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RE: filler for raised beds

  • Subject: RE: [cg] filler for raised beds
  • From: Sally McCabe <sallymcc@libertynet.org>
  • Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 21:51:10 -0400


I usually agree with Adam on many things, but on this one I differ. If
you're building raised beds as deep as you are, I would recommend you just
build them and fill with soil as though you were builind on top of concrete.

Lead and other heavy metals are just that, heavy, and don't usually rise in
the soil unless they're stirred up--more often they're deposited on top of
soil by car exhaust or dumped batteries.If you are concerned about what's
in the existing soil, apply a visual barrier before filling the beds. I've
seen hardware screening used, and sometimes old rugs.  These barriers don't
completely shield you from what's down there, but they DO remind you not to
dig any deeper when you hit them.  And don't be afraid to test the soil
you're bringing in to fill the beds.

Don't backfill with subsoil, rocks, or anything but soil. You're creating
an ideal situation, something that many gardeners would trade their
firstborn for--18-24 inched of friable soil!  Styrofoam pellets are only
recommended if you're filling the bottom of a container that needs to weigh
less, like in a rooftop garden.18 inches of soil in raised beds will drain
just by virtue of being that deep.

Adam's absolutely right about the rest of it--the composting part, the kind
of lumber to use, and, of course, the communal hot showers.

Sally McCabe

At 4:16 PM -0400 5/15/01, Honigman, Adam wrote:
>    Kellie,   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    PMTo:
>community_garden@mallorn.comSubject: [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.
>Inc.                          Url    : <http://www.foodlinkny.org/
>eudora="autourl">www.foodlinkny.org936 Exchange
>Street                     Ph:    716-328-3380Rochester, NY
>14608                     Fax:     716-328-9951

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