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RE: filler for raised beds

  • Subject: RE: [cg] filler for raised beds
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" <Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com>
  • Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 16:16:36 -0400

I assume that you've soil tested to see what you have underneath. Even if you're using raised beds, you should know what's in your dirt. Some garden sites in impoverished areas can be rather polluted ( with heavy metals - primarily lead or chemical leaks)and G-d knows what else.) If you haven't done soil testing, try to keep your soil amendments in bags until you do ( if it's a dump truck, bag the stuff up.) If all else fails, and the testing has not been done, try to postpone your delivery until it's done.
This is a great time to build the frames for, or pick up some compost bins and instruct your gardeners in their care and feeding. Start composting even before you start gardening, with leaves, carrot tops, supermarket veggies waste and the oozing stuff at the bottom of everybody's veggie crispers. Get those composting signs up and get your garden's compost heroes trained.  
This is a bummer, but unless you are building your beds on top of concrete or asphalt, I'd double dig the soil underneath the area where you are going to put the frame. Most of the folks who know me and all that read me here know that I'm crazy, but I'd double dig down two to three feet, sifting out most of the large stones, leaving the small stones for drainage at the bottom.  This helps you get the bullets, decomposing mammals and auto parts out of the soil. This kind of urban archeology can be amusing, sifting out crack vials and syringes and all, but highly necessary. All participants will truly believe that they have earned their adult beverages and pizza afterwards, guaranteed. A great way to build group cohesion. ( The hot showers afterwards are lovely too. It's a matter of choice if this is going to be a group cohesion opportunity for you all as well.)
The bedding frames should be of untreated wood ( treated wood has awful preservative chemicals in it like arsenic) or a non-reactive plastic or brick. Remember, according to Federal and local guidelines, treated wood has to be disposed of as toxic waste. You don't wanna grow your veggies in toxic waste, do ya?
he dirt recipe that I like is 15-20% peat moss, the balance in top soil, composted manure, and composted organic material ( pre-made compost - yes it's possible, ask your local parks dept, botanical garden, in some cases the sanitation dept. However, avoid sewage sludge - it's really not good for you!) If you have a source for earthworms, throw 'em in. 
My feeling is that you don't want to economize on your dirt unless you absolutely have to. If it's in your dirt, it's in your plants.
I'm sure that others on this list have different recipes.
Good luck, happy gardening,

Adam Honigman
Tel: (212) 414-8933
Fax: (212) 229-3421

-----Original Message-----
From: Kellie Schaffer [mailto:kellie@foodlinkny.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2001 3:40 PM
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: [cg] filler for raised beds

 Hi all! I am an AmeriCorps Volunteer helping city residents in an impoverished neighborhood to start a raised bed community garden. We have three 4ftx6ftx18in. beds, one 4ftx6ftx24in., and one 6ftx6ftx18in bed built. We are getting soil delivered next week to fill the beds. My question is, do we need to fill the bottom 6-12 inches with soil or can some other material be used as filler. such as a lower quality dirt, stones, rocks, etc. I have been researching raised beds on the web and have talked with several horticulturists.  One horticulturist actually told me that those styrofoam peanuts used in packing work well?!!??!!
We plan to grow collard greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, mustard greens, onions, and carrots.As well as some perennials, and annuals.

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