Building a Raised Vegetable Garden - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-11-2011, 02:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would like to build a raised vegetable garden this year. My neighbors all use lawn chemicals, which I would like to keep out of my plants. How do I go about doing this? I'm not sure what the best "floor" of a vegetable garden is.

 

How do I know how big to make it? I usually container garden, but I'm ready for a "real" garden. Here's what I like to grow:

- 6 tomato plants

- 1-2 cucumbers (pickling)

- 1 zucchini

- 3 basil

- 1 parsley

- 1 thyme

- 1 chives

- 1-2 dill

I would also like to try a watermelon plant this year or a berry bush (I've heard those are difficult).

 

How deep does the garden need to be?

 

Is this a difficult project? Is it very time consuming?

 

thanks!

 

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Old 04-11-2011, 07:43 PM
 
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I'd suggest doing a "square foot" garden.  You won't need to till, and you build up the bed, so you can avoid any possible contamination from your neighbor's pesticides that might already be in your soil.  We built two of them (8X10) 4 or 5 years ago and they ROCK.  simple rectangle built from 1x8's, filled in with equal amounts of peat moss, vermiculite and hummus.  It was expensive that first year; but we've not had to add anything since except our own compost (free!)  This year, I did add some manure and peat moss, but that was because we built another bed and it was leftover so I figured it wouldn't hurt to refresh the soil in the older beds. 


 

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Old 04-12-2011, 10:43 AM
 
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You can lay down cardboard as the floor of it if you'd like, or just add your new soil mix right on the ground and build up. The deeper the better as far as the hardiness and productivity of your plants goes, but yeah at least 7" deep. Just make a rectangle or square with your sides (not pressure treated wood that has poisons), fill it with either topsoil and compost or some variation on mel's mix like mentioned above. If you do use any peat moss soak it really thoroughly once so it doesn't stay dry (kinda acts like a sponge and resists wetting at first, resists drying out if it's been wetted). You'll want it no wider than 4' to easily reach the middle, and for what you're growing I'd say start with maybe a 4x8' bed.

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Old 04-12-2011, 12:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For square foot gardens, does each plant only need/get one square foot of space? Is that enough for tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchini? What about melon?

 

I found an amazing deal on ceder boxes for square foot gardening (I don't even think I could buy the wood this cheap). They are only 6-inches deep... should I pass on them? They have a closed bottom, which I think I need to keep out the chemicals everyone around us uses.

 

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Old 04-12-2011, 01:23 PM
 
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6 inches deep is definitely not enough.  For tomatoes, I'd think you'd want the beds to be at least 2 feet deep. 

 

In square foot gardening, different types of plants get different amounts of space.  For some, you have multiple plants in a one-foot square, and others (like watermelon or tomatoes) get more than one square foot.  I don't think everyone agrees that the amount of space recommended by the square foot gardening guy is really enough.

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Old 04-13-2011, 06:27 AM
 
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The SFG method teaches that yes, 6" is deep enough :)  The exceptions are things that obviously root deep (carrots, potatoes, asparagus, etc) which still only need 1 ft.of depth.  You'll be fine with 6" walls.


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Old 04-13-2011, 07:21 AM
 
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Well, what do you know?  I just did some research and the square foot guy does claim 6 inches deep is enough, even for tomatoes, as long as you use his special nutrient-rich mix.  I'm a little skeptical about that myself.  Before committing to a 6-inch deep garden, I'd probably want to do more research and see how well that's actually worked for people who have tried it.

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Old 04-13-2011, 10:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So with SFG I must use Mel's Mix? I couldn't find any info on it being organic, which is really important to us.

 

My tomato pots that I've used in the past are only 1-foot deep, so I'm thinking that should be deep enough for a raised garden (if we don't do SFG), right?

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Old 04-13-2011, 11:34 AM
 
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It looks like Mel's mix is just compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, so it could be organic, depending on what went into the compost.  (Apparently vermiculite can be considered organic, if it doesn't have too much asbestos in it.)

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Old 04-13-2011, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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yeah, it's the vermiculte that was weirding me out. Not sure I want to plant in it.

 

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Old 04-13-2011, 11:40 AM
 
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Interesting. We want to do this, too, and are worried about the neighbors pesticides, as he sprayed them on his side of the fence and there is a gap under there.

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Old 04-17-2011, 08:56 PM
 
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You know, personally, I wouldn't worry about the chemicals in the soil. Especially if you have clay, those chemicals really bind to the soil and don't move through the soil that far from where they are applied. I'd be much more worried about wind drift. Around here, at least, the lawn companies do not follow the application guidelines for not spraying on windy days - they spray anyway. I think you'd see more benefit for the money by planting barrier plants (like a hedgerow) between your garden and your neighbors' lawns to hopefully catch drifting chemicals than by putting a bottom on your garden bed.

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Old 04-17-2011, 10:33 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen'nZoe View Post

You know, personally, I wouldn't worry about the chemicals in the soil. Especially if you have clay, those chemicals really bind to the soil and don't move through the soil that far from where they are applied. I'd be much more worried about wind drift. Around here, at least, the lawn companies do not follow the application guidelines for not spraying on windy days - they spray anyway. I think you'd see more benefit for the money by planting barrier plants (like a hedgerow) between your garden and your neighbors' lawns to hopefully catch drifting chemicals than by putting a bottom on your garden bed.



Hedgerows... would those be expensive? That is a good idea. We don't want to look at a fence, either. 

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Old 04-18-2011, 07:24 AM
 
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Calliope, it would really depend on how you do the hedgerow. I have a mixed hedgerow, and it's cost me maybe $30 total. I was able to get most of the shrubs for free from people who didn't want them and were pulling them out (3 lilacs, 3 viburnum of some sort, and 2 highbush cranberries). I purchased 2 more shrubs for the $30 to extend the hedge.

 

Do you have friends or neighbors you could ask for shrubs? Some shrubs sucker a lot, so people might have little baby plants they need to get rid of anyway. Also, some shrubs (like lilac or forsythia) are easy to grow from cuttings, so you could take cuttings from a friend's plants and grow your own for free. If you have to purchase the shrubs, you could pick something fast growing and inexpensive to fill in the space. The two shrubs I purchased for mine were elderberries. They were 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide by the end of the first summer I planted them! And they sucker, so the hedge has just filled in. Obviously, those will only work if you have quite a bit of space.

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Old 04-18-2011, 07:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen'nZoe View Post

Calliope, it would really depend on how you do the hedgerow. I have a mixed hedgerow, and it's cost me maybe $30 total. I was able to get most of the shrubs for free from people who didn't want them and were pulling them out (3 lilacs, 3 viburnum of some sort, and 2 highbush cranberries). I purchased 2 more shrubs for the $30 to extend the hedge.

 

Do you have friends or neighbors you could ask for shrubs? Some shrubs sucker a lot, so people might have little baby plants they need to get rid of anyway. Also, some shrubs (like lilac or forsythia) are easy to grow from cuttings, so you could take cuttings from a friend's plants and grow your own for free. If you have to purchase the shrubs, you could pick something fast growing and inexpensive to fill in the space. The two shrubs I purchased for mine were elderberries. They were 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide by the end of the first summer I planted them! And they sucker, so the hedge has just filled in. Obviously, those will only work if you have quite a bit of space.


Do you know of any options that aren't so large? We only have around a 4-foot walkway, and I wanted to make my garden about 3-feet wide. I'm afraid I won't be able to walk to the back of my house if I use anything like a shrub.

 

 

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Old 04-18-2011, 08:59 AM
 
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 Hmm, that's not a lot of space, especially since you'll need space to get around the bed. Is that the only spot you have for the garden? It sounds like a walkway between your houses - does it get enough sun there? The only barrier plant I can think of that would fit in so little space would be a non-running bamboo. Maybe someone else checking this thread will have better ideas!

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Old 04-19-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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Sounds like you don't have enough space for hedges. Bummer. One plant to look into is arborvitae. They grow fairly tall and narrow. There might be varieties that are narrow enough to fit. Another option if your neighbors are friendly, they might be ok with you doing a little joint landscaping that comes into their yard too, which would give you more space.

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Old 04-20-2011, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen'nZoe View Post

 Hmm, that's not a lot of space, especially since you'll need space to get around the bed. Is that the only spot you have for the garden? It sounds like a walkway between your houses - does it get enough sun there? The only barrier plant I can think of that would fit in so little space would be a non-running bamboo. Maybe someone else checking this thread will have better ideas!


The best way I can think of describing the area is like a tic-tac-toe board, but to scale differently. Our house is in the middle square and we will be planting in the bottom right square. It gets full sun, but if I want to use the gate to my back yard (middle of the middle-right square), I can only plant about three feet wide. Our backyard is home to the largest tree I've ever seen, creating a full shade backyard. My garden location options are very limited.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by SuzyLee View Post

Sounds like you don't have enough space for hedges. Bummer. One plant to look into is arborvitae. They grow fairly tall and narrow. There might be varieties that are narrow enough to fit. Another option if your neighbors are friendly, they might be ok with you doing a little joint landscaping that comes into their yard too, which would give you more space.


I'll look into those! Turns out they are native to my state.

 

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