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I am about to start construction on 3 or 4 raised bedds in my yard. here is my question. What is the best material to use and how tall should they be? I have a lot of rabbits in my yard and also 2 large dogs. I am thinking about using paving stones unless I and find some 4X6 ceder. Will 2X6 work just as well?

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If you plan on growing any root vegetables I wouldn't build a raised bed less than 8" high. 12"-16" deep would be ideal.
For cost effectiveness we used to just use 2x10 Douglas Fir. It was less than 1/4 the cost of redwood or cedar and could last about 5-6 years (we live in a Mediterranean climate, which is kinder to wood). Redwood or Cedar are the best materials in terms of wood though. I've seen beds made from CMU as well, but they take up a lot of extra space due to thickness. That said, they offered a place to sit on while working in the raised beds.
Our beds are about 12'' high, and they are made from leftover wood. It's some type of pine. It hasn't been pressure treated (the worst thing to do to wood that you want be involved in growing food), but it did have some type of varnish on it...clearly not certifiable organic.
As far as the bunnies, we're using reemay row cover, which keeps them out pretty well, and keeps our beds a couple degrees warmer.
Troy -

You should check out Mel Bartholomew's book, "Square Foot Gardening" as well as his website http://www.squarefootgardening.com - he has a lot of ideas in his book and on his site on raised beds as well as how to keep out predators. Also in his book he explains how most veggies do not need more than 6" of dirt to grow in. We have tried this with everything from beans, tomatoes, melons, carrots, corn, etc... and have found this to be true.

Due to weeding (not wanting to) we grow most everything in self-watering containers that we have built. We made them from storage totes ($4.00 at Walmart). They are large where you can grow around 9 - 12 heads of lettuce in it and because it is self-watering you only have to water once every couple of weeks. They are easy to move if needed and weeds don't get in them. For mulch we use shredded, recycled paper. Once that particular crop is done the paper goes into the compost heap.

I also have a side bed that I have done with brick blocks (it is just a square bed) and they seem to work quite nicely. They are stacked two high and so far not too many problems with weeds. However, I still have to water most every day in the heat of summer so, really prefer the self-watering containers to this. Just my personal preference.

Again, you have to choose what will be the most cost effective for you as well as what will work for your situation such as time watering and weeding, etc...

If you are interested in making any of the self-watering containers let me know and I will get the info up for you. They really are not hard to make - a little time consuming, however we made 25 the first time and set up kind of an assembly line working on one particular part of the container and then the next. It took us a couple of afternoons to make that many, but well worth every minute.



Hope this helps - Deb (debfroggie)
I'm glad you had luck with SF gardening because I had horrendous crops (actually non-existent with some plants) using it one year.

Deb said:
Troy -

You should check out Mel Bartholomew's book, "Square Foot Gardening" as well as his website http://www.squarefootgardening.com - he has a lot of ideas in his book and on his site on raised beds as well as how to keep out predators. Also in his book he explains how most veggies do not need more than 6" of dirt to grow in. We have tried this with everything from beans, tomatoes, melons, carrots, corn, etc... and have found this to be true.

Due to weeding (not wanting to) we grow most everything in self-watering containers that we have built. We made them from storage totes ($4.00 at Walmart). They are large where you can grow around 9 - 12 heads of lettuce in it and because it is self-watering you only have to water once every couple of weeks. They are easy to move if needed and weeds don't get in them. For mulch we use shredded, recycled paper. Once that particular crop is done the paper goes into the compost heap.

I also have a side bed that I have done with brick blocks (it is just a square bed) and they seem to work quite nicely. They are stacked two high and so far not too many problems with weeds. However, I still have to water most every day in the heat of summer so, really prefer the self-watering containers to this. Just my personal preference.

Again, you have to choose what will be the most cost effective for you as well as what will work for your situation such as time watering and weeding, etc...

If you are interested in making any of the self-watering containers let me know and I will get the info up for you. They really are not hard to make - a little time consuming, however we made 25 the first time and set up kind of an assembly line working on one particular part of the container and then the next. It took us a couple of afternoons to make that many, but well worth every minute.



Hope this helps - Deb (debfroggie)
Thanks for the info Deb! I am interested in knowing how you did your self watering containers. I have been thinking about that as well. In my area I should have started my raised bedds about a week ago. I may still try one but I am thinking of going 18" high to give my plants pleanty of room.

Deb said:
Troy -

You should check out Mel Bartholomew's book, "Square Foot Gardening" as well as his website http://www.squarefootgardening.com - he has a lot of ideas in his book and on his site on raised beds as well as how to keep out predators. Also in his book he explains how most veggies do not need more than 6" of dirt to grow in. We have tried this with everything from beans, tomatoes, melons, carrots, corn, etc... and have found this to be true.

Due to weeding (not wanting to) we grow most everything in self-watering containers that we have built. We made them from storage totes ($4.00 at Walmart). They are large where you can grow around 9 - 12 heads of lettuce in it and because it is self-watering you only have to water once every couple of weeks. They are easy to move if needed and weeds don't get in them. For mulch we use shredded, recycled paper. Once that particular crop is done the paper goes into the compost heap.

I also have a side bed that I have done with brick blocks (it is just a square bed) and they seem to work quite nicely. They are stacked two high and so far not too many problems with weeds. However, I still have to water most every day in the heat of summer so, really prefer the self-watering containers to this. Just my personal preference.

Again, you have to choose what will be the most cost effective for you as well as what will work for your situation such as time watering and weeding, etc...

If you are interested in making any of the self-watering containers let me know and I will get the info up for you. They really are not hard to make - a little time consuming, however we made 25 the first time and set up kind of an assembly line working on one particular part of the container and then the next. It took us a couple of afternoons to make that many, but well worth every minute.



Hope this helps - Deb (debfroggie)
I would also like to have some info on the self-watering containers. I thought I came up with the clever idea to use Totes, but I see it's already been thought of. Please let me know what you did to make your self-watering containers. My wife, 2 yr old son, and I are creating our first vegetable garden. We're looking forward to it. And our son already loves helping out!

Deb said:
Troy -

You should check out Mel Bartholomew's book, "Square Foot Gardening" as well as his website http://www.squarefootgardening.com - he has a lot of ideas in his book and on his site on raised beds as well as how to keep out predators. Also in his book he explains how most veggies do not need more than 6" of dirt to grow in. We have tried this with everything from beans, tomatoes, melons, carrots, corn, etc... and have found this to be true.

Due to weeding (not wanting to) we grow most everything in self-watering containers that we have built. We made them from storage totes ($4.00 at Walmart). They are large where you can grow around 9 - 12 heads of lettuce in it and because it is self-watering you only have to water once every couple of weeks. They are easy to move if needed and weeds don't get in them. For mulch we use shredded, recycled paper. Once that particular crop is done the paper goes into the compost heap.

I also have a side bed that I have done with brick blocks (it is just a square bed) and they seem to work quite nicely. They are stacked two high and so far not too many problems with weeds. However, I still have to water most every day in the heat of summer so, really prefer the self-watering containers to this. Just my personal preference.

Again, you have to choose what will be the most cost effective for you as well as what will work for your situation such as time watering and weeding, etc...

If you are interested in making any of the self-watering containers let me know and I will get the info up for you. They really are not hard to make - a little time consuming, however we made 25 the first time and set up kind of an assembly line working on one particular part of the container and then the next. It took us a couple of afternoons to make that many, but well worth every minute.



Hope this helps - Deb (debfroggie)
There is also a how-to self-watering container guide in "Fresh Food From Small Spaces" by RJ Ruppenthal, which is also a great comprehensive to growing food in the City. He goes over how to do both rectangle and round containers, as well as how to do your own topsy-turvy planters (think tomato commercial). I got the book from my library, but you can buy it here:

http://tinyurl.com/25q7pq5
Lloyd Kahn has a gopher-proof raised bed design on his blog using cinderblocks and 1/4" mesh - then you plant strawberries in the holes of the blocks!
Troy:

Earlier this spring I installed a new 4' x' 8' x 11" raised bed. I used two courses of 2" x 6" x 8' smooth finish red cedar lumber. I cut lap joints in the corners, which is a strong joint for this application. I reinforced the rails against bowing using 12" galvanized spikes drilled 16" OC, the heads of which serve as the basis for affixing PVC tubing to form a frame.

I think 11" deep will satisfy all of my growing needs and prefer the added depth over, for example, what I might get using a single course of 2" x 8" or 2" x 10" lumber.

Also, I found 2" x 6" x 8' was the most cost effective configuration. Wider and longer lumber was disproportionately more expensive for the added depth or length.

Of course, many materials are suitable for a raised bed. I chose red cedar lumber for its aesthetic value and natural resistance to rot. White cedar is also good, but more expensive and not readily available to me locally.

I learned a lot building my bed and would make one modification were I to do it again, namely, to drill and spike the lap joints themselves. A minor change to my design.

See my page for a photo.

--Erik
I manage a Community Garden and we use cinder blocks. They work so well I pulled out my lumber raised beds at my home and use the blocks. We use 64 blocks: 32 first tier and 32 second tier....then we fill with mushroom compost, plant seeds and STAND BACK! Beautiful productive garden. The holes in the blocks can be planted adding another 30% of planting area to the bed. And the blocks are wide enough you can sit on the edge and plant seeds or pull the few weeds that come up. The blocks heat up very early in the season and retain the heat, so our harvests are coming in 3-5 weeks earlier than before AND we grow ALL year round. Really AMAZING and I've been gardening in raised beds since the 70's....I sure wish I'd done the cinder blocks back then.....
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Thanks everyone for all the great ideas. I ended up building 3, 5X10 beds out of 2X10 white pine to make the beds 20" deep with a 6 inch layer of gravel in the bottom for drainage. The beds are going to be used to supply the kitchen at the country club (where I work) with fresh herbs. If this works well this year I will be building more perminant structures for future use. Thanks again everyone!

Here's a wicked cool idea for making raised beds on the cheap: Use cedar fence pickets!From a pretty righteous web site called Ana White Homemaker!

 

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