Resigned to raised beds

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my farm area is suited more for growing rice than veggies. This year has been especially wet, with thunderstorms nearly every other day, and my garden is suffering. Despite all the work I’ve done to raise the beds through copious additions of organic matter every year, the water table is so high this year that I have to walk on boards through the pathways, and put galoshes on every time I plan to do some work out there. Nearly half my crops have drowned; the others are still not much bigger than they were when I planted them as seedlings. With no oxygen getting to their roots, they cannot absorb nutrients. No nutrients, no growth.

If I want to be able to grow anything, I’m just going to have to make some serious raised beds.

(And yes, I am actually looking into growing rice in the wettest area – I have vague, cloudy plans involving somehow rotating the ducks out of their garden paddock during the growing season and turning them back in all fall and winter for fertilization… but it’s all very vague at this point.)

I don’t want to build raised beds! The list of cons is very long. 1) expensive. 2) so much labor. 3) how to fill? I have no extra dirt. 4) it’s not a flexible system. Once the beds are in, I won’t be able to easily change row width and placement.

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concrete “logs” holding in 8″ of half-composted wood chips that will be a bed next year.

But I’m starting to think my way around these problems somewhat.

1) Building costs. If I build up 10 of the worst beds, that’s about 600 linear feet of building materials. If I were to buy new composite decking or cedar boards, I’d be looking at around $2 per foot for 6″ wide boards. Since I figure I need a minimum of 1′ height, that equals a cost of never gonna happen.  However! I found a source for free shipping pallets, and I figure if I cut each one in three pieces, that is three 1′ tall, 4′ long sections. I just have to figure out how to keep the soil inside. Score.

2) Labor. I’m going to have to rent a mini-excavator-bobcat thing, also because of #3:

3) How to fill. You might remember I’ve already started a couple hugelkultur beds; those are coming along fine. I’m planning on doing something similar with these raised beds, laying in a pile of branches and woodchips and chicken compost. Before I do, though, I’m going to excavate all that precious, mineral-amended soil I spent so many years trying to perfect, and then put that back on top of the pile. That likely won’t be deep enough soil, but if I rented a bobcat I could finally take care of deepening the ponds and use that rich sludge on these beds too. I could even dig out the long spot in the forest that seems to stay 3″ deep in mud all year long. Maybe that would turn it into a more useable pond, and meanwhile I could use that dirt to fill my beds too. Tasks much too big for me alone with a shovel. Heck, I could even carve the top of backfill Hill into swales for water runoff management… you can probably tell I’m pretty excited. I hope it works like I want it to.

4) Not flexible: too bad. At least my cabbages might get bigger than a softball before giving up the ghost.

 

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