dupre
 
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 02:15 am
How many feet does a vegetable need, if a vegetable needs to have feet?

I tried digging down and hauling the clay away. Too much work!

Now I'd like to try building up.

How many feet deep should I build up my raised beds for vegetables?

Been told that one foot would do it; I've also heard that I need two feet.

Then I heard that some vegetables require six-feet of dirt for their long tap roots.

Also, should I line the bottom with plastic to keep weeds from coming up, or does two feet of gardening soil on top of any seeds pretty much nix that for the would-be weeds?

--new gardener
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 6,152 • Replies: 20
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 05:40 am
I'm sure to get raked by the real gardeners, but two feet should be plenty even for rhubarb and asparagus. Do not line the bottom with plastic - drainage problems, you know. You may use plastic as a mulch on TOP of the soil to control weeds, but ground bark is sure a lot more attractive.
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 06:42 am
"Raked by real gardeners"--hahaha! Smile

Thanks, that's what I'll go with.

I'm so glad I don't have to go with six feet. My 8-foot-by-4-foot plots already look awfully suspicious!
0 Replies
 
JoanneDorel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 08:34 am
Dupre it looks like feet are not needed at all. Smile

Raised Vegtable Beds
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 09:15 am
Hello, JoanneDorel. I appreciate your help. Um . . . to me the article still isn't clear. Are they saying only 6 inches are needed?

I went ahead and emailed their expert.

Waiting for a reply from them, which I'll post here.

Thanks for your help!
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 12:01 pm
Never heard back from the site, so the question's hanging . . . Ossobuco, can you settle the debate????
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Dec, 2002 03:47 pm
I got a response from the gardening link, so here it is. Happy Planting!

Thank you for your gardening inquiry. The depth of a raised bed depends on the base of your bed and whether roots will be able to grow into it, your resources and how much you want to spend and how accessible you want the bed to be. You can find some good information on building raised beds at the following links: http://agweb.okstate.edu/pearl/hort/vegetables/f6033.htm
http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/hort/g06985.htm
I hope that information helps!
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Dec, 2002 11:50 am
Finally got the answer I was looking for, from my mother's husband. Smile Six to eight inches will make most vegetables happy. The exceptions would be things like watermelon and cantelope which send down tap roots for water, but even in those cases, if you water accordingly, they won't suffer if they don't have the footage. Properly prepared soil need not exceed eight inches. Of course, asparagus are a whole 'nother story.

Are there any other exceptions to the eight inches of prepared soil for vegetables that anyone can offer?
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Dec, 2002 02:23 pm
So are rhubarb, for the same reason. They are both preannials, so once planted, the soil cannot be reworked.
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Dec, 2002 02:59 pm
Roger, thanks for letting me know. You know, I don't think I've ever had a rhubarb. Uh . . . would I even want them? Are they any good?
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jan, 2003 08:26 pm
Tomatoes like a fair amount of soil. My raised beds have been over decent soil, so that drainage is possible; if you are doing them on soil with a lot of clay, I would make sure there are places for water to weep out.

I like my raised beds to be at sitting height, which is about 16", including a cap board to sit on. You can get away with less, but that is a comfy height for a person. The soil level in that might only be about 12 or 14". Personally I think it is a lot of effort to do to just give the vegies eight or so inches...

Tomatoes are famous for being planted in too small containers. If one is putting a tomato plant in a clay pot, for example, a twenty or twenty four inch one isn't too big. In raised beds, I had a bumper crop of lots of varieties of heritage tomatoes with the soil about 12" high..but the roots had room to spread there.
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Jan, 2003 12:52 pm
ossobuco, thanks for sharing your insight and experience. When I was told six to eight inches, I decided that digging down would be, well, half the work I had invisioned at digging down eighteen inches, so I'd hoped to dig down eight inches and replace that soil with properly prepared soil for growing vegetables, letting any tap roots find their way, if they could, to a deeper level.

I have laid out seven 4 x 8 beds, and a small amount of that heavy soil hauled with a trash can and dolly, according to my boyfriend who helped me with one, weighed about 300 pounds. I can easily guess that there is about 1,000 pounds of soil per bed, or about 7,000 total, that I will have to remove by sweat of the brow to dig down 12 inches.

So, I guess I need to rethink building up. The problem with building up, is that, well, the cost of the wood, and the fact that I have to pull Mr. dupre--remember him from our e-mails through abuzz?--off a project to saw the wood and build the frame. <sigh>

It will likely not be done, ever, if I have to rely on him.

Not to mention that bricks outlining the beds and the plastic-lined rock pathways between the beds will all have to come out. I really don't want to redo that.

I've watched the one area that I dug down to about eighteen inches. Although the yard drains nicely, there is standing water like a swimming pool in that hole about eight inches down.

Regarding the tomatoes . . . In Mel Bartholomew's square foot garden, he recommends something rather unusual for tomatoes and other vine-growing plants. Instead of allowing the plant to grow as many tomatoes as is possible, he suggests cutting off all but one vine and weaving that vine through a vertical frame. This tomato is actually grown in 12 square inches, and although it doesn't produce as much as other tomato-growing options, he claims it will produce the most tomatoes anyone can grow in 12 inches of properly prepared soil.

So, my question is, since my tomato plant's roots will be supporting only one vine, can it survive in only eight inches of properly prepared soil over clay?

I'm assuming that once the soil on top is properly prepared and teeming with microbial life, that over time, it and the plants' roots, will help break down the clay underbase, causing the clay to become more hospitable for the plants' roots.

Of course, I can always just proceed with the eight inches, and then, next year, when I have practical experience beyond the bean plant I killed in kindergarten, I could probably plant those tomatoes elsewhere or even in a raised bed, you know, just for them and the plants I do end up having trouble with.

My other choice is to move the entire operation, make an 18 x 18 foot square, raised about 8 inches with pathways in between 4 x 4 squares, allowing the top four inches of the existing soil to become the bottom four inches of the new raised bed, making a total of 12 inches of soil depth for the vegetables.

I was thinking that if I get twelve 1 x 8's six feet long and use stakes to anchor them, and then fill the outside also with soil, allowing the soil to settle at the "angle of repose" and plant the exterior soil with some deer-resistant low-growing herb, then, when the wood deteriorates, the soil would not run off out the sides. If the wood comes precut and I can stake them in place, then I wouldn't need help from Mr. dupre to do the project.

I'm calling today to price 1 x 8's. I'd also need an additional 12 to function as the interior pathways so I could access all the plants, twenty-four 1 x 8's in all.

Thank you for applying your significant insight to my project.

Should I stay where I am with eight inches of properly prepared soil over clay? And haul about 3,500 pounds of dirt by hand?

Or should I move the project and build-up eight inches, allowing the top four inches of existing soil to make twelve inches of soil depth for the entire project?

Well, after putting it like that, the easiest would be to go ahead with relocating the project and building up, even if I have to tear down what I've already put together.

But, I'll await your input before purchasing or hauling anything.

Thanks!
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Jan, 2003 03:09 pm
I priced the 1 x 8's x 8 feet long, and I've decided to go with 8 for the perimeter making the square 16 feet on the sides and to use that plastic which allows water to go through, but doesn't allow weeds to grow through for the pathways for now.

The cost is darn cheap, about $56 for the wood, and whatever for the stakes. I can even haul them myself in my tiny Escort. I'll end up with nine 4 x 4 squares, twelve inches deep--after I till down four inches--with 1 foot pathways around each sqaure.

If later I have to add trellises around the perimeter to protect the vegetables from deer, that should be easy to do.

I'm going to keep the other area I worked on, and finish it out. There should be something that can grow in shallow soil, like maybe herbs? Mr. dupre can claim that space as his own, and we'll both have our separate gardens. His is even located in the Bubba section of our entertainment area, so he should be happy to show off his plants to his friends.

Thanks to everyone for the input.

Now, does anyone know what will grow for him in about six inches of prepared soil?
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Jan, 2003 10:49 pm
I am still not enthused about growing a tomato vine in a 2 gallon can or equiv size. Most tomatoes do benefit from having blossoms or shoots culled. There are opinions out there on different sides of every possible point of view. Many people pick out the blossom that grows between stems...

I still worry about your drainage. It is not good that you have that swimming pool effect in the dug out spot. I still like raised beds; six inches may be fine for some things, I would like higher. My artichokes, for example, need more room. You might consider growing tomato vines in old 15 gallon plastic containers from nurseries, if you can beg or borrow some.

I should admit here that I am not actually the wisest garden person on earth. My expertise is in spatial design. I am just one more enthusiastic ordinary gardener on my good days.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Jan, 2003 10:56 pm
Dupre, you might want to look up French Intensive Gardening on google.com. It was in vogue for a while...involves putting plants close together with lots of nourishment. I am not up on all the pros and cons of it.

I am also thinking...um, wet feet for your roots...maybe you could do with some water iris, some cannas...many plants do not like constantly wet roots, but a few don't mind it.

I don't know if Sunset Western Garden book covers your area. It's a pretty handy guide if it does. Worth every cent, which I think is now about $24.00.
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Jan, 2003 11:44 pm
Thanks, occobuco. How I do envy your spatial design abilities! Although I am happy with the layout of my entertainment area--and it was quite a challenge based on 10 books of landscape architectural design--I have yet to prove myself with an actual plant.

Last year I spent most of the time preparing the soil, but I did get some native plants in and I do hope they overwinter and return in the spring.

The eight inch frame is in! Yea!!!

I'm not so worried about the wet bottom, which in my area will happen sixteen inches below my raised garden. Our heavy months for rain are Sept and May, with a few El Nino exceptions, otherwise, well, we use our well for water.

I DID read some on the bio-intensive French. It was covered in a book called "How to Raise More Vegetables in Less Space Than You Ever Thought Possible." The author's plan, orignating in CA and now practiced in some third world countries incorporates a lot of the bio-intensive French methods.

In some ways, Bartholomew's approach is similar. He doesn't pack the seeds into the squares though. The spacing say for something that needs to be 3 inches apart, would still be 3 inches apart, just in a square and not in a row. That way, you never walk on your soil, and you use much less--about 80% less!--properly prepared soil for each crop, you also use 80% less water, have 80% less weeding, etc. It's just a more efficient use of resources and especially time.

Also, by planting different crops in each square--or for those plants that need more room, several squares--you can sort of fake out the bugs, have a continuous harvest without ever having to give away or can excess, the crops rotate with the season, so you are always changing that little square out, and you can plant a huge variety in a very small amount of space. Companion planting is still an option, and a marigold or two in the center can perfume and protect a large amount of crops.

As far as Mr. dupre's space, well, we're just going to prepare one of those 4 x 8 areas for now and cover the others with leaves. I'm think he wants to grow herbs--he's such a wonderful cook you wouldn't believe! So, I hope they won't need more than six inches and, well, in May when we get some torrential rains, well, he may just have to replant.

In the seventies, when this property was rented out to some college students, they had a garden, and I mean, they just plopped the seeds in the ground and had vegetables year round which Mr. dupre would share in once a month when he came by to collect the rent. I've been told this is some pretty good soil, but after reading all these books on different growing strategies, well, I just think I want my soil, location, and soil depth to be as perfect as I can get it.

It's probably overkill, but <sigh> that's in my nature.

Thanks for your input. I really am glad to have the total twelve inches and am very glad to have this layout in one huge square and not several 4 x 8 rectangles, and to have the garden in this different location, as well. The whole thing, well, it's really just what I want, without any compromises!

And . . . I don't have to haul off 3,500 pounds of dirt! Smile
0 Replies
 
BillW
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Jan, 2003 01:29 am
How many feet does a vegetable need?

3 - two to stand on and one to reproduce!
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Jan, 2003 01:51 am
Hi BillW. . . . Would that be a male plant? Smile
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Jan, 2003 03:23 am
ossobuco: Pardon my hardheadedness and laziness. Yes, of course, the wet feet in the poorly draining clay IS an issue. My book recommends punching deep holes filled with sand every 2 to 4 feet to help with drainage.

I'm going to do that in my raised area, too. It certainly couldn't hurt. I'd hate to being throwing hissy fits when it rains.

Thanks for keeping me on track.
0 Replies
 
BillW
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Jan, 2003 10:07 am
dupre, I'm afraid if it were the female plant, you wouldn't get any offspring with that kinda separation! Rolling Eyes :wink: Smile Very Happy Laughing Laughing Laughing Razz Razz Razz
0 Replies
 
 

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