Raised Beds or Raised Rows.....

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by Thunder5Ranch, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I get this question a lot when folks visit the farm. Personally I would love to do all bordered raised beds with irrigation and drainage systems. As it is I do bordered raised beds in 30x96 high tunnel and on 1/2 acre of outside gardens. The bordered raised beds on average produce 40% more crop per square foot than the raised rows. Since my main garden is 500' wide and 1000' long and 11.5 acres bordered raised beds are not feasible in terms of labor to build and the time and labor to mill the post oak borders. For a small garden 1/8th of a acre home garden or so I would highly suggest raised beds. For a Market Garden or rather series of fields raised rows are much more practical.

    building the raised rows in the spring. You can get a Cat 0 or cat 1 disk hiller for around $200

    6" raised bed in the high tunnel I use for mums to cut starts off of. Most of my bordered raised beds are 10"-12" borders. I cut T Post in half or 1.5" PvC pipe into 2 1/5 foot sections to secure the borders. Easy to remove if you need to, and the end come right out to let the bigger tiller blaze up and down them. LOL 2015 the year of drowning rains here. The depressions between rows very often looked like rivers!

    A little engineering on the disc hiller, can't see the bow in the cattle panel section well but it and the chicken wire pull the soil on top of the ridge into the center, which is great for covering seed potatoes and onion sets. The chain just flattens the top out a bit. I can get about a 14" high raised row using this hiller. And my dog picks the weirdest places to lay and supervise me.

    The Garden goes 1000 feet from fence line South and 500 feet East to West
    And no chemical 'cides or fertilizer are ever used. Nope I didn't beat the rain that day :) But all total 73,600 pounds of fruits and vegetables came out of that garden in 2015.
    DKR, Gator 45/70, Ganado and 8 others like this.
  2. marlas1too

    marlas1too Monkey+++

    imho raised beds are better been doing it for years and if you live on a hill like me its the way to go
  3. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Why is that? Why would the raised beds produce more then regular gardening? Makes no sense. I like normal gardening in the dirt vs. raised beds. One of the reasons is that you need to let some areas rest or re-fertilize. It is much easier to work with just the ground and till, reshape vs having to haul things to boxes and tilling up the soil by hand.
    Seepalaces likes this.
  4. marlas1too

    marlas1too Monkey+++

  5. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Bordered raised beds are a more controlled environment. As Marlas points out you add manure each year and that manure goes into a specific target area, the raised bed. You have less nutrient leaching and run off of nutrients. The soil in both raised rows and beds warms faster in the spring. Weeds are pretty much a non issue in the bordered raised beds after a couple of years and if you use Hot Composted Manure. You can build them higher as bending lower happens, hate to say it but the easier something is to work with, the more productive it tends to be.... Pest insects for whatever reason seem to not like the bordered beds as much as they do the raised rows, of course that might just be my perception as I grow a lot in the high tunnel so it limits pest insects anyway.

    As a general rule I have found the common flat ground garden is about 50%-60% less productive than raised rows, raised rows are about 40% less productive than raised beds. Raised beds in a high tunnel are around 30% more productive than outside raised beds.

    I briefly thought about doing the entire field in 3' wide 200' long bordered raised beds with 4 feet between rows for our "Harvest Mobiles" to go between. Old riding lawn mowers with the engines rebuilt and the mower decks removed that pull a 3' wide 4'-6' little wagon behind them. Then I figured up how many post oaks I would have to cut down and mill into 2" thick x 12" wide x 16' long and how many T post I would have to buy and cut in half, and then how much soil and manure I would have to move to fill all those beds and many thousands of feet of irrigation line and drain tile I would have to add. (I put a drip irrigation line on top and a drain tile underneath each raised bed. We get the best of both worlds here bone dry and not uncommon to get 7"-10" of rain over the course of a week. Earlier in August we went from bone dry to 17 inches of rain in 5 days. So irrigating one week and the drainage system under the beds working overtime the next week.
    Seepalaces, Bandit99 and Motomom34 like this.
  6. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    I tried both and the weeds always win in the rows. I have 7 Raised beds and I grow plenty for me and mine. Over abundance when I get a good deal on starts! Like way to many Jalapeno's!:)
    I really need a tractor but I would rather drop 20K on a big underground storm shelter [peep]
    Motomom34, Ganado and Seepalaces like this.
  7. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

  8. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    What do you all put on the bottom of your raised beds? For mine I wanted to do fabric but they were constructed with a wood bottom which was a huge mistake. I had to drill holes one wet Spring and now the wood is not holding up. I knew the wood bottom was a mistake but someone talked to someone who had done it that way and now I have a mess.
    Thunder5Ranch likes this.
  9. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    Newspaper, cardboard, wet leaves, landscape fabric or wide mesh hardware cloth will work.

    Usually I remove the grass, if any, (and use it to patch the lawn!), till up the soil down about six inches, removing rocks, roots, etc., install and level my frame, then put down a layer of Preen, a layer of newspaper, then fill with topsoil, leaving enough space to mix in some manure or compost.
    Ganado likes this.
  10. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    Having done raised beds for years, I can say they are one of the easiest & most productive ways to go. But far and away, the best deal is not how much more they produce, it's not having to bend over and work at ground level.

    (All the blood rushes into my head, and I get, like, strange hallucinations, like!)

    But--you don't need wood to make a raised bed. Wood is expensive, labor intensive, and doesn't last.

    What you need are recycled concrete blocks, stacked two high (or even three!), with no particular foundation work to speak of. Just stack them on bare soil and let them meditate on the earthly abundance of gravity.

    You can fill the beds with whatever's handy, but I prefer to start new beds with lasagna compost: alternating layers of "brown" and "green" ingredients. (Google hint!)

    You should never have to do anything to the soil in a raised bed except add compost, plant, harvest, & maybe water. But you will need to weed lightly at least once every two years.

    For a huge garden with thousands of feet of row, just collect blocks as fast as you conveniently can. In two or three generations, it'll all be raised beds. And in the meantime, every little bit helps.

    I knew a guy that hit demolition and remodeling jobs fairly often with a flatbed trailer and two sturdy young 'uns. He'd snag 100 or more used block at a time, and stack them into whatever he needed--mostly compost bins & raised beds. He also floored three sheds with concrete blocks.
  11. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Lumber for me cost only time and a little bit of gas :) I have a sawmill and a couple thousand post oaks. The post oak planks last between 15 and 25 years before needing to be replaced. Tried that lasagna thing once, made some seriosly dead soil for me, tilled it up and got some oxygen to it and created aerobic soil instead of stagnate anerobic soil and and it went to town. Now days I just use top soil from between the rows and fill it out with composted manure and till it all together really good. 4" of top soil and 6" composted cow pie works good for me. LOL planks and 3' of T post driving 4 post for every 16' plank is not labor intensive in comparison to humping thousands of cinder blocks :)
  12. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    The beauty of raised beds is you can make them out of what you got or what you can easily get. I have some made of wood and some made from rocks and old pieces of concrete sidewalk. For potatoes I use old tires.
    Thunder5Ranch likes this.
  13. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Other good reason to use lumber for me....... The wife gives me a lot less dirty looks when the $12,000 of sawmill is working instead of being a yard ornament :) Totally agree using what ever you have access to and that makes a border. I use a lot of the slab wood from the mill even though it only last 3-5 years .
  14. kckndrgn

    kckndrgn Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    This is my current dilemma - where to put a permanent garden.

    Background - I've done both traditional row gardening and raised bed gardening. Both have has successes and both have had failures. On some produce I would get substantially more harvest from row planting while others were better with raised beds.
    I have been gardening at my 'old' home for close to 10 years, the last few were in raised beds.

    Last December we moved from the city to country (.08 acre lot to a 2.01 acre lot). The previous owner had (according to neighbors) tried to garden one or two years but it was, to quote the neighbors "too much damn work!". I personally enjoy gardening, even when I'm pulling weeds out.

    I did put in a 25x25' garden this year, it did OK. I did not do anything other than till where the previous garden was. Bush beans and hot peppers (jalapeno, habenaro, tabasco) did exceptionally well, Zucchini and squash did great until the squash bugs found them. All my herbs produced as I would expect. Tomatoes, corn, and sweet peppers did rather poorly.

    Problems with the existing location:
    • water (well) spigot is approx 200' away. I do need to put in a spigot closer to the garden area for my chicken coop, but that may be a year or 2 down the road.
    • Distance from the house and obscured by chicken coop. I know it sounds odd, but the garden is about 250 - 275' feet from the back door and it's on the other side of the chicken coop so I can't see it. out of sight out of mind :(
    • Soil needs some work to start getting optimal yields from crops, but I see that as an opportunity to work the land.
    • Plenty of open space to run my SCUT (sub-compact utility tractor) to work the land (tilling, plowing, etc.) as needed
    • Easily expandable by tilling more space.
    I have a location I could put raised beds in, between the fence of the back yard and the chicken coop. This would put the garden area a bit closer to the home, make it visible from the home, it's closer to the chicken coop (for tossing weeds and bugs to the chickens), and it's closer to a source of water if needed. The downsides are the cost of the bed borders and new garden dirt/compost.
    I had a thought that I could actually do both, a garden and raised beds. Raised beds for things we'll harvest more often (beans, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, etc. and use the garden for items like squash, zucchini,corn.

    Sorry for the long post, mostly rambling, but sometimes I tend to over think things or make simple choices very complicated. :)

    Look forward to your thoughts.
  15. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    • water (well) spigot is approx 200' away. I do need to put in a spigot closer to the garden area for my chicken coop, but that may be a year or 2 down the road.
    • I have used heavy duty hoses for years and go as far as 600 feet with them. Keep telling myself I am going to trench in a new waterline and put in 4 more hydrants, going on 9 years of telling myself that. Consider drip irrigation or soaker hoses. I use Netafim™ Field Drip Irrigation Components - FarmTek it is quite affordable and does a good job. It also does not require high water pressure.
    • Distance from the house and obscured by chicken coop. I know it sounds odd, but the garden is about 250 - 275' feet from the back door and it's on the other side of the chicken coop so I can't see it. out of sight out of mind attachFull49983
    • Out of site, out of mind does hold true, gardens take a high level of discipline to have not only productive but also attractive. I hate and loathe starting a new garden area. I know for the first three years it is going to be a long battle with weeds. The more weeds you pull one year the less weeds you have the following year. 3-5 years you get worked through all of, or at least the bulk of the dormant weed seeds in the soil and life gets a lot easier. The chicken coop being close is a big plus as you have a high N and acidic manure close by. Be careful not to unbalance your soil PH with the manure though. Our most hated and common weeds here are Mustard Weed, Johnson Grass, Crab Grass, pig weed and white clover.
    • Soil needs some work to start getting optimal yields from crops, but I see that as an opportunity to work the land.
    • When I start a new garden area, I do it 1 acre at a time and spread 20,000 pounds of composted cow manure and disk it in. I repeat that every fall for 5 years. But we start out with Southern IL. sandy/clay soil with very little organic matter in the soil. After 5 years we have soil comparable to the Northern IL. Black Dirt. I use cow manure because it is not as *Hot* as Horse or Rabbit manure and runs lower in N. but higher. Your individual location will most likely be quite different than mine in what it needs though. One constant is you can't have too much organic matter worked into the soil. What you want to avoid is putting too much nutrient into the soil. You can reach a point where you get what is called *Nutrient Lock* That is where you have over did the fertilizer and it binds up and can't be absorbed by the plants. Have your soil lab tested, most fertilizer companies like FS will test your soil for free, Extension offices still exist in some places and will as well. There are also environmental labs that will test at a cost usually $35-$100 depending on area and the lab. Learn to read the soil test reports or better find a soil expert that can tell you based from the test exactly what you need for prime fertility for what crops you are growing. Home testing kits and meters are OK for testing for the basics N/P/K but very lacking in the micro nutrient dept. To test your organic matter take a 1 quart jar fill it 1/2 with your soil and top off with water. Shake it up and let it sit for a day. When it settles it will layer with the heavy stuff lower and lighter stuff higher. The lighter stuff is your organic matter. 5%-10% organic matter is typically considered good. Personally I shoot for 35%-40% in the top 4" of soil with 20%-25% in the 4"-8" depth. That makes for a very loose soil which is great for root crops, it can be a challenge though for things like corn, tomatoes, things that get taller and unless solidly rooted can be blown over by wind. For those things I shoot for 10%-15% organic matter 4-6 inches and 5% below.

    I did put in a 25x25' garden this year, it did OK. I did not do anything other than till where the previous garden was. Bush beans and hot peppers (jalapeno, habenaro, tabasco) did exceptionally well, Zucchini and squash did great until the squash bugs found them. All my herbs produced as I would expect. Tomatoes, corn, and sweet peppers did rather poorly.

    Hot peppers in general will do well in less fertile soil and the Zucc's you almost have to work at it to have a poor crop :) For the squash bugs look for their egg clusters on the leaves and smash them. For the bugs themselves I use a three prong attack. Diatemecious earth liberally applied around and in the base of each plant, NEEM oil sprayed on the leafs and stalks and marigolds planted between each squash plant. If a infestation gets out of control, I will break down and use Sevin spray or powder Sevin is as harsh as I will go on a pesticide though and then only because it breaks down and is completely inert after 24-72 hours. Also unlike many pesticides the bugs do not develop a resistance to it. Herbs also tend to enjoy less fertile soils particularly sage, thyme and Rosemary. I intentionally grow them in the worst soils as the flavor at least to me is far more intense than those grown in more fertile soil.

    Tomatoes and sweet peppers I suspect and this is only a guess were lacking in potash, phosphorus and Calcium. If you had a wet year as we did, that compounds the problem. I always give the tomatoes and sweet/bell type peppers a nice side dressing of blood meal (Slow Release of Nitrogen) and Bone meal as well as a dried out cow pie between plants. As you water the cowpie nutrients leech into the soil and yes they are full of weed seeds but they are contained to the cow pie and easily removed as they sprout. (Just remove the pies after a few weeks using a flat shovel and toss them in the compost pile.) Be careful using blood meal. It is very high N. while it releases slowly, if you apply too much a whole lot releases slowly and will burn your plants roots. The blood meal however will give your young plants the N. Boost to get growing and big, and the cowpie and bone meal will give it the P/K for blooming and fruiting.

    And you will find plenty of people to disagree with me as how to do things has a lot of debate, which is great as we all improve and learn in those debates. But some things like N/P/K and organic matter are constants, the debates typically center on how best to achieve those things at optimal levels and to a lesser degree what the ideal optimal level or % is.

    Ganado likes this.
  16. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Love me some worms!
  17. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I like to gather the rotten crumble wood from old fallen trees, that is my number one choice and obviously a very limited supply for that choice. Following that I use a landscape rake being the tractor in the woods and use the leafs and small branches and twigs as the the first layer. As that stuff further decomposes it feeds the plants for several years.
  18. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Lots of folks here in town use cedar 'privacy' fences.

    When I hear someone is replacing their fence in the neighborhood , I drop by and look at the wood to be pulled down. If it's cedar, I offer to come by with my truck and take it away. If the fence company does the chore - it costs quite a bit.

    I keep the cedar planks and take the worst of the poles/crossties to the dump. The rest gets recycled into raised beds and a couple of years ago, into a nice lapstrake sided/cedar shingled roof shed for my SIL. I have a chopsaw I got at a yard sale, so I don't cutting the boards (and sometimes the embedded dirt./gravel) to obtain some realty nice - and free - cedar for my garden beds.
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  19. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Really anything non toxic and that can bear around 30 PSI will work for borders. If it is out of sight, it does not even have to be attractive, just functional.
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