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Old April 6, 2006   #1
kimpossible
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Default Raised Beds & Florida Weave

I need some opinions!

I am building some new raised beds for my veg. garden. They will primarily for tomatoes, but I will rotate other crops through them in future years.

Due to shear numbers of tomato plants, I think the most economical "staking" method will be the Florida Weave.

What do you think would be the best width to work with - 2 ft ? 3? ... 4?

If I went with 4, I would have two rows of tomatoes - would that make it difficult to harvest using the Florida Weave?

Any thoughts would be appreciated !

Kim
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Old April 6, 2006   #2
feraltomatoes
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Four feet may be a little tight between rows unless you do alot of pruning and really stay on the tying. You could cut a tunnel in the middle and crawl in there to get your tomatoes(I would wear a hat).
My rows are 5 feet apart and if I go a week without tying you need a hedge trimmer to get through.
You wanted opinions. Brad.
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Old April 7, 2006   #3
kimpossible
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Default The "Perfect" Raised Bed?

Thanks Brad. Maybe I could expand on this question and ask:
1) Those who have raised beds - what size are they - what do you like/dislike about them
2) If you could build the "perfect raised beds" what would you want?
3) What type of trellising/staking would you use/prefer/recommend for raised beds?

I am building the raised beds primarily with tomatoes in mind, but they will be used for other crops. I have a unlimited space and sunshine, so the whole garden does not have to be raised beds.

Thanks!

Kim
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Old April 7, 2006   #4
clay199
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I use 5x15ft beds. I like using 5 feet wide cause then I can stagger the plants and get more in. And it is perfect to reach in and weed if I have to do that.
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Old April 9, 2006   #5
ddsack
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My beds are either 8'x4' or 12'x4', just because that's a handy length of boards to use. I would not want a bed wider than 4' because it's just too hard to reach over and weed in the center. I have 3' spaces between the beds, which gives enough room for wheelbarrows, or lawnmower coming through. And provides breathing space for tomatoes which are fairly close together in one row in each bed.

The support for the 12' beds is usually a rigid panel of stock fence which the vines are entertwined and tied to as needed. I prune only the stray lower suckers.


I put in 7 plants per 12 foot row, and grow beans, broccoli, eggplant or whatever in the front of the bed.



Here is a pic of the 8' beds, where I also grow 5 plants in a row, in a vertical sprawl, suspended from an overhead board wired to heavy duty metal fenceposts.


I am pretty happy with the way I have things set up. I went to raised beds about 6 or 7 years ago, and would not go back. What would I change? Well, I use untreated boards for the sides, and in my climate they will only last about 5 years, but I am cheap, and it's not really a big deal to dig the dirt away from the sides and fit the new frame over the bed again. I'm also tired of moving the metal support posts around (I rotate half the garden to corn each year) so I will be adding more permanent posts that stay where they are. I also would love to have wood chips or something soft (not pea gravel - I weed barefoot and in shorts) in between the rows because the grass keeps sneaking into the beds. I did try newspaper covered with straw one year, and it worked great, but I have a lot of rows and I have been too lazy to do it again. Something more permanent would be nice.

Dee
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Old April 9, 2006   #6
kimpossible
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Nice looking beds, Dee. Thanks for sharing.

The rigid panel stock fence you speak of - I would assume you would get that at a farm supply store. I know our prices here would be different, & I'll check into that, but how much did you pay? Any problem with frost heaving it, or do you take it down every year? How is it secured?

I have the same climate issues. I was going to price cedar, vs. a hardwood that I would then treat with linseed oil. Obviously, pressure treated is not an option.
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Old April 9, 2006   #7
ddsack
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It's been quite a while since we bought the stock fence panels, as I scrounged them from my corral fence when the last of my old horses died off a few years ago. They come in flat 16ft sections and the wire is so thick that they need very little support, just two heavy duty posts to lean against. I just use some thin wire holding the panel to the post to keep it from falling over. The posts are set in a few feet from the ends of the bed frame. I'm guessing the panels may be around $30 each, but I'm not sure of current prices. A farm supply like L&M Fleet Farm store would be where you would have to go. I have not noticed much frost heave, but at only 2 posts per bed you could easily straighten them in the spring. I made my raised beds before I used the panels, or I might have expanded the beds to 16' long to match the panels, which are a pain to cut. I do take the fence down, as I rotate to corn the next year, but I am slowly accumulating enough posts to leave them in place and just unwire the panel itself and move it.
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Old April 9, 2006   #8
lightt
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Kim,
When this question has been asked before I've suggested constructing 3' wide beds but folks with a lot more experience than I always assure the person asking that 4' is the perfect width for tomatoes in raised beds.

All my tomato beds are 4' wide but I honestly feel a double row of indeterminate plants are just too crowded. For sure, you can stagger the tomatoes which works fine on paper but is a lot harder to do when you're actually planting!!

At some point I'll replace my 4' wide tomato beds with two 3' wide beds. Hopefully, sooner than later!

Terry Light
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Old April 9, 2006   #9
TomatoDon
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I have 4 X 12 raised beds. They work great. Five feet wide is too much to comfortably reach the center for weeding, etc.

If I were to start over and build new beds they would be 4 X 12, using two 2 X 12 lumber, to get a depth of around 22 inches (the lumber size they list is smaller, ie a 2 X 12 is actually about a 2 X 11).

I would use the Square Foot Gardening soil mix, listed in Mel Bartholomew's new Square Foot Gardening book. 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.

I would have at least three feet between beds, enough room for a wheelbarrow, mower, etc.

Yes, you can use pressure treated lumber. University studies have shown no evidence that it leaches into the vegetables. It this still concerns you, staple a thick piece of clear plastic as a liner.

I already have four feet between my beds, and will be stacking another 2 X 12 on top to give me the 22 inches I mentioned.

The Florida Weave is more for commercial applications. Just use concrete re-enforcing wire, rolled about 24" in diameter. Best size for a 4 foot wide bed, and works great.

You can't beat a raised bed and compost. The deeper the better. Don't worry about the pressure treated wood. It's safe.

Don
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Old April 9, 2006   #10
kimpossible
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So what I've read about the arsenic leaching only affects the soil, and does not contaminate the plants?
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Old April 9, 2006   #11
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As I undertand it, and from the university studies I've read, none of the chemicals are taken by the plant roots. They certainly wouldn't have published this if they thought there was a hint of danger. I worried about this for a while, saw the studies, then built beds with pressure treated lumber, and lined them with clear plastic anyway. It's safe.

Don
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Old April 10, 2006   #12
grunt
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I've been using raised beds for 20+ years now, and personal preference is 3 foot wide by what ever length you don't mind walking around to get to the next bed (my current beds are 3X30'). I leave 3 foot wide paths between the beds to allow (as mentioned earlier by ddsack) barrow and mower movement. The only real driver here is personal preference. I started with 3' because that was what was suggested in the Organic Gardening article that got me started with raised beds.
I also use mulch (lawn clippings) on everything, and have yet to have any soil borne disease on any of my tomatoes. Currently I am suspending my drip emitter lines above the center of each of the beds. I put in permanent posts (metal or wood, which ever I can get for free) at either end of the bed, and every 10' or 12' in between and run a tight top wire from post to post to hang lines from. I use baler twine , strung from the top wire to the drip line, and secured to the drip line. This allows me to twine the tomato vines around the lines for support, much like the commercial boys do in the greenhouses. From personal experience, I can verify that the treated wood is no threat to you or your plants (bloodwork done by my employer to check heavy metal and other possible contaminats). My wife was also tested (new wife , less exposure {from a different geographical area}), and came out with higher counts than I did, and I ate from that garden every day (potatoes, etc,). Lots more to say on this, but I feel like I'm writing a book already.
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Old April 10, 2006   #13
kimpossible
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Thanks Grunt, Don, Clay, Terry for your input. I'm getting lots of good ideas for both raised beds, and staking and trellising methods. And enlightening info re: pressure treated wood.

I have also received some PM's and emails regarding my questions.

I just want to say it is so nice to receive such selfless advice from a really nice, giving community of "strangers", all friends brought together by a common interest. It really is remarkable, and really appreciated. Thank you!
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Old April 10, 2006   #14
TomatoDon
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Kim,

I think the proven standard width on raised beds is 4 feet. Many prefer 3 feet, especially if just growing tomatoes, and I see their point. But I am like you in that I will be rotating other crops from year to year, and the 4 feet width is just a good basic one, fits well with lumber that is usually 8, 12, 16 feet long, etc. and has to be cut. You don't waste lumber if cutting in four foot multiples.

If you can, have it double tall, about 22 inches. Fasten the corners with metal brackets. They hold better than nails or screws. I made that mistake. If pressure treated concerns you, line the beds with plastic.

If you can, have them all the same dimensions. I use 4 X 12 and love it. I have three rows of three beds, with 4 feet in between, which sounds like a lot of space, but when you have a bed on the left and a bed on the right in peak season, with tomato foliage crowding out, it doesn't look so wide afterall. You won't regret the extra spacing, if you have plenty of room for it.

I can plant 3-4 rows of corn in each bed. Use a half inch section of hard PVC pipe, cut to 12 feet. You can make a good, straight row by placing it in the bed, pressing it in the soil from one end to the other, making a depression, and then dropping your seeds in, and lightly raking dirt over them. Neat trick that works well. Very uniform planting.

With squash, I'd do 3-4 hills, all in the center. They will really bush out. Ideally, I think I would have 3-4 tomatoes in the center, but I plant two rows of three plants, and that is a little crowded when they get big.

You'll never regret having a nice, deep raised bed filled with compost, peat, and vermiculite. Can't be beat. Get the New Square Foot Gardening book. None better. I don't use the fixed grids like he does, but his theories on maximizing production is fabulous.

Just my .02 worth. Hope this helps.

Don
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Old April 10, 2006   #15
Deer Park
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My raised beds are 3 ft wide by 12 inches tall. Rows are 5 ft apart. I wouldn't recommend any closer.

Many of my beds (16) use the 16ft. stock panel. Here in Texas they costs $16.50 at the lumber yard.

On the other 20 rows (60ft long) I use the Florida Weave Method. I plant 3 to 3.5 ft apart depending on if the plant is det. or ind. I use to plant closer put the plants do better at this spacing. If I had more room I'd plant 4 ft apart. I stake between every three plants. I use short stakes to tie the plants to until they are tall enought to begin weaving.

I have a lot of 12 year old crepe myrtles and each year I cut the new growth off providing me with a few hundred straight 5-6ft stakes.

I also have around 30 buckets I plant dwarfs in. Some of the dwarfs are over 3 ft. tall.

Red Russian has so many fruits that two branches have split and fallen to the ground. I sucessfully raised them and staked them. It seems that enought of the stem remained to provide ample water and nutrients. If you are growing it for the first time as I am be sure to stake them.

Pendulina and Ditmarsher each have over 50 fruit on them.

Macrocarpum Lutea had so many the whole plant with stake fell over from the weight. I again sucessfully managed to right the ship.

Almost all the dwarfs are loaded so I staked them all. I am now hooked on dwarfs. I have planted about 15 varieties this year and I'm already planning expanding to 20-25 varieties next year. I'll report on taste at a later date.

By the way guys, I've been harvesting for the last two weeks. Eat your heart out baby! Planted last of Feb first of March. Plants were 18" tall at planting time buried 12" to bottom of raised bed.

Its been hot, dry and windy. Not our typical spring at all. Usually wet wet wet! I've been watering twice a week. Good news is plants are healthy and bugs are just now showing up. I will soap them down this week.

Later,
Michael
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