Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Raised Beds!

The soil here is terrible. It's a mixture of clay and rock. We don't mind. If the soil here was as fertile as our land in Illinois, then this region would be as polluted in mind and body with cornfields and soybeans cluttering up the beautiful and rugged landscape. Anything flat would have long since been plowed and brought into subjugation by the agro-industrial complex.

So what do Christian agrarians without huge bank accounts do? We buy marginal land in rugged regions of the country and make it prosper. Under God's blessing, even the rock was made to pour out living waters. So to shall this land bring forth food and nourishment.

In order to accomplish this, we have decided to use raised beds. My design of choice, field tested on our Illinois homestead, was a 4' X 16' wooden frame filled with fertile soil. Here I went a little deeper and built the frames twice as deep. (They're about 1.5' deep.)

This year we're filling the beds with a mulch and dirt mixture, augmented with composted cow manure. Underneath that we piled up rotting logs and sticks in an attempt at hugelkulture. Anticipating another drought year, we're pulling out all the stops.

The argument over whether to use treated wood versus untreated wood has been settled to my satisfaction. Numerous studies have shown that there's more arsenic in the soil already (and the rain) than is leached from the treated wood into the garden, AND most vegetables do not readily take up arsenic via their root systems. So long as you wash your veggies well then you're not consuming any more arsenic than anyone else. It's the best we can hope for in this tainted world. So I have some raised beds that were made with treated lumber, but in the future I will be making other beds out of untreated lumber for cost reasons. This will lower the price per bed dramatically.

Next year we will have plenty of compost of our own, made from humanure, but for this year I'm having to buy sacks of it. The mulch structure may do well for water retention, but it's deficient of almost all nutrients. A top dressing of composted manure will help considerably.

It amuses me that people with industrialized minds SHUDDER at the horror of eating vegetables grown in composted human excrement but see nothing wrong with drinking water that other people have shit in. Modern "waste treatment" facilities filter out the shit and then dump tons of toxic chlorine in to kill any pathogens.

As always, it is our duty to plant and look towards God to provide the increase. Here's the breakdown for those of you interested in the mechanics:

12 4' X 16' beds.

5 16' boards, 4 for the sides and 1 to be cut in 4' pieces to be used on the ends.

My cost per bed (@ $16 for treated 16' 2"X8" boards) : $80

 $960 for all 12 raised beds, providing I used the treated lumber. The expectation is that treated lumber would last 10 years, giving me a yearly cost of $96 to save for replacement.

Untreated lumber will cost me $46.95 per raised bed but each bed can only be expected to last for about 5 years (estimated). That's a total cost of $563.40 but a replacement put-back each year of $112.

Three of my beds are comprised of treated lumber, but the rest are going to be made of untreated to save on costs.

That's a total garden area of 768 square feet which may need to be added to in the future. As a vegetable garden augmented with meat and dairy from our farm, it should be pretty substantial.


Humble wife said...

We collected food grade buckets in addition to our raised beds(we are in southern NM so soil the same). In the buckets we raise herbs, potatoes, cucumbers, and the likes. We can move the buckets for the potatoes so they are not in the heat. I move the buckets around the house during the summer and have successfully grown potatoes year round. As to cost, the buckets are free and last nearly 4 years so far.

One year I grew a pathway of buckets of tomatoes. So our raised gardens are wonderful, but the buckets give us a bit of mobile green in the desert that would not be so, yet is like a raised bed and is efficient with water.

Bluesgal said...

Humble wife - this may seem like a dumb question, but are you putting holes in the bottom of those buckets for drainage?

InvalidID said...


One of the ways I save a few bucks on raised beds is using old felled logs, branches, rotten fence posts, etc. as raised beds. They aren't completely square but I find them much more pleasing to my natural eye. (Not so much my refined industrial eye though)

When they degrade to the point of being useless I simply rake them into the raised bed as compost and add new. I've gotten to the point I don't even peel the bark off anymore.

Also, some old screen on the back side (opposite the sun) tilted with the bottom inside the bed will catch some of the moisture in the night air and funnel it into the soil.

In Texas you may want to put it on the sunny side to act as a shade even, giving it a double duty.

Ima Wurdibitsch said...

Ernest, I know you've struggled at times over the mission/purpose of this blog. I've meant to comment many times and apologize for not doing so.

You're in my feed reader so I don't always click through; however, I save your posts to read last each day. They are the dessert to my news-heavy meal.

You give me hope. You remind me of those things that are really important. Please keep posting and inspiring those of us who aren't as far along the path.

Humble wife said...

Bluesgal-yes,we drilled five or six holes.