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Setting Up Raised Beds

Having given up for the day on digging the garden plot it was over to the vegetable plot to start setting up some raised beds.

Digging down the first problem is getting through the matted turf. It’s just springy enough to make getting the spade in hard. I did have a bit of a brainwave though! We’ve got a half-moon lawn edger and this seemed to make it easier to cut into the turf. Then I could get the spade in and lift a strip off.

Below the turf the soil is very stony, they’re about the size of a large egg up to about the size of a small loaf of bread. Once again getting the spade in is difficult but I could get the fork in.

So turnover with the fork, fishing out stones as I go was the order of the day. The soil itself isn’t too bad, although lacking in organic matter. This is old pasture and hasn’t been cultivated for many years.

Now I’m fortunate in that I’ve got some ready made raised bed kits, so these are the obvious choice to get started with. The first one to go in was from TwoWests, it’s an earlier version of this model. Mine is about 3 feet long by 18″ wide and has a cold frame that can be fixed to it. That’s useful not just for cold but for wind protection here.

I stripped the turf, forked over and then shovelled the loose soil into the wheelbarrow. I then levelled it up before placing the bed in position. The turf went in, grass side down before putting about half the soil back in along with some lime to counteract the acidity of the soil.

Next I put a bag of multi-purpose compost in. Normally I would only suggest buying good quality commercial potting compost. Saving a pound or two can be a false economy but this was cheap stuff from the Focus closing down sale. It’s pretty rough but at £2.40 for a large bag what do you expect? Anyway, it’s fine mixed with soil as an improver. My own compost is yet to come on stream.

The next bed to go in was from Everedge.  It’s made of coated galvanised steel, so quite a weight. The top edge is rolled so not sharp, which is important. To join the sides together they provide steel pins. These also serve to anchor it into position.

Once again the soil preparation was what took the time. I’ve seen people just place raised beds onto the ground but it really is worth the time digging below. A bed will be in position for many years, so spending some time doing it right is a good investment.

I was about to start on the last bed, this is a linkabord kit when Val pointed out it was nine o’clock and did I want to eat or should she make the cat’s day? I decided to eat. Actually I would have liked to stay out until dark, it was sunny if not exactly warm but I can take a hint delivered with the subtlety of a brick.

It’s obvious to me that I’m not going to be able to grow some crops like carrots and parsnips directly in this soil. Well not ones longer than 6″ anyway. Luckily I brought my carrot growing barrels with me from Crewe so they’ll be getting used. I think I’ll be moving onto raised beds here for the main plot although I’ve never been a huge fan of them.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Setting Up Raised Beds
  1. Richard says:

    Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! I am sure that you know already, but along the stony, rocky coasts of Ireland people have built up poor soil using seaweed. Might be an option for you? It is free after all.

  2. John says:

    Brilliant – now can you tell me how to explain to Val about the smell in the car? 🙂

    Seriously, It’s all a matter of building up the organic matter in the soil – which is a job that will take years.

  3. Richard says:

    Yep – people have been adding seaweed for generations. Its a slow process, not a quick fix, but clearly helps a lot in stoney, rocky places. It sprung to mind when you said you lived near the sea. A quick web search will bring up lots of old and modern photos of people using seaweed on the land. There is also interesting stuff on how people in coastal western Ireland got around their lack of soil depth by using seaweed to create their lazy bed rows for their potatoes. That sort of stuff really interests me……. I need to get out more!

  4. John says:

    Seaweed is pretty nutritious and bulky so, with the salt washed off, pretty good for the soil. I’ll be collecting sheep manure from the field and growing some green manures as well. Plus comfrey of course!

  5. Mike says:

    Seaweed is well worth the effort – when I was in the Channel Islands, regular trips to the beach provided tons of the stuff. A good idea is to go out after a good storm, as this breaks a lot of kelp and wrack free and deposits it high on the beach.

    Can’t help with the discussion about the smelly car, though, we had a trailer 😉

    Ideally stack it up for a few days to let the rain wash out the salt (and if it doesn’t rain, there’s always the hose…) After a while all the sand-fly eggs will hatch and there’ll be a good crop of maggots. This is when you let the chickens in, as they go mad for the little wrigglers and it gives them a great protein treat. Of course, whilst they’re at it, they also scratch over the pile and help to shred the larger pieces to something more manageable.

    Once the chickens have done enough (or spread the pile all over the garden!) you can move on and distribute it as needed. We used it as mulch for spuds, comfrey, asparagus and fruit trees, and any ‘left over’ went into the compost. It’s a great source for trace minerals and organic matter.

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