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Raised bed compost filling


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caz87
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:42 pm    Post subject: Raised bed compost filling Reply with quote

Hi,

We're moving house in a few weeks. There currently is no vegetable garden, so im taking the opportunity to make up raised beds. My only problem at the moment is what to fill the beds with? Its going to be the most expensive part of the bed, so I want to get the best material for the best price.

Any advice? How did everyone else go about it? Iv been keeping an eye on compost in a few places, but there still full price.

Cheers!
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First and foremost get the future garden soil tested and take advice once you have that information as you don't want drainage problems at the interface of the existing soil and what you intend to import.
A mis-match of textures can result in serious drainage problems down the road. Do it once and do it right. Sand over clay is slightly better than clay over sand (to mention the extremes) but still not a good situation.
If you do place sand on top of a sandy soil, that is far better than placing a heavy texture soil on top of a sandy soil. Of course it will drain quickly but so will the subsoil, resulting in relatively even soil moisture throughout, which is the best you can hope for.
As regards sourcing, personally I would be putting in as much bought bagged material as possible as you can be confident of the mixture plus it will have the correct balance of nutrients and acidity. There are places that sell topsoil of differing grades, check your local yellow pages. You could ask at your local council dump as I believe most of them now produce compost, just check first that the council carry out regular checks for metal levels (from sewage) and you don't want that. Lots of well rotted farmyard manure wont go astray either and maybe some sand/ small gravel or grit, you do need to check the proportions of what you intend to fill beds with too.

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Blowin
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caz, welcome. Tagwex has offered you far more science than I could even dream of BUT I'd like to offer you the opportunity to examine exactly WHY you're going for 'Raised Beds'? This whole principle is comparitively modern and has developed into something of a 'must have' fad. Everyone seems to think they must have 'Raised Beds' with all the periodic maintenance etc involved.

If your new patch has weeds growing on it, it will obviously support plant life so, as a long term strategy, I'd set about digging it. By all means add things to it to improve certain qualities like tilth etc but, by using the soil at its present level, you're availing yourself of natural capillary water supplies and avoiding the future expense and effort of renewing artificial plots.

There are situations where raised beds serve a very useful purpose, e.g. for wheelchair use, but I'm just anxious that, having viewed a few other posts on here, you're not just going with the flow. One spade plus one fork may prove cheaper and just as effective?

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tagwex
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@caz87: You should look around the previous topics in this forum by using the search engine as you will find plenty of good advice, sometimes contradictory, but it would most likely be correct coming from the authors experience or point of view and not necessarily suiting your requirements. You just have to wade through it and apply their thoughts to your circumstances. You should start with the sticky at the top of this forum written by the site owner/administrator. Plenty of good info there on raised beds.
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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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caz87
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi all,

Thanks for the responses!

Tagwex, iv been browsing around a few garden sites the last few weeks since we decided to move, and nothing has quite answered my question regarding best and cheapest way to fill the beds.

But to answer a few of the questions asked, I have no idea what's under the lawn in then new garden, we haven't moved in yet. I do understand the science behind soil as I'm a civil engineer. First thing I'll be doing when we get in is dig a test hole to see what's there.
I'm going for raised beds as the back garden isn't huge so I want to incorporate the veg patch as part of the garden, as a feature I suppose you could say. This year has been my first year growing anything and there was a pre existing veg garden in the house. It wasn't great with regards weeds, which was fine this year as I was unemployed. I'm back working now, which is away from home, and my partner will be looking after some the the daily side of things. I want to try keep things as simple as possible. I had a couple of small raised beds with compost in them this year and had very few weeds. A lot easier to maintain. I have unlimited access to farm yard manure, so I reckon this year will be the expensive part just to get them filled. I'll have a look in town this weekend so see if theres anywhere I can get compost.

Thanks for the advise!
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tippben
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found that if you "double dig" the area where the bed are going to be, the extra air incorporated means that they will be full (admittedly, mine are only 8" high) I incorporate bought compost, free manure, garden compost, horticultural sand and grit in my herb bed, whatever. The point is to not mix subsoil and topsoil, but create drainage in the subsoil, and to incorporate organic matter and fertility into the topsoil. It doesn't really matter what you can lay your hands on, as long as you obey these rules. Then you never dig again (barring normal soil disturbance in general cultivation) and keep adding very thin layers of mulch several times a year.
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@caz87:

Hello, The cheapest way is not necessarily the best way, you will get out of it what you put in, scrimping now means more costs down the line. Infrastructure costs are always high but as each year goes by it lessens.

I have the same problem myself as we only started up this year too and after much hard work we now have 656m2 in drills/furrows and a greenhouse waiting to be collected. We only hope that the returns are worth it. The weeds were 1.5m high over most of it but my mini-digger sorted that out. I always had an interest in gardening but always went for the floral side rather than the veg side. So when we moved house in April we decided to go for the big veg plot, unemployment and hunger are a great source of inspiration plus I had the time.

Can you not get a soil sample from your future garden and get it tested, you only need half a mug full? My local garden center does a thorough test for only 5, tells you what the soil is lacking. No point preaching to the converted about soil mechanics then, I'm a civil engineer too. See if you can get composted leaves from somewhere, parks maybe if you are in an urban location, or spent mushroom compost. Which part of the country are you in anyway?

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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE


Last edited by tagwex on Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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My Potatoes
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done caz87, you've hit the nail on the head regarding the expensive side of raised beds. Here and elsewhere I've read members tales of saving a tenner on the price of a frame, whereas the expensive part (and hence the part where savings could be made) is the filling.
Also, I've seen people with "raised beds" where they've never filled the frame with growing media; essentially a traditional bed with a wooden frame.

So, to answer your question, the best material for the best price is probably topsoil from a nearby building site. Are there any houses being built nearby? Bear in mind that the quality of the soil beforehand tends to be much better than afterward.
There you have it: free topsoil. I'd recommend mixing this with farmyard manure. Is there a farm nearby? Free manure.

Leaf mould is a great additive. Are there broadleaf woods nearby? In particular beech or oak? If so, free leaf mould.
Any wasteground nearby? If so are their weeds growing on it, and what ones? Nettles are high in nutrients! Dock and dandeloin have roots that run deep. As a result, these weeds and their roots are rich in nutrients. Shred the leaves and compost or make a tea from the dead roots.

As an engineer you probably know how to mix cement with a shovel? Use this technique with the pyramid to mix these media (but don't add the water).

Topsoil, manure, leaf mould and weed leaves/compost. All good materials; all free.

I'd also like to echo Blowin's post.
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Blowin
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just one possibility from my own experience. Do you have a commercial strawberry grower near you? If so, the modern way of growing is to have raised tressles/benches, suitably irrigated, on which are placed grow bags. They then plant about 8 plants in each and, being at waist/chest level, they're easy and clean to pick.

At the end of the season my local man stacks them up, leaves them for a year to make sure the plants die, and then makes them available to anyone who is prepared to come and collect them. I had 200-300 of them in the early days and greatly improved my soil quality by digging them in after they'd produced a fine crop of onions from sets.

You've mentioned that you have a good supply of manure. That will provide all the nutrition you want so I'd consider placing a good layer of that as a foundation and then, purely as a growing medium, cast-off bags as per the above or el cheapo bags from Lidl or suchlike should be more than adequate.

PS - We've got one hell of a strawberry bed

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My Potatoes
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seaweed too, of course. Lots of micro-nutrients. Also free to collect.
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caz87
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi All!!

I guess the word compost in the thread title is the wrong word. I'm not worried about the nutrient side of things, as I said, iv free access to manure. What I'm looking for is a growing medium for the beds. As iv said before I'm an engineer and there is a mound of topsoil on the site I'm working on at the moment, but its a couple of hours drive away from my home! I'm based in the Midlands, so sea weed isn't really an option, at least not in big quantities.

Would compost from mushroom producers be pretty much the same as the strawberry compost? I think there's still a few of them knocking around the place.

My plan is to get the beds made and filled this side of Christmas. Put manure on them etc and put them to bed until next spring. The only bed that I will be using before then is where the garlic is going. I missed out on them this year.

@ tagwex, I'm not trying to scrimp on the cost now, but at the same time I don't want to spend x amount when i can get the same quality of soil for cheaper.


Thanks for all the advice. some food for thought!

Cheers

Caz
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
but at the same time I don't want to spend x amount when i can get the same quality of soil for cheaper.


That is the very point I was making. With bought bagged compost you know what you are getting, topsoil from a building site could be contaminated with anything. Quality is the key word - get the soil tested for it's constituents. Cheaper is not necessarily best.

_________________
Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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My Potatoes
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tagwex wrote:
...topsoil from a building site could be contaminated with anything.


I dunno how accurate a statement this is. Normally the topsoil from a building site is either removed or piled up at the very start, prior to any actual works beginning. In such a scenario it would be virgin soil and unadulterated.
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed my potatoes, to some extent, but having spent 30 odd years on building sites I can assure you all sorts get hidden and thrown in/on these stockpiles of topsoil during the course of the works. Also contaminated spoil is sometimes brought in from another site to mix in with the good stuff as it is so expensive to properly get rid of. It happens. Hairy arsed groundwork sub-contractors from Mayo working in London were by far the worst!!! "It's not my country, I don't give a f***".
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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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caz87
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Potatoes,

Technically topsoil from a construction site should be just that, top soil. However you are not always guaranteed this. It depends on the main contractor and earthworks contractor. It also depends on the end use of the material, are they selling it off or is it to be reused on site.
Its like everything in construction you have the good and you have the bad, unless you see the material being scraped off and put in the stock pile, your never 100% sure what's in it.

Personally I would only take topsoil material off a construction site if I knew the digger driver and at that I would still be very selective.
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