Friday, March 7, 2014

UNUSED RAISED BEDS QUESTION


As many of you know, we recently got the beds finally all filled with soil.  The plan is to not plant in them all now but we wanted to go ahead and have them filled up and ready before it gets hot (hard work in the heat) and before we put the mulch in (so we don't trample it all down).

4x4 Raised bed with soil
So my question is for those of you that have done raised beds before.  How do I care for the soil in the 'unplanted' beds?  I would like to put weed cloth on top, securing it in some way, to prevent weeds but will that 'cook' the soil?  Does unused soil need light?  Cardboard on top with some bricks to weight it down?  Should I water it on occasion (if there is no rain of course)?  Keep it stirred up?  Add something to it periodically?  Worms?

I just want to keep it healthy until it's time to plant some veggies, perhaps mid-summer melons, or some Fall crops.

Thoughts?  Thank you in advance!

I'll also reply to all your comments later this weekend.  It's just been a crazy busy week so far, but they are all read and appreciated and I will reply!

24 comments:

Tewshooz said...

I use my trowel and with a turn of the wrist quickly turn over soil in my planters. With soft, fluffy soil like you have, it only takes a couple of minutes for a planter. Weeds never get a chance to grow and turning it over keeps it fluffy. Point the trowel blade with the back to the fore. Then twist quickly about 2 inches down. Easy peasy

Gail said...

Add organic matter to improve the soil. Using your unused beds as a compost pile will only enrich the soil. Turn now and then to keep it loose. Worms are always a nice addition since they help build the soil too.

Mom's mix was always one third each of organic matter, sand, and regular soil.

Tomato Thymes said...

I do not anything to my unused beds

Anonymous said...

Maybe try a green cover crop, like alfalfa or rye (although there are several others). You'll prevent weeds, and you can also till in the cover crop to improve your soil even more. I enjoy your blog.

wendywoo said...

I agree with the previous answer. Research cover crops for your area. Up here in the northeast, I have used buckwheat with great results, but it might be invasive where you are. Having something growing will keep feeding the beneficial bacteria in your soil. When you turn that cover crop in, before it goes to seed, it will really benefit the fertility of your soil. As would composting vegetable matter in there. I always save my biodegradable kitchen scraps for a section of my garden I am not currently using. Sure wish I had more raised beds than I could use! LOL! How's about some flowers for us to look at!

Annie*s Granny said...

Trench compost. Bury your kitchen scraps. Water once in a while. Collect leaves in the fall and shred them and layer them over the beds with composted manure. I would never use weed block cloth!

FionaG said...

Yes, a green manure crop is good though I personally haven't tried it yet. Am looking to do so in the next month or so as we are just heading into Autumn. What I normally do though, and this has worked a treat year after year, is put a thick layer of manure on top then just cover with weedmat and lay bricks on top to keep the cover on. As I said, this works well but turning the bed when you're ready can be hard as the soil can compact. This is the advantage of the green manure (green cover crop of legumes) as their roots keep the soil loosely compacted and aerated not to mention the benefits when the lot is turned into the soil and left to decompose for a few weeks before planting.

Linda said...

Looks like you got your answer(s) but here's an article about using legume crops like the guar beans, sesame seeds, cow peas" as summer cover crops in Texas.
http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/no-till-cover-crops-helping-texas-grower-fight-heat-drought?page=1

Unknown said...

All good answers, but here's one more point. You have a good soil mix there, but at this point it is sterile, without worms and all the little critters that make garden soil great. To get those things going while it's waiting for a crop, it would be a good idea to feed it something to start working down. A cover crop would be great, and it could be rye, legumes, or how about a scattering of wildflowers, california poppies, something that will get that bed working and provide eye candy. You could also just pile mulch on top, grass clippings, weed cuttings or anything that will break down and get the soil in working order. I'd suggest you look into lasagna gardening, in which you pile layers of all kinds of organic material and cover with black plastic to let it cook down into ever greater soil, with no weeds.

Lynda said...

I rotate my raised garden beds and grow year round. This is how I "put to bed" the fallow beds: first I work in a couple handfuls of worm castings (with worms), then I add a layer of comfrey leaves, cover with shredded paper, then a layer of chicken poop, a layer of newspaper and then a thick layer of cardboard. I sprinkle the beds with water once every two weeks for about six months to a year...a month before planting I "turn everything under" add more compost if needed and then plant away. My garden produce is beautiful...if I don't say so myself.

texomamorganlady said...

Before you decide, do some research on "lasagna" or no-dig gardening. It's a common choice for organic gardening, it works well to keep in moisture, and to slow down weeds. I like it because I am basically a lazy gardener, I prefer to expend my energies on our critters. The concept is simple, makes sense, and is a snap to implement and can only enhance unused portions of your garden.

1st Man said...

thank you for the advice. I like easy peasy for sure, ha. Yes, the soil is soft and fluffy.

1st Man said...

That's a good idea. And I am definitely getting worms, there is a place here in town that has them but only when it warms up. I missed it last year, hope to get them this year. Unless there is an online worm place? Ha. I like 'moms mix', sounds perfect!

1st Man said...

Well, there is a vote for that. I like how you think, ha. I know you have some great produce so I'm glad to know just letting them be is an option.

1st Man said...

Well, first, thank you! And thanks for commenting. I actually just read an article today in a magazine about cover cropping. I might have to consider that, assuming it would be easy to get it off when you don't need it, ha.

1st Man said...

Oh, I didn't realize that you turned it in. That's funny, the article I read talked about them but didn't mention turning them under. That's why I wasn't sure what you did at the end. I would like some flowers too, I'll see what I can do. :-)

1st Man said...

Well thank you for that. I remember ou talking about trenching and burying kitchen scraps. We have the compost bins but they are slow going and it might be more practical for me to bury the kitchen scraps huh? Thank you! And no weed block cloth? I was kind of wondering if that would hurt the soil or would just keep it clean and weed free.

1st Man said...

Autumn....ah, I wish we could skip from Summer to Autumn, ha. I enjoy Spring and Autumn...Winter is ok, but Summer here is about as bad as yours. See I was afraid of the soil turning hard in the end. I will look into the cover crop for sure. Thank you!!!

1st Man said...

Hey, I don't mind taking from all types of experience. It's the best of everything. I love that you found an article focusing on Texas. Thank you, I will read up on that for sure (and definitely interested in the fighting drought part). :-)

1st Man said...

OK, of everything I've ever thought, never even crossed my mind to do flowers. I bet they could live with just intermittent water (the beds are all irrigated yet either). I like the idea of flowers, perhaps annual, that I could just water every few days. Thank you!! Ad yes, I'm looking into lasagna gardening for them. Though my mind keeps wandering back to flowers, ha. Thanks for the advice!!

1st Man said...

You have a great system. Thanks for the tips. I can get chicken poop from 2nd Family's chickens. And I also say your garden is beautiful, ha. Thank you!!

1st Man said...

Thanks for the suggestion, I have heard of it but haven't ever delved into but I'm thinking it's time to check that out. Hey, no such think as a lazy gardener, just one with less to do, right? I like the concept from what I've heard. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

http://www.plantanswers.com/nematode_control.htm
In Walker Co. we are advised to use Elbon rye for green manure-winter cover and turn over into soil in the spring-and nematode control. We are experimenting with the solarization one of your readers suggested. I love learning along with you. So many experience readers willing to share successes.

1st Man said...

Well thank YOU so much for sharing that link. That is what I like about our readers, we're newbies to all this and I love hearing from the experience of others too. Thanks again!!