Monday, 22 May 2017

Deep beds or no?

Hello All
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I notice that many people use the "deep bed" way to grow their veg.
The principle behind deep beds is that the soil is deep and humous-full and that the beds are just wide enough to allow you to tend to the plants while not standing on the soil, as compressing the soil damages the it' friability and drainage. This method means that a higher density of plants can be grown in a given area.
To set the ground up for this method it is usual to make a frame from strong treated wood (often old  railway sleepers) these boxes are usually placed 3 to 4 foot apart and some sort of path made between the beds. (gravel, slabs, chippings) The boxes are then filled with compost and /or soil, ensuring a soil high in nutrients.
You may remember from pics that I have shared that I don't use this method. I have to say that I am not convinced it is the most efficient or frugal way to grow veg. Oooo er controversial Gill!!
Firstly, the outlay to set up this system is pretty high.  If you are growing your own to save money it will be some considerable time before you get your money back (especially if you grow crops such as carrots and potatoes) Consider the cost of the wood, preservative,paving and compost, (though some people do have access to enough improved soil)
Secondly, you can make your soil as rich, deep and productive without using boxed deep beds.
Thirdly, you will grow easily as much per square foot in a well planned "conventional" garden.
Here's how we do it.
We ridge up the garden into 4 to 5 foot beds beds with and 18" gap between, this frees up more gardening space per metre than using the boxed garden, wide path method. I usually lay old floor boards or pallet wood in the gap to walk on or push wheel barrows along.(If you roll these boards over occasionally you can pick off and dispose of the slugs that will gather there - they have to gather somewhere!)
I will grant you that raised beds are tidier and if you are a wheelchair user higher raised beds make gardening possible for you (you will need higher boards for this, say 3 or 4 sleepers deep) I personally favour the chaotic flowers, fruit and vegetables (and quite a few weeds) look, which makes my heart sing in mid summer and have searched out a couple of pics to remind you.

Now some may have to lie down in a darkened room after looking at this organised chaos, but I reckon that the yield from this chaos is pretty good!
Some come on gardeners what do you think? (Head above the parapet here)


  1. I love your gloriously chaotic and colourful garden pictures. Things would never have grown like that at the smallholding it was just too dry, we had beds but not wood edged as that was what was there before. Here we have beds that are wood edged but they are a bit too wide really, however they will have to do and we will grow what we can. Back in the days of allotments we grew in the old way. I quite like beds as it means I can wear crocs without getting them full of dirt! HATE wellies!

    1. Yes, some soils can't be made moist enough no matter how much stuff you put in. Your beds were similar to mind, as I remember, just much longer and better defined. I have gardening crocs, which I love.
      Hope all well with you and Col.

  2. Love the garden. We bought sleepers to mark out beds in out garden, partly because we wanted an edge to the lawn. The petrol strimmer can quickly clear all the edges and the mower gets round quickly. I cram in as much as possible and plants are put wherever a space appears. I'm always experimenting.

    1. We have edging up to the lawn in the front garden for just that reason. I think that you are right to cram in as much as possible, which is the point of deep beds. I often see them planted up with spacing the same as in conventional gardening, which is pointless from a harvest and economical point of view which is the angle that I am approaching this from.

  3. This year I have established a sort of raised bed system, with paths running between the four beds. I double dug and incorporated a lot of compost, manure, etc. I'm finding the system much more manageable, and now having four smaller beds, rather than one big one, I have a ready made rotation system that I will stick to. Another advantage is that it all looks very tidy (which I like).

    1. I totally agree that the system is more manageable and certainly tidier. While it may not be apparent from my pics I do have a rotation system, which as you demonstrate is essential for productive gardening. My point is more about yield and the cost of setting up a deep bed system. Haddocks is a special place however you farm it Cro!!

  4. I have watched lots of you tubes by grow your greens. He is quite a clever guy. On there he says that most veg doesnt need more than 6 inches as they grow upwards and are not deep rooters. only carrots, potatoes etc need deep beds. the rest is a waste of compost and soil

    1. I shall have to look him/her up. It's always good to read stuff that agrees with us! Deep beds with loose soil are good for root crops, which are cheap enough to buy, which seems a waste of the money and resources put into deep beds. The cost MIGHT be recouped by french beans, specialist lettuce, peppers, tomatoes (for example) though I doubt it.

    2. be warned he gets a bit excitable with it all. But he sure is passionate about growing.

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