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Raised bed filler

Discussion in 'Composting & Soil Building' started by chic rustler, Jan 6, 2018.

  1. Jan 6, 2018
    chic rustler

    chic rustler Attractive To Bees

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    I'm going to build some 10 inch deep raised beds tomorrow. Filling them with bagged dirt from Lowe's would be high dollar. Would it be a bad idea to fill half of the bed with unfinished compost and put soil on top of that? I plan on planting in early march
     
  2. Jan 6, 2018
    thistlebloom

    thistlebloom Garden Master

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    Any possibility you could get a load of good garden soil delivered from a nursery? Or if you have access to a truck, picking a load up?

    I have at times filled the bottom half of my tree pots with well rotted manure and regular garden soil then topped with a good potting soil for my tomatoes, but that's not necessarily a recommendation. My tomatoes did grow very well though, so it wasn't a problem.
     
  3. Jan 6, 2018
    flowerbug

    flowerbug Garden Addicted

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    i'll second the suggestion of checking your local landscape/hauling people for delivery instead of moving it a bag at a time.

    as for what, any topsoil is better than subsoil, but you can eventually turn subsoil into good topsoil if you have time, organic materials and patience.

    i've done what you describe, but for many garden plants a few inches of soil isn't quite enough and if that layer of materials (unfinished compost in your case) isn't rich enough to support their growth then you won't get much in return for your efforts. so it would depend upon what the unfinished compost is and how deep the top layer of soil is and what plants you would be putting in there. some plants will grow right through it, others won't.

    when i perch most of my gardens over other things, i use about a foot to a foot and a half of soil, that ways the plants have enough dirt up top to support them and by the time the compost is finished (in a year or two) i can then go back later and dig it up and use it. i like how this works in our soils (because the clay often needs more drainage and organic materials anyways) but it is a longer term solution.

    since you don't mention where you are at or many other things i can't say for sure how this would go. if it were warm enough for the next few months i would mix the unfinished compost and soil together and let that go up until planting.
     
  4. Jan 6, 2018
    canesisters

    canesisters Garden Master

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    How big are these beds going to be? Could you maybe pack a bale of straw into them and cover with soil for the first year (check out straw bale garden threads - avoid straw with herbicides on it!). It will rot down and need to be filled about half again the next season...
    Just an idea.
     
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  5. Jan 6, 2018
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    I have almost a reverential attitude towards topsoil. By the standards of human generations, it's ancient. We compromise or lose it to our great peril as a society.

    Compost is so short-lived as to nearly be ephemeral! @flowerbug says a year or two, until it is worthy of the term compost. (I'm assuming ;).) I have very much the same approach to "compostables." I would just bet that the time required would be less for Virginia and less than that in Texas.

    Once it becomes useful for plants, there isn't all that much time left before it is tissue-thin. Replenish, replenish, replenish :)

    There probably isn't a standard for Lowe's topsoil. The actual topsoil in my garden will be different not only from Lowe's but from what my neighbor has only a mile away. I'm comfortable with a minimum of 8" of it above the compostables but would prefer a little more than that. The plant choices would make a difference. Even if I have made something outside the garden that I might label "Steve's Compost," it will have some soil in it. It seems to me that @thistlebloom 's tomato plants should do very well in those containers. Perhaps the first year's crop in the beds could be the compost-lovers, composted manure or otherwise. There would be some choices. I'm not saying manure-lovers ... I'd have to think awhile about there being any of those.

    Steve
     
  6. Jan 6, 2018
    ducks4you

    ducks4you Garden Master

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    Compost isn't short lived. There are different kinds of compost. If you are using compost from animal manure you need to know how fresh the manure is. Horse manure rots down and can used 4 months after the horse...drops it. It can be used fresh around your roses and I think, your blueberries.
    Chicken manure takes I think 6-9 months to break down. You can burn out your crops with too much acidity from composted manure that isn't cured.
    If your compost is vegetative I think you use it pretty much right away.
    I would mix your compost 1/2 and 1/2 with your soil.
    On Mid American gardener the host said that she threw out her banana plant into her spring compost pile and it came back and flourished. Compost is full of microbacteria and they have a symbiotic relationship to plants.
    I think you would benefit from some online study. I have planted in straight compost and some plants do better with more and some plants do better with less. Tomatoes will grow almost all leaves if the soil is too rich, and none of us want that.
    I don't like the idea of buying either topsoil or peat. It's kind of like clear cutting a forest and totally unnecessary. The same people who sell it also sell you Miracle Gro which is chemical fertilizer and stops working after a year. I know this from experience. Compost continues to break down and continues to fertilize for a very long time. It is hard to use it up, but eventually it will leach out and fertilize the soil underneath it.
    Also, consider worm farming:
    http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/steps.html
    https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Worm-Compost-System
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  7. Jan 6, 2018
    moxies_chickienuggets

    moxies_chickienuggets Garden Addicted

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    Straw, leaves, pinecones, ..if you have mounds of them sitting around your property that you can scoop up. They will still compost. I have done the same with my own flower/vegetable beds.
     
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  8. Jan 6, 2018
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    I suppose it depends what we mean by "short-lived," @ducks4you .

    Compost Management, Cornell (click)
    Ketterings-SOM-Fig.-1-qtpfie.png
    ig. 1: Soil organic matter. Treatments were HC: high rate of compost; LC: low rate of compost; HM: high rate of manure; LM: low rate of manure; N0: zero N control; and N100: 100 lbs sidedressed N/acre. This figure is comparing soil organic matter in April 2006 with soil organic matter in April 2001 for each fertility treatment.

    high rate of composted dairy solids (N-based; 32 tons/acre)
    low rate of composted dairy solids (P-based; 20 tons/acre),

    What did we find? Soil Organic Matter: At the start of the experiment, the SOM was 3.5%. After five years of annual addition of high rates of compost, SOM had increased to 3.9% (Fig. 1). Addition of compost at the low rate did not increase SOM.
     
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  9. Jan 6, 2018
    chic rustler

    chic rustler Attractive To Bees

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    20180106_124324.jpg 20180106_124332.jpg




    thanks for all the replies. I'm in north Texas. The beds are 4x8 and 10 inches deep. I put a layer of cardboard, chicken wire to prevent gophers and 2 inches of broke down wood chips. I'll probably throw some rabbit manure on top of that but not sure what the next layer will be. I have a large compost pile it's mostly grass clippings, bedding from the chicken coop, manure and kitchen scraps. Our native soil here is very fine sand. I guess I could mix some of that in as well. I'm not opposed to buying a few bags of black kow.


    I want to plant root crops in March. Idk if that stuff will work or not
     
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  10. Jan 6, 2018
    moxies_chickienuggets

    moxies_chickienuggets Garden Addicted

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    We made some about the same size, out of railroad ties. Using composted chicken manure, leaves, composted anything...it still took us about 3 years to finally get them filled to the top.
     

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