grow bed tips and techniques

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grow bed tips and techniques

Post  MrFancyPlants on Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:20 pm

I was thinking of starting a formal grow bed in the same area that I usually bury my pots over the winter. I was debating incorporating some pond baskets or screening around the edges to keep out weeds and help contain 'sticks in pots'' roots. I imagine I'll use a couple bags or turface and some composted coffee grounds among other ingredients.

After rereading Jim's favorite article article by Brent Walston, I decided that I better dig the bed extra deep and leave some space for graduation to the native clay rich soil. We don't have gas in the area but I'll check for lines of any sort before I get to digging.

Any general tips or suggestions?


Last edited by MrFancyPlants on Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : wrong "buy")

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:45 pm

Try a raised bed! Awesome for drainage, keeping perennial weeds under control AND you can fill it with whatever lovely soil you want! PLUS if you have a Noahs Ark spring deluge like we had this year your raised bed will shed all that water and allow you to plant ON TIME rather than waiting until the ground is workable! Highly recommended!
-Jay

Ps Grow field is about the BEST way to start off young trees!


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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  Jesse McMahon on Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:12 am

that's an awsome idea! i've also read about raised beds and then putting a tile underneath your root mass to encourage lateral development. have been thinking of doing this myself lately, so this will be a fun topic to follow!

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:22 am

Raised beds aren't just for Bonsai! . They look beautiful and after talking to a former research botanist from Cornell, I decided to take the plunge and go raised all the way for myself then one of my clients saw them and wanted them too, and while I was building and filling them this summer I kept thinking "boy I bet my field grown trees would LOVE it in one of these."
-Jay


Last edited by drgonzo on Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:24 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  Alain Bertrand on Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:50 am

I am going to use raised bed also from this autumn. I have an old agricultural tractor so I won't suffer to do it, but people less equipped may buy for almost nothing a old horse plough , attach it to a mowing tractors to make their beds.

Don't forget, though, that drainage and soil may be dramatically improved by an apport of organic matter on the soil.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:50 pm

Raised bed? That means less digging. I like it. I'll probably do some digging to get the ivy up out of my space.
I seem to remember that expanded shale is cheap and although not ideal bonsai soil, it wouldn't cause any problems down the road in future repottings. Perhaps I'll include some crushed crab shells to scare the other chitinous creatures away. I always like coffee grounds as an organic element because they are free and fun. I'm starting to get excited about this project.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  Jesse McMahon on Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:21 pm

i've been thinking about this a good bit the last few days, and i have some questions i'd be curious to hear opinions on. A: do you need a seperate bed for your acid-loving plants, or can you just seperate out your one grow space and put them on opposite sides? and B: what about cold frame concepts for those of us who experience (in my case) really cold snaps on occasion, or for those who experience real winters? i have access to long rolls of frost blanket and was thinking it would be pretty easy to go ahead and frame a shape in to just fasten it down over. planning ahead saves time and effort, right?

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:20 pm

"frame a shape in to just fasten it down over"

That is EXACTLY what I'm doing for next year, yeah you can make a frame that just slips inside the perimeter of the bed frame. Also when I have acid loving plants in the ground I just spot treat with peat or aluminum sulfate (use another chemical for rhodys however) to change the PH of the space they are growing in, Then the occasional mir-acid treatment in the soil to keep it that way. I never found the need to get to fancy with separating them out as it were.
-Jay

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heating cables

Post  MrFancyPlants on Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:38 am

I'm looking at heating cables on Amazon. They have some designed for keeping pipes from freezing in houses and some designed for aquariums. Any suggestions or experiences? How many watts would I need for a bed roughly the size of a parked car? Would all of my trees benefit from such treatment?

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:48 am

I'm not sure heating cables of that sort are meant for extended outdoor usage. I would be very careful.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  MrFancyPlants on Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:53 pm

We had a landscaping committee meeting for our co-op last night and I got the first round of approval for my grow bed. I will still need to draw up plans and submit them to the board before I get final approval, but it is an important first step. Interestingly, they preferred that I extend my bed down the entire side of the building for continuity. That gives me more then twice the space I originally envisioned.

I am excited, but need to hurry up with the planning if I want to start construction by fall. I'll need some nice rocks me thinks.

No more thoughts on the heating cables? There is a type used for melting the snow off of roofs and gutters that seems reasonably affordable. Some with built in thermostats. I would think it would stand up to the elements for at least a season or two.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:04 pm

My experience out here (and it gets damn cold over winter) is that you must plant a cold hardy crop late in the season, say first week in september down my way, it then grows to just about full size in time for the first chills of winter, you then cover it with whatever green house style contraption you think of and the plants just sort of STOP-and hold at that size the cold slows them down and you just harvest off your mature sized plants from under the frame or cover if you will, you don't really GROW plants in the winter and the Idea is to keep them in a state of hibernation so heating cables would work against that Idea, do some research online about winter greenhouse and cold frame gardening and you'll learn more than I can type! Eliot Coleman wrote an EXCELLENT book on the subject called 'Four Season Harvest'-Get THAT book and go for it!!
-Jay

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treated?

Post  Jesse McMahon on Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:29 am

so i'm thinking i'm just going to till up a stretch in the unused portion of the garden, work in some compost, soil conditioner, maybe even a little coarse sand and put a lot of my 'starter' stuff in there for a year or five. my latest question is: i have some treated 2 x 8's out in the yard that i could use to frame the bed in. will they leach some terrible chemicals out into the growing bed, or is the treatment good in the sense that it's going to prevent rot, etc.? thoughts, advice, expertise...bring it on.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:45 pm

I have some experience dealing with pressure treated lumber and generally I avoid it now. I believe its treated with various copper compounds and I'm no chemist I don't know how these compounds effect soil or trees planted there-in. BUT

I am a woodworker and I have found that unless pressure treated is very thoroughly dried it will twist and warp in the sun somthin' fierce. I don't use it for construction of anything anymore because of that tendency. And even when dried If it gets re-soaked and then dries fast it will again move around all over the place. -No fun!

Heres what I do instead! Go out and get just regular old 2x8 or whatever you like and treat them with boiled linseed oil. They will look very nice and be well protected and the linseed oil is harmless to both trees and food crops and will protect those boards for a good long time.
-Jay

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  JimLewis on Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:42 pm

You don't need to overthink grow boxes. They are just containers to hold dirt. They don't need to have mitered corners, and sanded edges. Four 1x6 (or 8) inch x 3 or 4 foot boards, a 3 or 4 foot slab of plywood with a dozen 1-inch holes drilled in it, and a handful of nails. That's all it takes. If you have scrap lumber around, use it. If it lasts a year or two, you're doing well.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  Jesse McMahon on Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:03 am

i like both concepts, and thanks to both of you for your good ideas. being frugal, and maybe even a little pragmatic, i'm with jim's concept that it doesn't have to be fancy to grow well. on the other hand, i also like the idea of oiling some boards and making a slightly more long-term fixture in the garden. the light at my house is great in the garden year-round whereas i wind up having to move most of my pots at least once in a year to maintain optimal daylight.

i guess my bottom line here is a topic that there's probably another thread for: trees growing larger trunks in the ground vs. in a container. i'd be curious to hear y'alls $.02 on the matter, but if it's a rehash just redirect me and i'm a big boy. i can do my own reading.

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  drgonzo on Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:17 am

Hi jesse

I'm a cheap Yankee, I mean good and cheap, but I still like to build things to last. One of my clients asked for 16 raised beds this year so I wanted to do as professional a job as I could for her yet still keep it affordable. These are also big 10x5 footers with 700 lbs of loam and compost in each one! You could definitely get by with Jim's approach too, in fact I've been surprised just how well, regular 3/4 inch thick stock-untreated-actually lasts even when exposed to the elements.
-Jay

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  Neil Jaeger on Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:49 am

Dont know if this will help but Tony Tickle posted this great thread.

http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t2444-how-to-make-your-own-heating-bed-to-aid-yamadori-survival

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Re: grow bed tips and techniques

Post  MrFancyPlants on Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:38 pm

I have seen this thread from Tony, which was the inspiration for including a heating cable in my bed. But thanks for looping everyone in.

I believe the pipe warmers and roof deicing cables would be able to withstand the elements. I would try to keep mine set just a few degrees above freezing so as not to interrupt dormancy, but to provide a bit of warmth during the coldest parts of winter. I still am not sure if all of my plants would benefit or if I should leave a cold section for pines.

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