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Old 06-20-2008, 07:13 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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Raised bed gardening

Long story made short. Moved in with a roommate in August of 2007; used to live in Florida with them. Moved to southern Georgia in February of 2008. Tried to live with them, but due to financial reasons and that it's just a stressful living environment in general, moving back to Florida in a few months (just need to scrape together the finances necessary to cover the cost of relocating).

If everything pans out the way I would like it to, I'll be saving extra money I have leftover to fund the building of raised bed gardens and starting a few raised bed gardens for cool weather vegetables (spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots, broccoli, and sugar snap peas). The gardening zone where I'll be living is going to be 9; doesn't really start to become cool until about October so I'll start the raised bed garden preparation in about September or mid-August.

I have questions about raised bed gardening as I've never done so before. Here are my main questions.......

What materials do you need to build them as far as the construction of them goes? (know I'll need wood, fertilizer, and bagged potting soil.....the soil in Florida isn't suitable for growing things) but aside from those, what else?

Once you actually have the raised bed constructed, how do you fill it with your soil and fertilizer? Do you have to layer them (layer of potting soil, layer of fertilizer). Do you need to put stones for irrigation on the bottom of the raised bed? If you don't layer the materials you're putting in the raised bed, do you just mix together potting soil and fertilizer, and then put that mixture in? If this is the case, what is the ratio of potting soil to fertilizer you use? (ex: 1/4 potting soil, 1/2 fertilizer.....)

Do you use the traditional row format and plant spacing like you would when you're drawing out a plot or not? If you don't do row and plant spacing in a raised bed.........then how do you give the veggies/flower you're growing the room they need to grow? Is it feasible to do a row spacing and plant spacing format in a raised bed garden or not?

Also, this doesn't really correlate with raised bed gardening, but rather with gardening in general. How do you make it so that when you plant your seeds and grow your vegetables that you receive a continuous harvest throughout the growing season?


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Old 06-20-2008, 08:11 PM   #2
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So many questions!! First, welcome to DC. I'm sure we can help you with most of your questions. I should mention that I'm up in Zone 5, so there could be some regional factors that I don't think of.

When I made my raised beds for veggies, I used (and still do) equal parts Mushroom Compost, Peat Moss, and top soil. You don't want potting soil, you want top soil. Even though it seems like you are making a big huge "pot" it's really just an extension of the ground. The peat moss will retain far more moisture than soil on its own and the compost is your fertilizer. Try not to mess with in-organic fertilizers too much if you're a newbie. If you want to sprinkle something in, try a bit of Osmocote as directed.

So, when you put it all in (the dirts), layer it and mix it up with a garden rake or rototiller. It should be fairly well incorporated, but need not be perfect. As far as a bottom layer of rock goes, if you are putting the raised bed on top of earth, you shouldn't ned rocks for drainage (someone correct me if I'm wrong here). If you are putting the beds on top of concrete, the rocks idea might not be a bad way to go. Not sure..

Just make sure your plants have the leg room required as noted on the seed package. I like to consider the movement of the sun and make sure that no taller plants will be shading any smaller ones throughout the day/season. Look for layouts on the web and pay attention to N, S, E & W.

Getting a constant harvest takes study and practice. Try choosing a couple different tomato plants, they are labeled "early," "mid-season" and "late." Plant one of each! Spring veggies are unlikely unless you commit to perennial-type (?) vegs like asparagus and garlic. Leaf lettuces are easy and snippable and should produce from early srping into summer. You can include brussel sprouts and broccoli and squashes for late season harvest, but in your zone you'll likely have luck with many more veggies late-season than I would here in PA. Plus broccoli and brussel sprouts take up a whole lot of room in the garden.

For the limited space of a bed, try growing things you can train to grow up toward the sky, like beans and zucchini.

Hope that helps a bit! Good luck with your garden and the move.

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Old 06-20-2008, 09:04 PM   #3
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Ive been Using raised beds for years. I used lumber to outline my beds. But lumber wont last forever, and not sure you would want to use the treated stuff. Can consider Bricks, Cinder Blocks, larger rocks, that new plastic lumber used for decks... I also had mole problem, so had to line my boxes with 1/4 inch wire so the little #$%^ couldnt eat the roots of my plants ( now Im dealing with slugs and ants).

As far as the soil goes, I used some local soil, mixed with top soil, peat, potting soil, compost ..... Ive been adding to it each year to get the desired soil type. Different plants require different soil types, so Im always adjusting.

As mentioned earlier, Gotta get an idea of where the sun is coming from and going, so taller plants dont shade out the smaller ones. And Im in zone 5 also, so Im not sure about the zone 9 thing.

With raised beds, as long as u have decent , well fertilized soil, you an usually get a little more per sq/ft as long as u keep up with the weeds.

Raised beds also have a tendency to dry quicker, so make sure it is watered enough.

Hope this helped.


ps. If you look at the pic of my garden, being in zone 5, we kinda have to plan the cooler weather plants in march/ april then in late august september. And the warmer, more tropical things during the heart of the summer. Because of this, and the location of the sun, I planted the cooler things first, in the ' center part' of my garden ( spinach, cabbage, lettuce, onions, peas...) Then the taller, more tropical things on the outer part ( which will eventually over grow and shade the center, but by that time, i will haev already harvested them and it wont matter that much ) Cucumbers, tomatoes ... Then later on in the summer, as I harvest all the cooler weathered things ( in the center) and the outer tropical stuff dies down, Ill replant the center again for end of the year cooler things ( peas, lettuce....) Then comes about october/ november, gets too cold, and i rethink things and replan things for the following year. Its an ongoing project which i change and improve upon ( hopefully) year after year.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:05 PM   #4
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I am confused about something. You said that you should layer the different soil matters you're using (with the soils and fertilizer). However then you said that you should mix equal parts of soil and fertilizer and then mix them together until they're combined. Do you layer the soil and fertilizer in the raised bed and then stir them together with a rake or rototiller until they're combined?

Also another question I have is how do you create a trellis for a raised bed?
I'll need to create a trellis for at least one of my raised beds since I plan to grow sugar snap peas.

Advice on these topics would be much appreciated. Also, where can you find mushroom compost? I've never heard of it. Can you find it at a hardware store (Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace hardware......). If I can't find it, then could I use vermiculite or perlite (don't know to spell it.....) as a substitute? I would also like to install an irrigation system around it. Is there anyway you could provide a link of some kind that gives instructions on how to create a raised bed out of cinderblocks? I've tried to do some searches via the internet of how to construct raised beds, but really haven't had much luck.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:23 PM   #5
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Welcome, 888. I'm in zone 10, south of where you'll be I guess. But I don't have the energy tonight to discuss your raised beds. Give me the morning and we'll discuss, ok?

Talk to you then.

Glad you could join us.

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Old 06-20-2008, 09:26 PM   #6
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Raised beds ( wood)
Raised Garden Beds
Raised Beds ( cinder block)
How to Build a Raised Garden Bed
Trellis for raised beds
Backyard Granger: Creating a Trellis for Raised Bed

Not sure these are the best sites, But something to start with.
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Old 06-21-2008, 11:37 AM   #7
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Hi. For a couple of your unanswered questions, whether you need rocks for drainage depends on the quality of what's under the raised beds. If the soil there has good drainage, no need for rocks. If it's rocky or has a lot of clay, then rocks for drainage would be helpful.

Fertilizer should always be mixed in with the soil. This makes it easier for the plants to take it up in their roots. DH always gets a load of compost in the spring and fall when we put in new plants.

You can generally put the plants closer together in a raised bed than in a traditional garden; at least, I always have and it's worked out great.

To have a continuous harvest, for lettuce, for example, just plant seeds or small plants you've started from seed each week for several weeks. There are also some varieties of tomatoes and other plants that fruit at different times (90 days or 120 days from planting). Check with a local garden center (not a national chain) or buy a gardening book for your area to find out the best varieties for your purposes.

We used a buried soaker hose for irrigation. DH drilled a hole to allow the connector to stick out, so we can connect it to the hose from our well whenever we need to water it.

Our local garden center has these little fences about 3 feet high with 3 segments about 18 inches wide each (the fence openings are about 5 inches square) that we use to train peas, beans and tomatoes. I've found tomato stakes to be difficult to work with - the vines just slide down the stake - but the vines can be trained through the fence openings and that does a great job holding up the tomatoes.

I've never heard of mushroom compost, either. I don't think the specific type is that important. Check with your local garden center for what they carry and recommend. Vermiculite and perlite are not fertilizers, like compost is. They're useful in pots, but I'm not sure they're as useful in a garden. I've never used them in a garden.

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. ~ George Miller
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Old 06-21-2008, 11:47 AM   #8
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Like others have said, I mix my potting soil with peat moss (you should be able to buy a large bale at the same place you find your potting soil). I mix a ratio of 2:1 / soil:peat.
Also, if you are using packing peanuts for your move, you can put a good layer of that at the bottom of your container. You can use rocks too like GotGarlic suggested but if you have the peanuts, it might be cheaper. I've used them in pots for years and just saw the suggestion in this month's "Real Simple" (now I know it wasn't just a crazy idea).
As for your construction, I didn't read the posts above fully so this may have been mentioned ... you can use cement cider blocks to make your walls as well. When we built two beds earlier this year, we were concerned about the wood warping over time and I wasn't keen on using treated wood and couldn't afford the new plastic wood or cedar. If you use the blocks, off-set them, fill the holes with dirt, water the holes, pack the dirt, refill, water, pack, refill etc... until you get a good solid cement like tube of dirt. Just another thought ...

Good luck!
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Old 06-21-2008, 01:39 PM   #9
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Ok. Got a minute, Midori?
I don't know what you are using to contain your raised beds, or why you are using raised beds down here. The growers don't, and how much of the nation do we provide produce to? I just would suggest not using PT lumber. You mentions cinderblock. It has lime, so remember that when you plant close to it.
I would also suggest building up your beds 8" high, as recommended for carrots, which is ok, as cinderblock, standard size is 4 x 8 x 16. Good idea, as you could put flowers or herbs in each of the little 4 x 4 holes in the block, making the unsightly block alittle more decorative.

1st: You have to know the Ph requirements of each crop you want to plant, so you keep away the uncompatible plants, and can ammend your soil accordingly, at planting time, and later during growing season, if necessary.
2nd: You have to decide how you are going to provide water to the beds. I suggest drip irrigation, as someone else has suggested. You can use soaker hoses, which are available inexpensively at all the BIG BOX stores in their garden center.Or, in same stores, in the plumbing dept. in the sprinkler head aisle, they have whole drip irrigation systems, which you adapt to your own needs, and as simple or complex as you want to make them.

*** The most important thing to remember in FLORIDA
though is; Water Contamination by water run off from

Our water table is close to the ground surface. It is a major problem, as witnessed by the destruction of many wetlands, Lake O., our mangroves, etc. So don't overdue. Too Much of a good thing is just that. Water run off will be our destruction if we're not careful.
So when you can use natural fertilizers; compost, sterilized manure, or manure tea, they will not be as much of a problem as bagged, manufactured fertilizers.
Plus they're organic and better for you as well.

peas - 6.0 - 7.5
spinach - 6.0 - 7.5
onions - 6.0 - 6.8
carrots - 5.5 - 6.8
lettuce - 6.0 - 7.0
broccoli - 6.0 - 6.8

It looks like all the things you want to plant like a rich, well drained loomy soil, so you're good there.
Compost, sand and soil should be your base. No vermiculite or peanuts or perilite needed. You don't layer them. Just equal parts, and mixed like cake batter.
The saying is, "your soil should be "fryable", like chocolate cake;That when you pack it in a tight fist it holds together, but when you uncrumble it with your fingers it crumbles easy.") You can put a layer of plant cloth on the bottom of your beds, which allow water to drain through, but keep the weeds from penetrating the beds. Or you can layer newspaper on the bottom, which does the same and breaks down over time. Use only black and white print. Not the circulars and colored advertising sections.

You also have to determine how much space you have and how many of each plant you want. This you determine based on the recommended spacing of each plant and its sun/shade and water requirements. See below:

peas - 1" deep, 2"-3" apart, moderate to steady water,
full sun, harvest 60-75 days when pods are plump.

spinach - 1/4" deep, thin to 4"-6" apart, moderate to steady water, harvest 30-50 days, full sun

onions - plant just to their depth, nothing more, nothing less, 5" apart, fanning out their roots, moderate water, harvest 30-120 days.

carrots - 1/4"-1/2" deep, 2"-3" apart, keeping moist til germination, then moderately, full sun, harvest 50-75 days.

lettuce - 1/4" deep, 3"-16" apart, water steady, sun with afternoon shade, harvest 45-90 days.

broccoli -1/4"-1/2" deep, 12" apart, moderate water, young plants moderate sun til maturing, harvest 50-85 days.

All the above have specific needs.

peas - Cool weather crop and need to be trellised. They are in the legume family so they need rhizobia bacteria for the plant to absorb nitrogen. You can coat seeds from powder form or add nitrogen to immediate soil when planting. Doing so can produce up to 75% more yeild when innoculated.
When planting, do not compact the soil.
When crop is spent, work dead plant back into the soil to provide next years plantings with nitrogen. Plant something else in this spot next year.

spinach - where it grows, it grows fast, so you can plant inbetween beans, then plant 2nd planting 2-3 weeks later, ammending soil with each planting.
Also, if you cut entire plant no less than 2" from base of plant, the plant will grow back for 2nd cutting.

onions - top dress 2-3 times a season and water weekly with compost tea.
Harvest about a week after tops have fallen. Pull them out of the ground & let them dry, turning bulbs around every day or so, in a warm sunny location, then store in a coo, dark, dry place. - Hard to find in Fl.!

carrots - no side dressing required, but very rich soil at planting time. Best to plant leek inbetween to prevent carrot fly.

lettuce - cool weather crop. Water well and side dress with a light dose of nitrogen when planting. If you only harvest leaves from leaf lettuce leaving 2" at base, it will keep producing til too hot.

broccoli - wrap transplants with newspaper to prevent cutworms, or if planting midsummer, for fall, plant between maturing lettuce, or early peas, about 12" apart, so soil is kept in shade and is alittle cooler. Water with compost tea, weekly.
Harvest 1st florets/head 6" from base, and side stems will begin. the more often you harvest, it will keep the plant producing florets.

I hope this has provided you with information you didn't already know. If I've forgotten anything, please ask.

Most importantly, enjoy....and remember, gardening is like baking; the right ingredients with the right tools and timing, and you can be partners in a miracle with God.
Or, remember it's like a car. Again, the right materials, in the right combination, with the right fuel - another miracle.

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Old 06-23-2008, 10:14 AM   #10
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This message is to quicksilver. When you say you live in Collier County, does that mean you live in a city in Collier County Florida? If so, I'm wondering if it's feasible if we could meet in person to discuss this matter more. When I move, I'll be moving to Lee County and where I'll be residing is about a half hour away from where you live. If you could help me with the construction of a raised bed I would very much appreciate it. You seem very knowledgeable about raised bed gardening and gardening in general.

I would like to contact you outside of this website to further discuss this matter; I would have sent you a private message via this website, but you have left no contact information that enables me to do this. Do you have an instant messenger screenname? (for yahoo, aol, msn, etc.) or an e-mail address (for yahoo, aol, msn, etc.). Please provide me with contact information regarding this matter.

I hope that by being so forward that I'm not taking you aback or offending you; neither are my intentions and if I've inadvertently offended you in some manner, then my sincerest apologies. I could just really use some help with raised bed gardening. I've never really done a garden before, and I need lots of help with basically every aspect that is entailed to build a raised bed. I have many more questions I would like to ask, and with what I've discussed it's only the tip of the iceberg. To elaborate upon this, I would like to discuss more in detail the information I have started to cover in the preceding posts thus far.

Hope it's not against the rules to provide contact information but if you're interested in contacting me to discuss this further then please contact me at one of these e-mail addresses

zealousone777@yahoo.com (use this one more frequently)

fanaticbaker14@hotmail.com (alternate e-mail address; will check my inbox if somebody sends me an e-mail to this one, just don't use it as frequently )
Flutist4Jesus114@aol.com (again alternate e-mail address)

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