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Raised beds or not?
 Started by  Maj243
 9 Nov 2008, 4:13 PM

I'm trying to make a decision on whether to use raised beds on my newly created vegetable plot or not. There seems to be a lot of conflicting opinion about this and I don't want to go to all the trouble and resources of installing them and filling them with soil if flat ground level beds are really the best choice.
The plot is mostly level and I plan on putting woodchip paths between the beds.
Also what would be the best choice of material for the raised beds if I were to go down that routhe please.
many thanks, Mary Smile
mrswhitecat (Guest)
I've been allotmenting for 10 years now and I have a mix of open ground and raised beds. I have 'permanent' things - raspberries, blackcurrants, rhubarb, gooseberries, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, comfrey patch, all in open ground. I have a permanent raised bed of asparagus and another of strawberries. I also have a flower cutting border and herb patch.
The soil in the open ground (despite 10 years worth of muck and improvement) still veers from concrete to soup. I work so I only have the weekends - and the right soil conditions for digging don't always arise when you'd like them too. The open ground this year was used for growing sweetcorn and squashes and beans. I also tried growing potatoes out in the open - a complete waste of time owing to the slugs.
I swear by my raised beds. I would hardly grow anything without them since I grow organically - weedkiller isn't an option. I barely need to dig them these days - the soil just needs a bit of tickling to come up like coffee granules. I plant densely. Carrots and parsnips come out straight. Potatoes slug free. I can concentrate putting good stuff right where it's needed ie all the hanging basket compost and bulb compost goes in there after I've finished with the baskets / pots.
The materials for my raised beds were 'wombled' - old scaffolding boards and estate agent posts. They're not the most aesthetically pleasing, as a consequence, but they do the job brilliantly.
Best of luck with your veg!
J-Mary (Guest)
Thank you very much mrswhitecat (interesting name). A speaking cat - how interesting. Does your owner allow you to wander around in the vegetable plot?
I suppose you keep the rodents down to a minimum though!
Just teasing - thanks - Mary
Seriously though, how long would the 'wombled' stuff last. The scaffold boards for instance?
Sue (Guest)
Raised beds are great and so far soil banks seem to work best for us although it is time consuming weeding. Weeds need to be kept to min as vegetation will harbour slugs (as does wooden planks etc). I had dreams of chamomile (low, lawn type) as edging but attracted too many slugs.
Scaffold planks will be no good for raised beds as they will need replacing too often. I can only assume that MrsWhitecat perhaps treated them in some way to make them last, as untreated they will only last about four or five years in the ground.
If anyone wants to use timber as raised bed edgings then use larch or douglas fir. Most small timber merchants should be able to source these for you.
paul (Guest)
or sweet chestnut, if you can get some, 20+ years untreated
Bit expensive though, sweet chestnut but it certainly would last well as I have heard it is more durable than oak.

Hello all.
I'm a new member and I notice this thread is quite old. I am fortunate enough to have an allotment at the bottom of the garden and recently installed raised beds primarily to take a little of the bending out of gardening; I have a bad back.
I have used pallet stacks which work a treat. They are frames which fit around a pallet and you can stack them on top of each other to form a wooden box. They are hinged and about 20cm deep. They're great for potatoes because you can simply add a layer and fill it up.
However, seeing as this is a "green living" website, I have decided, when the time comes, to replace them with beds made from recycled plastic. I'm lucky enough to work for a company which manufactures construction products from recycled plastic; fence posts, decking, tongue and groove board, batons, bollards, ground re-inforcement systems... the list is long! I have even installed a driveway at the bottom of the house using large plastic "flags" made from recycled car bumpers and yogurt pots.
The beauty of the plastic raised beds is of course that they never rot. Slugs don't seem to like them either - and of course you're doing your bit for the environment by recycling.
My preference would be for the wood, rather than plastic. Wood is a sustainable material, it reycles through the ecosystem quite naturally. Plastics are made from oil plus a heap of fairly toxic chemicals. When they degrade they release toxins. Do you want that in your veggie patch?
Recycling is great, but not using is better.

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