K.K.
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Location: SW OK

Raised vegetable garden "Planter"

Hi,
basically we built a 3wx5Lx15"h (15 cubic feet) cedar planter for vegetables. Our soil and weather are horrid in SW Oklahoma. What would be a good mixture to fill it with? We slatted the bottom boards and put landscape fabric so there can be drainage and hold in the dirt.
Thanks
K.

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hendi_alex
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It is a little expensive, but I generally fill my new beds with bags of potting soil mix from the big box. Sixty four quarts costs about $11, and Miracle Grow is about $2 more. I mix the potting soil with perlite to help with drainage. A huge bag of perlite is about $12. The first year I mix with leaves and partial compost, basically anything composted or any dry browns. Adding some earth worms helps any leaves or other fresh browns to break down more quickly. Add a little extra nitrogen that first year if uncomposted browns are added.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

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rainbowgardener
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If your planter/ raised bed will sit on the ground, it is better not to have any bottom, so the roots of what you plant can grow down in to the soil.

Potting soil is very expensive to fill a box like that. You could get someone to drop off a cubic yard (usually the minimum they will deliver) of topsoil, WAY cheaper and then just add some peat moss, compost, other organic amendments.
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hendi_alex
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"Potting soil is very expensive to fill a box like that."

Yep, about $70-$80 if no organic material or soil is blended in with the potting mix. Since I have plenty of compost, aged leaves, and potting soil from last years planters, I would only use 3-4 bags in such a bed. Still that comes to $35-$45. Blend in with native soil and perhaps get by with two or three bags, under $35. The potting mix IMO is a superior synthetic soil, but big box also has all kinds of less expensive bags of material, from potting soil, to cow manure and mushroom compost. Also they carry large bales of peat for about $10. The peat when crumbled takes up much more volume than one would think, given the size of the bale.

In practice for a bed of this size, I would usually take two years to bring the soil level all the way to the top. To start, 8-10 inches will be plenty of soil to grow most anything. Over the year, the bed will settle a bit. During that time save anything organic that you can, and use that with just a little potting mix, peat moss, potting soil, etc. and perlite to blend in. That strategy would help hold the cost of bed soil mix to a minimum.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

rkunsaw
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I have to respectfully disagree with Rainbow on this one.

Topsoil is usually very poor and full of weeds,

If you can find a source of compost or composted manure and mix it with your own soil that would be best

Many times you can find it really cheap or free if you have a pick up truck.

After you get it filled you should start a compost pile to add to it each year as needed.
I started with nothing and still have most of it!!!

Susan W
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I go with bags of stuff, lots of bags! This is for freshening existing beds and pots, adding more containers (over 150 now).

Reason I don't get truck load. Can't access back yard. One bunch dumped at one time, and I need some over time. I can move a 40 # bag in cart, shoveling from pile not so easy. And I know what I am getting in the bag.

What bag? Oh so many choices! I go cheap, the $1 - $1.30, but not all of these alike. In this area get Evergreen brand (top soil), has dirt, sand and 'forest product'. It's packaged in NW AL where there are pulp wood mills which may be a clue! Some of the cheap bags have too much clay and just clump into hard messes.

To the top, add bagged cow poo, again I get the cheap, bagged compost/mulch (mostly forest product) and cotton burr. Over all I may do 1 -1 or 2 -1 top and additives. Add worm stuff if you have it.
Just keep adding this into your bed, stirring together, and get it high. It settles!
Plant!

Over time you will want to freshen and add stuff. I usually cultivate and clean the basil and other herbs adding worm stuff or other additives. (a fellow vendor at the farmers market has buckets of worm stuff) The perennials are usually mulched after the spring clean so don't get much more attention. (remind me to do this over the next 2 months!!).

If you are putting in a late summer/fall crop do freshen with a few bags of fresh dirt and additives, and of course in the next spring season.

Hope this helps!
Have fun!
Susan

Susan W
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Compost! Oh silly me, add if you have it and/or can start a compost for later.
Have fun!
Susan

K.K.
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Location: SW OK

thanks for all the input.
in the past we have tried gardens directly on/in the ground...again...southwest Oklahoma is brutal. you wouldn't understand unless you lived here. The only green you'll see is from fake plants :P

being up in the box..we can place it where we want versus limited options on where to dig in the ground.

We started our compost pile..well, not a pile yet..but it's started..lol
The "topsoil" we would have delivered is crap..not the good kind either haha
Our nursery carries cotton burr compost, so that'll be some of what we use in our mixture. I miss being up north where all you had to do was dig a hole and call it good.
Again, thanks for the input..*crosses my fingers*

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ElizabethB
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A good recipe for raised beds is 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite. Peat moss and vermiculite can be bought in large bags from feed stores. Since your compost is not ready you will need to find bagged compost. Read the label carefully. Make sure you know what you are getting. I would avoid a heavy pine mixture. Toss your ingredients and add to your boxes. You can also toss in a couple of bags of all purpose soil. With the 3 part mix a little bit of soil goes a long way. Look for broken bags at the big box stores and negotiate a major discount. I went to Lowe's last Saturday. I looked for broken bags and found a couple of 2 cubic ft bags of Stay Green (Lowe's brand) garden mix that were busted and missing maybe 1/2 cubic ft. Got the bags for $1 each. Almost as good as free.

Rabbit manure is also a good aditive if used in moderation. It can be used fresh and is a good source of nitrogen. Great to kick start your compost bin. You can find rabbit breeders in your area with a simple query. They are more than happy to have you show up with a shovel and 5 gallon buckets to scoop the poop.

If you can not find the ingredients for the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 mix then visit with the nursery specialist at your big box stores and negotiate for cull packages of broken soil bags. You will get them cheap but need to mix them together before adding to your bed.

Lots of luck and enjoy your lovely veggies.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

Susan W
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As you asked KK (dm), I use cotton burr along with other stuff. The brand of cotton I get at the local garden center is Back to Nature, $8 for big 2 cu ft bag. I put stuff in the garden a bit like a cook. Some of this, some of that.

I'm gearing up myself. Got 2 bags cotton yesterday, and 8 bags topsoil today @ $1.25. Hopefully the weather will stay pretty for a few days and I can clean out the carport structure. I put a pallet down, out from rain, and stack bags on it. Then when working a bed or pot just start using from that.

I hope to work a (small) new area, extending one I did last summer. I'll clean the area, about 4 x 4, sprinkle down some (cheap) bagged manure. Then go several layers of newspaper, then more poo and some top soil. Dampen. The go back and start dumping a bag of this, bag of that, dirt from the compost pile (has old container dirt), stir it up. Plant!!! I'll get some mulch (shredded hardwood) to bank the edges and keep it contained.

I also got more inexpensive rolled plastic fencing. This will get cut in strips and put down to keep Kitty from using the bed.
Have fun!
Susan

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Gary350
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I have driven through your area several times, it is like driving across the moon. I was going to suggest collect grass clippings some people bag them and put them on the street but I bet there is not enough grass for people to mow, yards I have seen had no grass. Weeds don't even grow there. If you can buy bulk potting soil by the 500 lb scoop that is probably the cheapest and best. Add 15/15/15 fertilizer and nitrogen. Mix in some of your top soil for minerals. Contact Oklahoma coop extension online they will have the best suggestions for gardening in your area.

You may run into the same problems I am dealing with in Arizona. You might not be able to buy fertilizer or any garden supplies. What you can buy will be formulated for your area.

Example. Lowe's in Arizona has a limited assortment of fertilizers. Specialty fertilizers for palm trees, cactus and desert plants. I found my first bag of 12/12/12 fertilizer today. Reading the information on the back it says, the fertilizer contains 12% sulfur because Arizona soil is 8.5 PH. The added sulfur helps lower the ph. I looked at all the fertilizer even cactus fertilizer 13/7/7 is 12% sulfur. Some of the other fertilizers are 5% sulfur, 7% sulfur, 10% sulfur. Most fertilizers in AZ have NO Potash at all. AZ soil is sand, does no potash mean the plants do not need potash or is the sand loaded with too much potash already? If I add 12/12/12 that contains 12% sulfur to the potting soil, potting soil does not need sulfur. I can not buy ANY fertilizer that does not contain sulfur. I can buy what I need for AZ soil but not what I need for potting soil. After reading AZ coop information it says, till 4" of cow manure into 4" of AZ top soil add high nitrogen fertilizer with sulfur the ph will be reduced to about 6.5. The only organic material in AZ is cow and steer manure from the stock yards. AZ coop infor also says, add Tripple Super Phosphate to the soil but no one sells TSP so I ordered a bag on ebay. OK so AZ soils needs nitrogen, TSP, no potash, sulfur and organic material. This is a Delima from hell.
Last edited by Gary350 on Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

K.K.
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Location: SW OK

I lived in Az a few years..never gardened though so you know my dilemma also. I'll trade you some oklahoma red clay for some az sandy loam..lol
Gary350 wrote:I have driven through your area several times, it is like driving across the moon. I was going to suggest collect grass clippings some people bag them and put them on the street but I bet there is not enough grass for people to mow, yards I have seen had no grass. Weeds don't even grow there. If you can buy bulk potting soil by the 500 lb scoop that is probably the cheapest and best. Add 15/15/15 fertilizer and nitrogen. Mix in some of your top soil for minerals. Contact Oklahoma coop extension online they will have the best suggestions for gardening in your area.

You may run into the same problems I am dealing with in Arizona. You might not be able to buy fertilizer or any garden supplies. What you can buy will be formulated for your area.

Example. Lowe's in Arizona has a limited assortment of fertilizers. Specialty fertilizers for palm trees, cactus and desert plants. I found my first bag of 12/12/12 fertilizer today. Reading the information on the back it says, the fertilizer contains 12% sulfur because Arizona soil is 8.5 PH. The added sulfur helps lower the ph. I looked at all the fertilizer even cactus fertilizer 13/7/7 is 12% sulfur. Some of the other fertilizers are 5% sulfur, 7% sulfur, 10% sulfur. Most fertilizers in AZ have NO Potash at all. AZ soil is sand, does no potash mean the plants do not need potash or is the sand loaded with too much potash already? If I add 12/12/12 that contains 12% sulfur to the potting soil, potting soil does not need sulfur. I can not buy ANY fertilizer that does not contain sulfur. I can buy what I need for AZ soil but not what I need for potting soil. After reading AZ coop information it says, till 4" of cow manure into 4" of AZ top soil add high nitrogen fertilizer with sulfur the ph will be reduced to about 6.5. The only organic material in AZ is cow and steer manure from the stock yards. AZ coop infor is also miss leading it says add Tripple Super Phosphate to the soil too but no one sells that so I ordered a bag on ebay. This is a Delima from hell.

imafan26
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Instead of buying bags of potting soil, it is usually cheaper to buy the ingredients and blend a custom mix.

I can get 3.8 cu ft of peat moss, 4 cuft of perlite or vermiculite. These are expensive, but cheaper than the equivalent you will need in bags of potting soil. Some people use coir instead of peat. It holds more water but it is more expensive.

You can probably get it from the agricultural wholesaler. Most of the ones here also sell retail and you can get a discount if you set up an account. If you are not there yet and have gardening friends, maybe they know where to get the best buys. If they have an account maybe they can get it for you.

Compost from the city green waste recycling facility. Cheaper by the scoop than by the bag. You might even be able to get mulch free, either from the compost facility or by calling tree trimmers in the area.

Horse manure is usually free. Most stables will be glad to have you take it away, you just have to ask. The down side is if it is not hot composted first, it can have a lot of weed seeds.

Since your weather is brutal, it is probably a good idea that you are making a deep bed. I'd go a little deeper my self, I like 18 inch depths because some plant roots do go that far.

Around here, everything is expensive, so anything I can get free I will use. Lumber would be especially expensive.

Use rocks to form raised beds. Here hollow tile is cheaper than lumber and lasts longer. Dry stack the tile and stabilize the tile with rebar and fill the holes in the tile with dirt, stones or concrete. Other choices are recycled wood from remodeling projects, railroad ties, and pallets (most companies throw them away so they usually will give them away or be low cost.) They will last a few years and have to be rebuilt, but by then you can probably find a more permanent solution.

I would also leave the bottom of the box open. Break up the soil with a fork, lay down the cardboard or newpaper and then fill the box.

It would have been better to start the bed in the fall, but if you can wait to plant you could save a lot of money by sheet composting instead.
Layer with the cardboard newspaper. Kitchen wastes, coffee grinds from starbucks ( just ask and they will save it for you. A lot of people ask so you may have to stand in line for it.) Toss in leaves, start a compost pile
get the free tree trimmings. You can have a usable bed in about 6 months. You can add manures to this pile because it will take 6 months to be ready which is just about right for it to be safe even cold composted.

While you are building the bed, you might want to oufit it so that you can add hoops on it. You can cover it with shadecloth during the summer and frost protection later.

https://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/s ... osting.pdf

You could also go the permaculture route and build a keyhole garden. The garden is built using any material that is readily available. It is a drought tolerant design. The central basket can be made out of wire instead, it will last longer than a stick basket. Composting made simple and water efficient. You can even add a hoop structure for shading.

https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3726/#b
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxPRQxdnWa4
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Susan W
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There are obviously several factors and preferences for building the garden bed. What works for one person may be iffy for another. The main thing is to have a base, either existing dirt in the ground or some sort of imported dirt (for me cheap top soil). Then add varying 'organics'. This can be manure, cotton, mushroom, forest product, compost, worm stuff, leaves, and many other options too numerous to mention.

What you are growing is a factor. Veggies, herbs, flowers (perennials, annuals). Region/zone. In town or out. Are you doing this yourself or have others.

My situation is in town, urban lot. Transportation is a mini-van. It's just me, and I'm not getting any younger. I have figured how to get things within about a 4 mile radius. Bags are easier to handle than loose stuff. (bags are loaded for me at the store, I can take out one at a time and use a cart). I am working with 3 growing spaces; that being containers (150+), in ground, raised beds). The blends I use for each micro space vary by what I have on hand, what feels right and the whatever factor.

Now back to putting the (3) flats of 4" starts out to play and then picking/preparing for farmers market tomorrow.
Have fun!
Susan

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