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Soil conditioning for growing veg - question.


 
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Gardening Daddy
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject: Soil conditioning for growing veg - question. Reply with quote

From somewhat of a gardening novice who has been bitten by the bug after growing a small selection of fruit and veg in pots and grow bags with varying success this year, I am about to embark on the task of growing veg in raised beds which I plan to construct for next spring. To this end I have measured out and turned the soil to the depth of approx 3 inches on two 8x4 foot plots.

My question now is: due to the fact that I have clayey soil, possibility the product of moving into a recently build (5 year old) house thus the reason behind the use of raised beds, would it be better to condition the turned soil with rotted manure now and let it work in over winter or would I be better off just leaving the turned soil exposed to the elements and letting the frost and wind do its job breaking up the soil before building the raised beds and adding the manure, compost and topsoil etc in spring?

Some might say it doesn't matter or just put the raised beds on top of the grass without turning or conditioning the soil but I'd like to give my veg the best possible chance of success and although the raised beds will provide sufficient dept I'd like to be safe when it comes to drainage on clay soil without of course having to dig too deep. I'm sure the roots will appreciate the extra few inches of soil if extra nutrients are required. The other factor I should point out is in relation to height of the raised beds. I was aiming for 9 inches high in addition to the 3 inches I've turned, is this high enough, should I be digging the soil deeper rather than just turning it?

This may all seem like over analysis and I should just get stuck in but I'm hoping all this possible over thinking may be the key to success and a bumper crop next year...here's to hoping!

I look forward to your knowledgeable replies
GD


Last edited by Gardening Daddy on Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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dinahdabble
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would very roughly break up the soil bellow and spread some manure or garden compost where the beds are going to go as soon as possible, to give it maximum rotting time.

First, however, if the soil is very heavy with clay you will need more drainage probably even below the beds. It would be a good idea to add horticultural grit or some fine rubble below soil and manure to ensure that the beds are sufficiently free draining. You will need it to go down a bit deeper than the beds (two inch would be ample) so that the water can seap away underneath the sides when conditions are really wet.

If the soil is not too bad with regard to the clay, use that mixed with sand and leaf mould or some other fiber to fill the beds. If it is very heavy, you are probably better mixing up a growing medium with mostly sand, grit, leaf mould and well wrotted compost. The depth of the beds you are planning sounds fine. All the best.
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nemo
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you can get seaweed it acts as a mulch and breaks down to add valuable nutrients
regards
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brennan.jm
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I done some raised beds last year from scratch. I applied a good layer of framyard manure without breaking the ground and then I applied soil to raise the beds 13 inches. I covered the beds with black plastic until the spring and they were a dream to work with. Very few weeds and quite easy to weed.
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Redfox
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've made a couple of 'hill beds'. This is an old chinese method and rediscovered a while back. The idea is to dig a trench about two spades deep keeping the grass tiles aside. You fill the trench with a 30cm layer wood chips branches and then cover it with the grass tiles upside down. Furthermore ad a 20 cm layer of grass clippings mixed with leaves. cover it up with topsoil. This will produce heat from the rotting down of the organic material as well as drainage and a storage for moisture. Its a good bit of work, but well worth it.
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brennan.jm
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:13 pm    Post subject: soil conditioning raised beds Reply with quote

the idea of the chineese beds sounds ok. however when you need to work on the beds it might be difficult to keep the clay soil in place. i used a light profile sheeting(got for free) for the sides 13 inches high. i can kneel beside the beds and there is no obstruction to weeding , diging adding new plants etc. i dont dig the beds just add FYM etc on top. works very good
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Gardening Daddy
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks,
Each and every reply has helped enormously and given me both the confidence and inspiration to get cracking. I have decided to embark on a small experiment. Based on your replies I'm going to go with two different approaches, one for each bed. On the first bed I've dug and turned the soil again, this time adding the manure and grit as suggested. As soon as the ground dries and softens enough to get digging once more I plan to put my Christmas tree remains to good use by utilising the pine needles and finely chopped branches as wood chips following Redfox's suggestion of hill beds and covering the chopped tree with the grass tiles, grass clipping and mixed leaves etc. The only question I have is do you think the pine needles and branches would be suitable as a wood chip alternative, I've heard they are very acidic and might upset the PH balance in the bed or would this matter given the depth they'll buried?
I'll keep you updated come the end of the season as to which bed preformed best.
Thanks again guys.


Last edited by Gardening Daddy on Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:20 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Redfox
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't see a problem with one Christmas tree. Just mix it with regular twigs. I will compost my tree as well.
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Ciarandebuitlear
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:51 pm    Post subject: What I have done in a similar aituation - heavy clay soil... Reply with quote

I put some 4 X 4 raised beds in when I started a couple of years back.


The materials:
Around where I live the builders suppliers and diy shops sell pressure treated 8X2 inch boards in 8 foot lengths. Check that the treatment is not harmful before buying and then buy two. Also grab a length of pressure treated 2X2, some galvanised 4 inch nails and some steel 4 inch screws. You will also need some compost for this job. Get as much as you can up to about 10 cubic feet (300 litres). See if you can source rotten farm manure, spent mushroom compost, council compost. If you have no alternative You will have to buy some bags at the garden center. Buy soil enhancer and compost, about half and half. Either way if you have very heavy soil prone to waterlogging then add a couple of bags of horticultural grit or sand.
If they want to charge for delivery just ask if they can drop it off when they are passing they will probably deliver this lot for free, especially if you are not in a hurry for delivery. .

A site for the bed:

Now choose the position for the bed. It should be in sunlight for most of the day. Try to have it near a water source. You might want to hide it away at the back of the garden or show it off right at your back window.

The frame or raised bed:

Measure carefully and cut the two 2X8 boards in half making sure the cut is square. You can normally use the back of your saw to do this marking. Cut the 2x2 board into 8 pieces about a foot long by making angled cuts. You will be driving these into the ground so hence the angle! Lay out the boards on their narrow edges to make a square frame overlapping the end of each piece over the next. Nail together by nailing into the ends. This frame is about 4 X 4 feet. Move the frame to it's position and leave it there for a day or two. Review the siting carefully and invite other interested parties to do so also. It will be harder to move quite soon.

Put the frame in place "permanently":

Take the pieces of 2X2 which we are using like pegs and drive into the ground inside the corners of the frame. Leave a few inches sticking out and then drive two screws through each one into the frame. Drive one screw into one piece of the frame and then one at 90 degrees from into the other. Do this from the inside. You can use one "peg" in the middle of each side also for extra strength.

Digging:

Now the next bit is optional but I recommend it. Start by skimming off a thin layer of sod the width of the spade across your square and then dig up about down to the depth of the spade and move this away temporarily. Start the next trench by skimming off the next line of sod and turn upside down in the first trench. Cut each sod into quarters with the spade. Put about 5 inches of compost or so on top of the upside down sod in the trench . Now dig the next trench down to a spade's depth and dump into the first trench on top of the compost. Use a fork to break the soil up and mix slightly with the compost. Continue until you get to the end and use the stuff you took away at the start to fill in the last trench. You should have some compost left! If you're not digging you can just pour the compost into the frame but this isn't ideal.

Sheet mulch:

As a sheet mulch put a layer of old cardboard boxes flattened out carefully on top of the soil/compost in the frame. You can use newspaper and to help it stay down you can put down a piece and then wet it. About a layer of half a newspaper is enough. Put an inch or two of compost over the sheet mulch. The sheet mulch will keep down weeds and rot away in about a year.

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