View Full Version : Filling my raised beds

01-28-2009, 04:09 PM
Question #3 (Still haven't gotten around to #1 :D )

So I think my beds will be made from 2x12's. According the SFG book I really only need 6 inches of the "good stuff" to grow in, and he suggested filling the bottom with sand and then putting his mix on top of that.

I have a pretty much unlimited supply of composted horse manure as well as leaves....do you think I could make that the bottom layer of my beds? I can also get sand from the creek that runs at the back of our property, but I don't know what might be in it :confused: Who knows what goes on upstream :)

I also have been searching around to figure out where to get the ingredients for "Mel's Mix" without having to do bags. There is a place to get all kind of soil products called Wallace Farms just down the road that supplies retailers, but you can also take your pickup truck there and fill up. I have done that in the past, but wasn't looking for quite the same thing. I've been talking to them via email and got this today:

I do not carry the peat moss or vermiculite in retail size packages; however, I just found out that we will be mixing a product for a customer this spring that will be a blend of:
25% pine fines
25% peat moss
46% compost
4% perlite

Does that sound like it would be good??

Thanks all!

01-28-2009, 05:46 PM
Sounds good enough. Originally Mel called for pine fines but big box stores don't have that under that name so he appeared to alter the formula. That's why I don't feel "the formula" is engraved in stone. Basically he's trying to produce a "soil" that retains moisture but drains well and doesn't pack so it is aerated.

If you can create that without his ingredients, then that's what you need.

01-28-2009, 05:50 PM
How many beds are you going to do? What size, the standard 4'x8'?

Personally I would fill the beds with the composted materials you already have or at the minimum 1/2 and 1/2 with the blend you can get. My only concern is that the pine portion may make it a little too acidic. If you read Mel's book, he says that if you cannot make his mix you could use straight compost. He recommends using straight compost in lesser developed countries where the other ingredients are not available. He also states you can leave out the peat and use the compost and vermiculite...this is what I am going to do.

My one 4'x24'x10" bed was topsoil, 2 blocks of peat, and 2 bags of vermiculite. I would not recommend the topsoil and would use compost instead. I only used the topsoil as my husband surprised me with a 5 yd dump truck load. He doesn't understand the difference between topsoil and compost when it comes to gardening. I used quite a bit of organic fertilizer last year and things grew extremely well. I heavily ammended the bed with compost last fall and will probably not use the fertilizer this year but only use compost tea when watering...will have to see though.

I am going to add another 4'x24'x10" bed and a 2'x50'x10" bed this year and will fill them with compost and a couple 4 cu ft bags of vermiculite each. I found my vermiculite at a greenhouse/nursery. They sell me the bags for $19 each. I am not a fan of the peat as it is hard to work with, blows around a lot and difficult to get wet the first time and comes from quickly becoming depleated bogs.

I guess you could experiment a little and make 1 bed with straight composted materials you have, 1 bed with part compost:part vermiculite and 1 bed with compost on the bottom 6" and the blend on the top. 3 4'x8' beds is a good start to someone new to gardening.


01-29-2009, 10:13 AM
Right now the plan is 2, 2'x10' beds with trellis's (sp?), and then 2, 2' x 10' regular beds. Both will be 12" high.

The best space I have to work with is kind of long and narrow, hence the bed arrangement.

I will try to get my pictures and plan sketch loaded tonight, but it will look sort of like this:

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I am such a text artist :D EDIT: Apparently my formatting didn't stick so this little picture makes no sense. Just imagine the bottom two bumped out a little;)

The two in the back are the trellis beds, and the regulars in front. I made the front ones stick out a bit further on the sides because I have a couple of pyramid trellis's to put at the ends of those beds and was trying to avoid shading the beds behind. Who knows if that will make a difference or not but when I was drawing it out it made sense :)

01-31-2009, 03:49 PM
Since you have composted manure you are all set in terms of compost. The sand would be good at the bottom especially for drainage. I suggest that you also put worms in all of the beds as well. With the leaves and the mulch and the worms you might not need to invest in the vermiculite. To save some money, you might want to get smaller boards. The wood will be cheaper and lighter and that way you don't need to fill it up as much, saving you more money and less work. You can always raise the beds little by little in the future. The reason why mine are so high is because I house my chickens and rabbits on them, I don't want to bend over too low, and they are the perfect height to add benches.

Also, the thicker the wood is, the sturdier your raised beds will be. Consider putting wood along the width of your longer beds every 8 feet for rigidity and depending where your sunlight is, you easily install trellises.

Can't wait for all the photos!