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Re: CULT: Raised beds (was Stones on Rhizomes)

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: CULT: Raised beds (was Stones on Rhizomes)
  • From: storey@aristotle.net (J. Michael, Celia or Ben Storey)
  • Date: Fri, 19 Sep 1997 13:13:05 -0600 (MDT)

> The beds will be raised and what do you all suggest as bed walls to keep
>them raised? I am mulching with shredded wood chips the paths between rows.
>I am so excited to be having the front lot cleared out and these beds put in!

Doreen, congratulations! It sounds as though you're laying out your beds
intelligently, in full sun and with plenty of room for tending your plants.
You don't say whether you're making rectangular beds or using the
landscaper's "bean" as a model. Sidewall materials depend very much upon
the shape of the bed, how much you have to spend, how much labor you can
put into the construction and how sturdy the walls need to be. People
around here use landscaping timbers, treated 2x6 or -8's, irregular bricks,
nested shale stones, field stones, metal edging or poured concrete. The
stones look prettiest, I think, but aren't always practical or affordable.

For free-standing raised beds, I use treated landscaping timbers cut into
various lengths using my chainsaw. Those available locally are about 4
inches deep, and I generally stack them two high, so the plants have at
least seven inches of great soil to grow into before they hit our rocky
Use a level when placing the timbers, excavating as necessary. If it looks
like there might be a problem with soil escaping from a high end, spread
pea gravel along the wall and pile it in corners. Interlock the timbers on
the corners for stability, pre-drilling holes and nailing the wood together
using 6" galvanized spikes (15 cents apiece from HQ).

One bed I built this summer to terrace a steep hill required stacking
timbers four high. Those I drilled through and reinforced by hammering
rebar a foot into the ground. Don't underestimate horizontal pressures when
building garden walls; they will fall over. And don't expect a one-wall or
two-wall timber structure to hold back dirt alone. The ends must be tied
back horizontally somehow or sooner or later they'll bow and collapse.

Several of my irising friends have lovely raised beds edged in bricks, two
deep. Bricks can be laid out in gentle curves, for a prettier effect than
my rectangles. All my beds are rectangles; I have no sense of design.

Not all raised beds are freestanding. Earlier this summer I built a 2
foot-by-8 inch raised bed across a 30-foot expanse of chainlink fence. I
had about $40 to devote to the project, soil inclusive, so timbers, bricks
and the rest of the edging options were out. I wasn't confident field rocks
alone would hold in that dirt as the yard floods in spring. (If there had
been any soil there, it would have been a great place to put LAs.)
So I did something I still think is clever. I got 50-foot rolls of 8-inch
wide aluminum flashing. This stuff comes in various sizes from 4 inches to
12 inches wide; it's flexible, bendable, rustproof, sturdy and cheap. I
Rustoleum'ed both sides of each roll dark brown and dark green, dark brown
to match the dirt and dark green to match the chainlink fence which was
spraypainted 20 years ago and hasn't faded much since. I lined the base of
the chainlink with flashing, forming the back and side walls of my raised
bed. Then I piled in the dirt ($5-$10 a carload from a commercial
composter), and set another long length of brown-painted flashing on the
outside. Fieldstones piled along the front wall hold it up and look pretty.

Probably planting in flashing is one step up from planting in white walls.
I know I've never seen anything so "clever" in a tour garden. But it's
working very well, thank you.
Tune in next week for my seminar on incorporating ceramic bunnies among the
garden statuary.

Little Rock

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