Green Thumb
Posts: 302
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:21 am

Jal, you are right about all of that.

Sitting on 4" thick concrete bricks added that many inches to the 20" of depth in my 3'x8'x20" beds. My husband didn't think they needed to be that deep until I told him (then showed him) that carrot roots can grow as deep as 5.5 feet. Onions have a lot of shallow roots but some deep ones as well. I handed him my book on plant roots. He was quite surprised. The two 4'x8'x12" beds were set up to use up the extra soil we had. We plan to go up another 12" this fall.

As you noted, roots do travel in all directions and take up a huge amount of space. Square foot gardening is OK for some plants but you can't crowd plants or they won't do well. If you study the root developement of individual plants, you won't plant them so close. I planted my broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower at the spacing recommended by the seedsman for an in-ground garden. Same with the onion family, beets, spinach, lettuce.

I did however, decide to show my husband what happens when you plant too close. So some sacrificial plants in one area. It surprised him to see how healthy the well spaced plants are versus those that are too close together. As well, the bugs can hide better and do more damage than had we been able to see them.

I also agree with some of the soil mix. One of our garden centers offered a mix for raised box beds. When I got the general percentage of everything in there, I knew I wanted to make my own - and did. I got the best topsoil possible at a really good price - well, if you have to pay for it. I also used good local compost and well rotted manure from a local Vermont company that I would trust with my plants. My beds hold enough moisture that I don't have to water every day and drain well so nothing sits in water. I haven't had to fertilize the raised box beds.

Where I push my plants to grow for me is in the containers and I do still use them but not the small ones I used when I first started.

If I had the space and decent soil and a much better back & knees, I would love to have a garden like yours, Jal, because that is what I grew up with. My Dad had 9 kids to feed and we all helped in one way or another to maintain that huge garden.

Like many people across America, I am very much into growing as much of our food as possible so I know how it is grown. We don't all have the perfect soil or space to garden and so we look to the "experts" who will sometimes sell us what we don't really need. We also have a few of us older folks who love to garden but our some of our body parts rebel.

I think we could be respectful of the different methods of gardening because each of us is doing it the best way we can/know how. Many are first time gardeners and we don't want to discourage anyone from gardening or visiting this website because we have our own way of doing things.

I'm certain every gardener across America would love to have huge gardens and much longer growing seasons, better backs & knees and the experience of many years of gardening. Many are just learning and I say Kudos to everyone who is a first time gardener or trying a new method or plant.

And for all the experienced folks, I say thank you for sharing all of your wisdom. You do indeed inspire us all.

Senior Member
Posts: 197
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:11 pm
Location: Alaska

[quote="jal_ut"]Also, I keep hearing about all the fake soils and compost that people fill their beds with. Guess what? You can put all the amendments you want on your plot whether its raised or not. I think the reason things still do well in this type of bed is that the roots can and will go down into the real soil under the beds. If you are having trouble with this concept, [url=]READ THIS![/url][/quote]

Thanks Jal
Very helpful chart.
I found out here that you have to grow carrots in a raised hill,bed or some way to warm the soil. About 6" down the soil temp get pretty cold & the carrots stop making a carrot, many times you get 3 or 4 legged short carrots. Of course the type of summer weather will vary from year to year & soil temps at various depths vary along with that.
A grower here said somewhere around the 40° temp range is all deeper the carrot will grow, I don't know about the deeper feed roots but my first carrots in a regular West Virginia garden were short, stubby multi legged, but tasted good.
Each geographic area has issues to be dealt with.
Of course here, I'm lucky. I am planting on a gravel base down about 14 to 16", with a 4" or so layer of clay on top of that (moraine left from the glaciers) then the hundreds of years of about 4" to a 8" of topsoil (natures compost). The frost leaves the ground (which is frozen down about 5 feet) 1st week or so of June. That's my area.
Growing in tundra (Frozen ground down about 2 feet in the summer) a little farther north of my area adds even more challenges. Then Muskeg, which is several feet of peat moss in other areas (with no or very little drainage) is another.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2437
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Latrobe Pa.

I make raised beds smaller like 4 by 5 but do have a few 4 by 12's! I make beds back to back seperated by a land scape timber or just a 2 by 10. I have 4 beds together that I also use for cold frames. When you make the raised bed to make the outside wider I usuallu put a 9 inch piece of card board on the outside of the frame all around and cover it with with seedless soil mix. I sometimes I plant a flower on the outside of the frame like marigolds. I have even put a row of brick around the top of the frame to wald or kneel on!
There are alot of ways to make raised beds and all types of material to use! Solid 4 inch concrete block make a nice frame and they cost about $1.25 each!. Set them on the 8 inch side and usually work nice for the smaller 8 inch deep beds!

User avatar
Green Thumb
Posts: 339
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:10 pm
Location: Sacramento, California

I really think it all depends on what you are looking to do and what you have to work with.
Me, for example, I live in a duplex (a renter) with extremely bad soil. I opted for a small raised bed, yeah the cost was a bit significant but for my purposes it has worked out great.
If you have the land and the ability to grow from the ground, grab that rototiller, dig up what you need and call it good! I wish I could! I have a feeling, if I did that though, the landlord would pitch a fit!

Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:59 am
Location: Kentucky

I have a small lot in a subdivision and right now 1/3 of my back yard is garden. I love to fish, hunt, and garden (in that order) and don't want to apply the time to keep the rototill looking as good as I'd like for town. In addition the soil sucks, I've been adding to it and its getting better but still hard to grow some stuff. I figured the raised beds would look better, grow better, and require less time for maintenance. I'll still have a small roto till spot for my melons but that would be it.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2437
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Latrobe Pa.

A narrow raised bed about 3 feet wide is nice because you can increase the length quick. If you want to put in 6 zucs. just add 4 more feet!!

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Green Thumb
Posts: 456
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:42 am
Location: North Central Illinois

[quote="DRT"]Also is there something I can plant in them during the winter that will help keep the soil loose for the next spring. I have been told by a older man that gave me this idea that he plants some kind of peas in the winter that helps keep the soil loose.

I remember something about that pea planting too, but can not recall by name. One can plant the annual clover which in return gives nitrogen back to the soil.
This is the first year for my raised beds, I really enjoy working less and easy on the back.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2437
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Latrobe Pa.

I would mulch the bed heavy with manure and compost material especially leaves just before the ground freezes. You could put early peas in the composted raised beds or use them a month early as a cold frame for lettuce and onions or starting early plants like kohlrabi or cabbage! Plant the seeds right on top of the composted leaves and cover with a good potting or finished compost mix!! Make double use of that raised bed

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