Raised Bed Gardens, Opinions + Tips?

Just wondering what you all think of raised beds for vegetable gardens as opposed to ground level gardens.
It's a good time of year to get all that planned out and in place so looking for input.
My thought is that the raised beds will be easier to maintain and to work in. My thought on that is more for the wifes sake since she has back trouble that acts up from time to time.
I was thinking of just using treated 2x8s or so, standard toe nailed framing with braces in the corners. Also thinking of stapling plastic sheeting along the inside just to minimize the dirt to wood contact factor.
So, any thoughts on this, tips or tricks, etc?
Also make life easier where soil prep is concerned, no? That way I can just dump in bags of good soil and compost as apposed to working with the brick solid clay around here. ;)
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Scott Hildenbrand said:

I moved all of my vegetable gardens into raised beds two years ago, and wish I had done it sooner.

I'd go (I went) with cedar, as opposed to treated lumber. Unless of course you feel comfortable with that sheet of plastic protecting you from leeching chemicals (I wouldn't).

Sink 4x4's as corner posts and bolt the side rails to them. I wouldn't trust nails to hold moist soil.

I purchased quality garden mix, from a reputable, local company. It's much cheaper than bags. ($20/yard. Mix consists of 50% river-bottom topsoil, screened 3/8", 25% composted manure, screened 1/2", and 25% compost, also screened 1/2".) It gets ammended each year, from my compost bin.
Spring prep was almost too easy. I was used to tilling and other manual labor to get the garden ready, but prep now consists of blowing a few leaves and sweetgum balls out of the beds, and raking them. I did that at the time I would normally have tilled, and then went nuts waiting for the temps to warm up, heh. The waiting was the hardest part. Though, the beds heated up fairly well, as compared to the old garden.
HTH
--

Eggs

-Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
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Eggs Zachtly wrote:

my years of experience with growing produce have taught me, consider the projected weather conditions regarding availability of and frequency of rain. if the projections are for a dry year then I flat bed so I can retain water by trenching the rows. the technique slows the drainage and reduces the need for manual irrigation. in years when there is lots of rain I use a Farm implement known as a bedder to bring up rows 8 to 10 inches in height to create better drainage.
building the raised beds being discussed here is not practical when your garden consist of an acre or more.
http://personalpages.bellsouth.net/t/h/theplanter/2007-gard.html http://personalpages.bellsouth.net/t/h/theplanter/garden2005.html
these were both what I call flat bed gardens and both were during drought years.

cedar, I call it the wood God made to last. there are fence post on this Farm still standing long after the barbed wire rusted broke and was removed. while standing next to one of those old cedar post I can get a visual of great granddaddy telling one of his boys how to dig the hole and it just might have been granddaddy he was telling. nostalgia, yea it happens when your family has occupied the same track of land for six generations.

aren't nails just the temporary fastener used to hold things together while the screws are being inserted?

and a good [hope that helps] it was Eggs
--
best 2U

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Pretty well essential if you have heavy soil that needs drainage. Of course they dry out quicker and need watering more often but that may not be such a problem.

Yes to some extent. It may be worth adding a flat top so that she can sit on the edge to work - assuming that twisting would not be worse than stooping or squating.

Choose timber that is durable when in contact with the soil or you will be re-building in a few years plastic or no. Such things exist but may not be cheap. I cannot suggest anything in particular for another country but I wouldn't suggest treated timber with heavy metals (ie CCA).

You may also need vertical members (stakes) to support the sides. They hold better on the outside as they are not so dependant on fastenings but look neater and stub your toe less on the inside. Make sure your fastenings are rustproof (eg grey galvanised), ordinary nails will rust very soon. Long sides on an impervious base (eg plastic clay) will need weep holes on the downhill.

Depending on the size you want to work on and how much you can afford for new soil this may be a good choice. I would need to see your clay to have a view about the prospects of ammending it.
David
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On Nov 3, 8:44 pm, Scott Hildenbrand

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On Nov 3, 8:44 pm, Scott Hildenbrand

I agree with you totally. The beauty you can create in levels, is stupendous. More and more people are turning to these kinds of gardens, they are easier to maintain. Simplicity and use of logs or cut lumber adds to the whole beauty and atmosphere of the yard.
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On Nov 4, 4:26 pm, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

I will be using brick and then over-cladding with sandstone tiles or clumps to create a wonderfully natural setting. I want to install a natural waterfall, archway, various raised beds etc., and clad them all with sandstone. Drainage is very important as we have clay soil here. Sometimes I wonder how people in the UK manage to grow anything at all with their annual rainfall!
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On Nov 3, 8:44 pm, Scott Hildenbrand

I totally agree with you, there is alot to be said for the easy maintaintence of raised bed gardens. I also found that use of logs or cut lumber in layering of the raised gardens can truly these magnify the beauty and atmoshere of your yard. NRG
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I used raised beds to use up the soil from digging my pond... LOL. here are mine http://weloveteaching.com/landscape/gravel/gravel.htm they are only 2 and 3 2x4s high. If you want 12" high, then make a stud wall with water proof plywood on inside, cement board or such on outside. I lined my greenwood with plastic. every 4 feet I have tied the back and front together a little under the top of the dirt just to keep the bed from bowing out. it doesnt appear to have bowed at all. Ingrid
On Sat, 03 Nov 2007 20:44:03 -0500, Scott Hildenbrand

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I'm not so sure it's going to help your wife. She'll end up sitting on the edge and having to twist to reach things. Or, kneel on the edge, with her legs hanging off behind her. If this makes no sense, go get a piece of 2x6 or 2x8 lumber and put it on the ground alongside one of your existing beds. Tell her to kneel on it, but there's a rule: Her toes can't touch the ground behind her. That's what it'll be like to kneel on a raised garden bed edge.
Her other option would be to kneel right IN the raised bed, which will compress the soil, and her ankles or shins will be on the wooden edge.
I agree that raised beds can be visually pleasing, but think about maintenance and pain first.
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A proper raised bed garden should be high enough that one needn't stoop (about 24" - 30" is ideal for most folks) and no wider that one can comfortably reach to the center from each side (about 4' - 5')... there is really no point to building a raised bed that doesn't meet the aformentioned criteria, then it's just a waste of materials and effort. If planning on building a raised bed less than two feet high one will be better off not at all. If one is of a short stature for harvesting crops it's far more advantageos to use a small step stool than to have a raised bed so low thet one still needs to stoop. To save on materials plan on "U" and "H" and "T" configurations. If one's land slopes severely a terraced raised bed garden works well, where one can stand on each level to reach the next higher level. If one is serious about raised bed gardening they may want to consider using concrete landscaping blocks rather than lumber.
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g'day scott,
for me it si the only way gardening made too easy.
you can see pic's and stroy on our site.
On Sat, 03 Nov 2007 20:44:03 -0500, Scott Hildenbrand
With peace and brightest of blessings,
len & bev
-- "Be Content With What You Have And May You Find Serenity and Tranquillity In A World That You May Not Understand."
http://www.lensgarden.com.au /
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Yup. Add some drip irrigation, too. My guess is that shin to knee level will do her back most good, but I built my mom a raised bed that was about dining-table height, so she could garden while seated. Very easy to weed, too.

I'd forgo the plastic and use something like cedar if possible. If not, 2x lumber takes a number of years to rot in my experience.
And don't forget to kill the sod under the raised bed first. Lawn grasses are downright stubborn about wanting to keep growing. Quackgrass is worse. <g>
If you're not going very high, you can just heap up the raised soil on the ground, no containment needed. Or if you just want to try the concept, you can get bagged soil and grow through the bag.

Might want to send in for a soil analysis of the bought-in stuff... commercial compost in my neck of the woods tends to be pretty acid, and needs considerable sweetening with limestone. Also, clay in moderation increases the buffer capacity of the soil and makes pH swings during the growing season much, much easier. Straight compost is way too light to use.... plants can pull themselves out of the ground, ime.
Cheapest way to buy good soil for raised beds is often from a local soil and compost dealer that does custom mixes for greenhouses... buy a truckload and you don't have to pay for the plastic bags.
Kay, with rocky heavy clay soils in Oregon.
)
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On Nov 3, 7:44 pm, Scott Hildenbrand <"scott

As others have said, cedar is less of a health issue. However, I had one bed made of very old treated poles, just because I had them and they were free. Instead of plastic, I used 18" wide aluminum flashing to separate the soil from the poles. It proved to be much more durable. Don't know your location, but I continually had a problem with fire ants nesting in the raised bed garden. Since there is no approved fire ant pesticide rated for garden areas, and they were so insistent on getting in the bed, I finally had to get rid of my raised bed.
Red
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Here is what I did this fall in preperation to next springs planting Using all 2" X12" X10ft treated lumber..(yes treated lumber) I will decide what to do about this when I plant in the spring..I made 4 beds 4'X10' with an additional bed across the back for wife's flowers..I used 3/8th inch X2" angle iron and hammered in about 3 to four feet into the ground..( I had lots of these around so cost wasnt an issue) and bolted the sides to these angle irons to keep them secure.... Made walking spaces of 3ft between beds and using ceder chips to keep weeds down and using the soil that was beneath the beds, to fill the beds, I have been using this space as my veggie garden for 30 years.. so the soil is great, I may need to add soil .I can get good planting dirt from a local dist. I decided on this after many years of successful container planting, and am looking forward to years of success...watering..I may set up a sunken system. I am in western Pa ...hope this helps you along

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japus said:

[...]
If you've already filled the beds with soil, it's a bit late to do anything about protecting the soil and vegetables from the chemicals leeching into them. What is it that you see as your options to 'decide what to do about this', that you can actually choose from? I suppose you could will the chemicals not to leech, tho I don't think that will work. You could probably remove all of the soil, and line the beds, next spring. But, how would you know if the chemicals had already begun leeching, or not, after sitting all winter.
Seriously, you /must/ have some idea of what you plan on doing about it. I guess you could just ignore the fact that the chemicals will end up in the soil, and take your chances. It *is* your life, after all. BTW... got kids?
[rest snipped]
Please don't top-post. Thanks.
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Eggs

-A comfortable falsehood will always win out over an uncomfortable truth.
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japus wrote:

FYI
Pressure-treated lumber is wood that has been immersed in a liquid preservative and placed in a pressure chamber. The chamber forces the chemical into the wood fibers. The pressurized approach makes sure that the chemical makes it to the core of each piece of wood -- it is much more effective than simply soaking the wood in the chemical.
The most common chemical used to treat lumber used to be chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. In 2003, however, the Environmental Protection Agency restricted the use of CCA in residential settings due to health and environmental concerns about arsenic leaching out of the wood. The most widely used alternative to CCA is alkaline copper quat, or ACQ. Copper is toxic to various insects and fungi that might cause decay. ACQ binds to wood fibers very well and allows wood to last decades even when it is in contact with the ground.
The protection provided by the chemical depends on the amount of chemical that the wood absorbs. In the United States, the amount of chemical is measured in pounds of chemical per cubic foot of wood. For ground contact, 0.40 pounds per cubic foot is needed. For foundations, 0.60 pounds per cubic foot is the standard.
The chemicals in treated wood are generally not good for humans. This is why you see warnings advising you to wear gloves, avoid breathing the sawdust, and refrain from burning treated wood. Keeping small children away from treated wood is also a good idea.
http://www.howstuffworks.com/question278.htm
arsenate - :a salt or ester of an arsenic acid arsenic - :a trivalent and pentavalent solid poisonous element
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Scott Hildenbrand wrote:

Just wanted to thank everyone for their input on this.. Since there is some mixed feelings on raised beds I'm going to do a test next season and make one long bed and then a few ground beds behind that and see which works better.
Appreciate it greatly! :)
Scott--
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