, then I would say that you can add ash without much issue at all, otherwise, adding ash might be too much carbon and your compost will not decompose properly. Compost is all about the carbon to nitrogen ratio. The best part about composting though is the trial and error. This means that you can try it and see what happens to your final product, and then add adjusters to the soil like vinegar, limestone or blood, or even wood ash. The only real fear you should have is in improperly balancing nitrogen ratios resulting in spontaneous combustion of the compost pile, but this rarely happens with vegetable compost as it is mostly carbon based. So it depends on what you are composting.

    3. The other key to compost is allowing the pile to breathe. This either means you layer the pile with hay, to allow air into each layer, or set up some kind of ventilation for the unit. Covering the pile with plain old plastic is not a good idea as it can trap gases leading to accidental fire or explosion. Using a good cover material like hay or straw is all you really need. A thick mat of hay on top will prevent flies and bad smells from coming from your pile, but like I said make sure the pile has proper ventilation throughout for proper composting. If you do want to cover your pile with plastic, Farmtek.com makes great compost tarps designed to let out moisture and trapped gasses while preventing your pile from getting rained on. Personally though, I leave my compost piles completely open year round. The temps get lower in the winter, but they're still hot enough to melt the snow off them. I don't see the snow or rain hurting the pile in any way, even after winter thaw. In fact, compost piles need lots of hydration for proper composting, so I'm not sure why people want to cover them so badly.

    Hope that helps!

    Sam
     
    JABECmfg, Hosster and chelloveck like this.
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