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beds and planters/non-homed gardens

  • Subject: [cg] beds and planters/non-homed gardens
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 11:59:57 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

It is too hot to go shuffle the peppers that a school
group planted 4" apart this morning, so instead I've
got a question and a comment:

Comment first: I'm reading once again the discussion
of raised beds and candidates for enclosing them -
tires, treated wood, who knows what all. Maybe a quick
clarification might be in order. 

A 'bed' is an area set aside for growing plants. A
'raised bed', particularly if you follow the
terminology of Alan Chadwick and John Jeavons who
popularized the idea in the US, is simply a bed where
the soil is mounded up. It doesn't need to be
'enclosed' by _anything_. Usually, in my experience,
it works _better_ if not enclosed by anything and
simply borders mulched or grassed paths. If I do use a
border, it tends to be rock, which is cheap and
readily available (concrete chunks also work). Both
treated (or untreated) lumber and tires have the
disadvantage, from my perspective, of having a fixed
shape that makes it very hard to create a organic flow
in your garden's design. A good example of such flow
is the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, where David
Hawkins had children hold hands to create the shapes
of beds, which were then outlined in rock and rubble.
Btw, excellent design doesn't necessarily cost a penny

'Planters' are another story. A planter is a container
or walled structure for growing plants. A clay pot is
a small planter, a big cement-edged box for a street
tree is big container. I think when people say 'raised
bed' they are often talking about 'raised planters' or
'large open-bottom planters'. The first question a
community garden might ask is 'do we need to grow in
planters?' If the answer is yes (for drainage, or
handicapped access, or because of contaminated soil),
the next question is what is the best material to
create the planter with? Ideally, it will be free or
cheap, readily available, durable and won't release
toxics into the garden environment. For me, this rules
out cca treated lumber, and leaves the jury out on
tires (I don't much like 'em, but we've got to do
something with them, and I've seen 'em look pretty
cool, I must admit, with potatoes.)

But all you need is compost, soil and digging tools to
create the best raised beds you'll ever dig. Echoes of
Dave Mallet's Garden Song "Inch by inch, row by row
... all you need is a rake and a hoe..."

Now, my question. I'm working with a garden for
homeless folks. The typical rules and dues structure
that works quite well for many community gardens (see
the by-laws on the ACGA website) won't work here.
Anybody got any ideas to share on how to structure the
organization and encourage 'buy-in' in a garden where
people have no home? There is no doubt in my mind,
though, that this garden fills a very important need,
giving folks a place to connect with the soil. For
some, expecially immigrants from farm backgrounds, it
is a godsend.

Well, it looks a bit cooler out there, guess I'd
better get back to work.

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

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