Raised deep beds.
Just how do you make your garden fertile and have control of the soil?
The answer might well in having raised deep beds because if you do it right and take the time you can have control of the soil.
As we know, the answer always lies in the soil because the basis of effective organic growing is a well cared for soil.
What we are looking for is a soil with a good structure, which is rich in plant foods and absolutely teeming with life. The way to build and maintain such a soil, whatever the original soil type, is to feed it with what are called “bulky organic materials” and to make this soil as deep as possible.
By that, I mean at least two spade depths and under that, it is vital that there is good drainage.
I remember years ago when I had to take down a Victorian glasshouse; I was truly amazed to find that the topsoil went down for a good 6 feet and under that there was three feet of clinker. A tad excessive but it was that that got me started on raised deep beds and I have never done my growing any other way.
Just what is a raised deep bed?
A structure containing soil that is above the level of the surrounding area and has a soil depth of at least 2 feet with good drainage, in which to grow crops of one kind or another.
Apparently, using a raised deep bed is a really good way to grow your vegetables.
Raised deep beds have been around for a long time and become popular again in the 70s after many years of not being so. Since then there has been a lot about them in the press, magazines, and no end of books.
The benefits of raised beds are many:
The idea behind deep raised deep beds is really quite simple. You can control and manage the area better then if it were just a patch of land.
In addition, it is much easy to improve the soil inside a deep raised deep bed rather then a whole plot.
The drainage is better in a deep raised bed.
Making a raised deep bed is very hard work and can cost a lot of money particularly if you have to replace all the soil in it but once done it is done. It is a very good winter job and by only making, one at a time can be very satisfying.
It is often said that raised deep beds give more yields of crop then otherwise; this is true to a point but with the beds you will be giving land up to paths so really it is swings and roundabouts.
With the bed, system weeds are not really a problem because the crop is generally planter closer and it is much ease to weed a raised bed then a stretch of land (Psychologically speaking)
Because of the closer spacing, it is always a good tip to watch the varieties of seeds that you use because some types are better then others when close together. This is very much a trail and error thing.
Another reason to use deep beds is that it is much easer to protect crops using cloches or fleeces then an open field.
The maintenance of a plot with raised deep beds is much easer then other methods of growing because you only deal with a small area at any one given time. The plot looks better with beds like this as well.
I find that an 11pole plot rarely takes more then 2-3 hours a week once, it is set up.
There are a few warnings about raised deep beds that you should be aware about be fore you start.
Because it is quite a bit of work to make the bed, it is worth getting it right.
What you are doing basely is digging a hole at least two to three foot deep (The width is up to you but you need to be able to reach the middle from both sides without compressing the soil) making sure that the drainage at the bottom of that hole is good and then putting the good soil back in to the hole.
The first and most important thing to remember is to know what good soil is. What you need to grow healthy crops is a soil that is a living, breathing mass. Try to see your soil as a living being, it needs to breathe, hold moisture and provide a good food supply to all the microorganisms, insects and other members of this complex community.
What you must not do is go out and buy x bags of compost and shove it in the hole. This will not sustain the plants for long.
What I do is fill the hole up with good garden compost that is at least a year old and then put the soil back on top so that I end up with a raised bed that is about a foot above the surrounding ground.
I can do this because my soil is good to start with.
What I have done in the past (because the soil I was working with was too heavy) was go out and find good soil to import into the “hole”. If you live in a town that is quite easy to do because there is always somebody digging up their garden to “slap it” and chucking out good topsoil. Put an ad in the local paper or walk the streets to find some good topsoil being thrown out.
Having made my raised deep bed; I then grow my plants paying attention to crop rotation and every time I finish a crop I add more garden compost to the top.