PART 2 :Today is the 2nd part of our four-part series on how to plant a simple garden using raised row beds. We call it Growing Simple. Over the course of the four weeks, we will take you through the process of how we plan, plant, care and maintain our raised row garden – and how to create your own simple garden in your yard.  If you missed the previous week (part 1) – you can click on the highlighted text below to view.
1. Growing Simple – Raised Row Gardening –  Click Here For Part 1 
2. Preparing And Planting The Garden  
3. Maintaining The Garden Through The Season
4. Keeping Your Beds Productive

Raised Row beds with straw walking rows not only keep the garden neat – but more importantly keep the plants away from your feet! Foot traffic around plants can cause a big reduction in root growth and eventually yields.

Part 2: Preparing And Planting The Garden:
If you live in most parts of the country, winter is just around the corner. Believe it or not – now is actually a great time to get started with building your raised row beds for next year – and with little effort!

Wherever I have lived, one of the first requirements was to stake out the best place to put a garden.  The old adage of location-location-location certainly applies to this task! Start by finding the sunniest location possible in your yard.  Full sun is best – but if your limited to spaces with a lot of morning or afternoon sun – choose the afternoon. Tomatoes, peppers and most vegetables like it sunny and warm– and that afternoon sun is the better choice of the two.

Setting Up Your Garden:

The raised beds method can work with any size garden. This is our plan from last year. No matter the size – there are always two consistent factors – 18″ planting rows – and 22 to 24″ walking rows.

For this post – we’ll guide you through setting up a  10′ x 15′ raised row bed garden area.   Obviously, you can make your beds any size you want by following the same principles and methods; however, a 10′ x 15′ set up will give the average family plenty of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season. One final assumption we make here is starting your raised row beds with a pick up load or two of additional pulverized topsoil or growers soil. You certainly don’t have to take this step – especially if you have access to your own topsoil or compost mix at your disposal. However, one method we discourage is tilling up the existing space and using the soil at ground level.  When you utilize the existing soil to make raised row beds – the ground around the garden area tends to end up lower and reduces the effect of the raised row approach.  Not to mention using a tiller is a lot of work, and usually does more harm than good to the soil. (can you tell I am not a big fan of the rototiller?)
When we started our raised row garden at the farm – we used some of the topsoil that had been scraped away to level out an area for the barn – and we mixed it in with a load of growers compost/topsoil mix we purchased from a local feed mill.  I  think the total one-time cost for us was about $60 – which pales in comparison to the cost of buying the 5 tons of vegetables we have pulled from the earth the last two seasons.

How To Build Your Raised Row Beds Gardens:
Once you have found the best available area – you can do a little work now that will help you come spring. Here is all you need to get started:
1 to 2 bales of straw (or if you have them available for free – a few big bags of shredded leaves)
1 sheet of black plastic big enough to cover an area 10′ x 15′
4 or 5 rocks, cement blocks or spare 2 x 4’s to hold down the plastic

Spread a sheet of heavy duty black plastic over the entire 10 x 15 area to help kill all  thegrass and weeds off of your future garden

Step 1 – Preparing The Space
Start by spreading out the straw or shredded leaves over the entire 10′ x 15′ area. It should be at least a 3 to 5″ thick layer. Now take your black plastic sheet, lay it on top of your layer of straw or leaves to completely cover the area. This will serve to eliminate almost all of the grass that now occupies the area – and keeps you from having to dig at all. After you have covered it – secure the plastic down with your rocks, bricks, or whatever you can use to ensure it won’t fly up during the winter and early spring. When complete, head inside and enjoy the winter! You can also use this method in the early spring, just make sure to give the plastic a few weeks at minimum to kill off most of the grass underneath.

Step 2 – Building Your First Beds In The Spring
Here is all you need:
2 to 3 Bales Of Straw
2 Cubic Yards Of Topsoil Or Growers Mix

The Row Layout for a 10 x 15 Raised Row Garden

This is the most work you will ever put into your garden – and saying that – I can tell you that you can probably complete this in less than a half a day.  In early spring, a few weeks before your ready to set in the first of your plants or seeds – it’s time to build the beds. Take off the rocks and plastic, and what you should find is some slightly decomposed leaves or straw.  Most, if not all of the grass or growth that was underneath will have died off. Don’t rake or move any of it – it’s the start of your raised row beds.

Our raised row beds in the fall as we start to plant them full of cover crops. Notice that the beds are not massive hills – rather just  slightly raised soil with tapered edges. This is key to success – too big of a hill and the water will run off during rains or watering – keeping your plants too dry.

We use the 10′ length of the garden for the length of the rows, and the 15′ side for the width. Start out by taking the straw (you can use shredded leaves if you have available), and spread out a pile about 18″ wide x 6″ high the entire length on the edge of the 10′ run.  If you use straw – make sure to break it apart as you loosely spread it out – being careful not to leave it in matted clumps.   If you use leaves – make sure they are shredded.  Measure off about 22 to 24″ of space for your walking row – and make another pile 18″ wide x 6″ high x 10′ long just like your first row.  Continue doing so until you have made 5 rows, 18″ wide – each the length of the 10′ row. You will have two rows on the outer edge – and three rows in between.  The 22 to 24″ space in between will become your walking and picking rows.

Pulvarized Topsoil or Growers Mix is the one purchase that can pay for itself quickly and get your garden off to a quick and easy start

Step 3 – Adding Soil To Your Beds

If you don’t have access to your own topsoil – you can purchase a couple of yards of pulverized topsoil or growers soil mix from a local supplier.  In our area, you can usually find it for about $30 to $40 a  cubic yard.  Two yards should be all you need for a 10 x 15 garden – and can fit easily in the back of a pick up truck.  If you don’t have access to a truck – they will usually deliver for an additional fee. Yes, it will cost a little here to get the garden up and running – but remember,  this is a ONE-TIME only expense.  Trust me that the vegetables you grow will easily pay for themselves in year 1!  A couple of things to make sure of if you purchase: 1) Make sure your buying a good garden soil – and not fill dirt – and 2)  Make sure its pulverized – it will make spreading out your soil a snap.

Once you have your straw base in place for your rows – you can  shovel on about 6″ to 8″ of topsoil on top of the straw.   You can smooth it all out with a rake when your done to leave nice, smooth, raised rows.

Spread about 6 to 8″ of soil over the top of each 18″ wide straw planting rows. The goal here is not to make huge mounds – just to cover the straw or leaves.  It will just slightly raise the soil in the working beds from your walking rows.  Don’t worry if you see some straw peeking through – its okay!  Just scallop your beds slightly down from the center height of 6 to 8″ in the middle. If you have a little soil left over – hold onto it – you can use it when you plant.

Once your raised rows are built – take more of the straw and spread out a thick layer (about 6″) in between the raised row beds.  This will help choke out any weeds, as well as not allowing any bare ground to be exposed for weed seeds to be blown into your walking spaces.  It will mat down after a few times of walking on it – so be generous – the more you apply to the rows – the less weeds you will have to deal with later.

NOW YOUR READY TO PLANT!

This is a photo of our first raised row bed we installed on the farm. Our original garden was 20 x 40. We were able to have it all planted in about 30 minutes using this method – a huge time saver!

Although we will get into specifics of the actual plants, planting and spacing next week – planting is a breeze! In a nutshell – planting is accomplished in minutes by simply spreading the topsoil aside using a small shovel and planting directly into the straw/soil mix below.   When we dig our holes – we will add in healthy amounts of compost (or that extra topsoil) to the hole.   For seed portions of the bed (lettuces, beans, etc) – plant right into the topsoil that is above the straw. Just use your finger or a small hoe to make a shallow row in the topsoil and spread the seeds according to the package – cover up with topsoil and your done!   The straw and topsoil acts as a great moisture retainer for the plant’s roots, allowing them to spread and grow quickly down into the soil. As the roots grow into the straw – they will go even deeper into the soil below that has been softened by the organic matter you put down earlier. I know it sounds crazy – but Mary and I planted last years garden – all 34 rows at 20′ long each – in under an hour and half.

Some Raised Row Guidelines… 

Raised Row Beds Help Roots Go Big, Deep and Healthy! Here are the roots of one of our Cajun Belle plants pulled up before the first frost.

One thing you never want to do is to step in your raised row beds.   Make sure to stay in your straw walking and picking rows.  By allowing the straw and dirt to be untouched and untrampled in the growing area – you truly get amazing root growth – which leads to amazing top growth and production! We are always amazed each year when we pull the plants in the fall how big the roots have grown in the undisturbed rows.

In next week’s 3rd segment, we’ll talk specifically about how and what to plant in your raised row garden beds – as well as how to maintain it in just 10 minutes a day. Included will be 3 separate complete 10′ x 15′ garden plans  for a garden to fit your needs – A Salsa Garden, A Salad Lovers Garden, And An All-Purpose Garden.

If you would like to follow along with the series and receive our DIY and Gardening Post each week – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column.

Jim and Mary

Shared On Gnowfglins, Shabby Creek Transformation Thursday

67 thoughts on “Preparing And Planting The Raised Row Bed Garden

  • June 10, 2016 at 10:04 am
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    I’m wondering if you put soaker hoses UNDER the straw or on TOP?

  • May 5, 2016 at 11:03 am
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    Question: If adding 6-8″ of topsoil to each garden row is a one time expense, what happens in the following years? Do you set up the rows differently?

    • May 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm
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      It is just a one time expense – in the subsequent years, now that your rows are set up higher- you are simply adding in compost over the top and in planting holes.

  • April 24, 2016 at 8:17 am
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    If you are spreading about 8 inches of straw to the rows and also to the walking area between the rows, can you just put it down all at once and then add the soil on your rows?

    • April 24, 2016 at 8:18 am
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      You sure can!

  • April 18, 2016 at 4:02 pm
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    Could we use cardboard in place of the black plastic in Step 1? We have LOTS of cardboard, and would need to purchase black plastic. Thanks!

    • April 18, 2016 at 9:30 pm
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      Absolutely – it will work perfect!

      • April 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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        Thank you! I can’t wait to get started!

  • March 18, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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    It’s already March and I’m about ready to plant but I don’t have a rototiller (which from looking through the post is not needed. That’s awesome! Is it too late to follow this process that y’all have set up? Or am I able to do it this weekend? I didn’t know if i needed to let it sit through the winter and kill off the grass and weeds or if I can start this weekend and plant next weekend! Please let me know!

    • March 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm
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      Brandon, no worries at all, we planted our very first Garden in the spring just like you are doing. You can simply mow down the grass as low as you can and make your rows right on top of that.

  • February 5, 2016 at 5:27 am
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    My yard is left natural, to say the least. The area where I will be having my garden has small alders growing in it. I have cut them down to ground level. Do you think this will pose a problem, or will they die off like the grass. I also wanted to make sure that I don’t even need to work the ground under the planting rows at all for better drainage.
    Thanks

  • January 30, 2016 at 2:00 pm
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    Is there any other median i can use aside from leaves or straw? I only have access to pine straw or I should say I can’t find any were to purchase some.

  • July 25, 2015 at 8:08 am
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    Hi Jim & Mary!
    We’ve just bought and moved onto our own acreage!!! Yayyyyy! I can finally start my raised row gardens : D
    But we live in an area that is hilly, will it matter if I make the beds horizontally along the slope… eg if the high side is north and the low side is south, I make the rows running east to west and space them horizontally down the hill below each other?

    • July 25, 2015 at 8:48 am
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      CONGRATS!!!! That is so exciting! And no – it will still work on a slope – our garden is actually on a slope the same way as yours – higher on the north and lower on the south. It actually has really helped us this year with all of the rain! Good luck and so happy for you!

  • June 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm
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    Hi! I am having a great time going through your site & all of the wonderful information you have! We are in Missouri & basically live on a rock (well, the rock starts about 6 inches below the surface anyway). 😉 We’ve built a retaining wall & had top soil brought in that we are spreading now to level things out. My question is this – my husband is concerned that with the topsoil on the straw, when it rains it will wash everything away. The concern is mostly in the beginning when there are either seeds or plants that don’t yet have their root system established . Has this been an issue for ya’ll? Any recommendations to prevent this?

    Thank you!

    • June 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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      Hi Cara – so glad you like the site! We have never had an issue with losing topsoil – it usually weaves down into the straw pretty quickly and will actually help to hold it together even more. Good luck in your new garden and glad to have you as a follower of our website!

  • June 9, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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    First let me say your raised row garden plan is EXACTLY what I was looking for and I loved the ease of setup (and the cost) of putting in my first few rows this year. While initially everything started great, I have hit a snag: none of plants are growing well. Everything (tomatoes, pumpkins, radishes) have had difficulty, yellow leaves, ect. I have two main theories. A – I buried the soaker hose 3″ below the soil, maybe this is causing issues with the roots? B – I didn’t use the recommended 6″, it ended up being more like 4″. I also didn’t mulch over the rows however I live in Portland, OR and it really hasn’t been that hot. What has me stumped is that I built a raised bed with a ton of straw on the bottom and the same dirt and compost on top 3 weeks after I planted the raised rows and everything in the bed is growing like crazy! (The bed had a good 6″ of dirt on it and the soaker hose is on top) If you have experienced anything like this I would love some advice if not THANK YOU for all your wonderful posts, even with the issues I have been so happy with your ideas and will be doing everything I can to improve my design next year 🙂

  • April 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm
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    hoophouse

    • April 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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      Can you mix straw and leaves?

  • April 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm
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    Thinking of raised row:24 in x 30 ft. under unused clothesline. One reason to use line for schoolhouse support. Will this method work. I have a lot of oak and maple leaves and horse compost.I live in SE. Wisconsin 20 balks. from Lake Michigan.

  • April 4, 2015 at 9:12 am
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    Oops I just found that article I was looking for. Thanks again! CindyRose

    • April 4, 2015 at 10:01 am
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      No problem – glad you found it and good luck in the garden!!

  • February 17, 2015 at 11:02 pm
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    Hi, great site, great information. I have a tool I think you can incorporate as one of your methods of building rows. A new hand pulled, user friendly, light weight, heavy duty, multiple row making tool. Please visit or Google – Rowmaker.com – should be at the top of the list on Google page. An agricultural professor at Texas A&M that bought one called it “the Cadillac” of Row makers. It will maximize the use of your space. Simplify planning and planting a garden. it will easily and quickly make near perfect farm style rows and furrows in a home garden and most important, it will save a gardener lot of time. Also, See the vid on building RowMaker beds. I think you will like this tool. Thanks Al

  • August 25, 2014 at 5:22 am
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    In reading step number two of preparing and planting I have to say I am confused because all of the measurements given are in feet (‘) and not using inches (“). I noticed this as I don’t think the walking rows should be 18 feet wide. So I am not sure where measurements should be in inches instead of feet.

  • June 13, 2014 at 9:39 pm
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    So, I am just seeing this wonderful idea and it’s already mid-June. I do live in Minnesota though and spring rolled in pretty late this year. Is there a chance that I could still do this if I started now? If so, what do you suggest. The area I would like to start it in is an overgrown grassy area of our yard.

  • June 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm
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    Does this method work if your existing soil is heavy clay? Do the rotting leaves underneath take care of that problem?

  • June 3, 2014 at 9:25 am
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    We followed the instructions and created our raised row garden this year. We added even more straw between the rows than was recommended because I really didn’t want to deal with weeds. We used a soil/compost blend for the rows. It looks great but we are having a terrible problem with centipede grass in the walkways that, if not checked every day, ends up creeping into the raised rows. It has become so much of a problem that I have resorted to spraying it with Roundup (the one that says it’s ok for veggie gardens) and it’s like the grass is impervious to the Roundup. Is it because of the straw? There is only the occasional weed popping up…but the centipede grass is widespread. Oh, and we don’t have centipede grass in our lawn so it’s not creeping in from there so maybe it came from the straw? If anyone has any suggestions for resolving this, please help!

  • May 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm
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    SHOULD THE TOPSOIL BE SIX TO EIGHT INCHES DEEP AS WELL AS WIDE?

  • May 25, 2014 at 11:10 am
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    Hello, I’m not sure if I’m missing something, but I’m having trouble finding the answers to the comments. I am particularly concerned about the question regarding the straw burning the roots….I just spent a great deal of time on putting in the new straw, mulch and topsoil. Buying plants today….did I make a mistake?

    • May 28, 2014 at 8:54 am
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      Straw will not burn the roots at all – so you will be fine – only fresh compost.

  • April 22, 2014 at 12:09 am
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    Do you have to layout the straw for 2 weeks before planting vegetables? I planted tomatoes the same day I bought the straw and soil. We built are rows straw then soil

    • April 22, 2014 at 5:17 am
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      Nope- you are ok. The straw is inert – so no need to wait. The waiting will help the ground settle – but you should be good to go!

      • April 23, 2014 at 9:38 pm
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        Thank you for the response Lisa. My tomatoes died. I have read that you should treat the hay with water and ammonia nitrate for 10 days before blanting because the straw will burn the plants roots, what do you think about this? Another question, how much water do you give the plants when first planting. Also y soil is a vehicle mix from a garden store. I appreciate your feedback.
        Janet

      • April 23, 2014 at 9:39 pm
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        Vegetable mix not vehicle mix.

  • April 15, 2014 at 11:07 pm
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    TOO LATE! I have already tilled the garden!!!! but have used raised beds before so I love the concept. so I am trying to ‘get there’ again-but am in a new yard/farm. So I used straw in between my rows last year- and then I had a MILLION weeds/ grain and grasses growing there that were not there before! Ei yi yi! Of course once it got away on me I could NOT keep up! Now this year I am starting with a big mess! what do you suggest? my garden is about 100 x 100 with a main path down the center that we can drive a quad with a wagon behind. so to say … cover it with tarp- or plastic… I don’t have that much! It`s too BIG! Because it is new- I am trying to establish Raspberries, asparagus pincherries/ cherries- etc….. so between establishing new stock AND trying to make raised beds.. I am pooped! . we just moved to this acreage last fall and have spent the last 2 years cleaning up debris and garbage on the property. The previous owners were NOT great stewards of the land! we plan to try and build a new house this summer as the old farm house is just not fixable! OH and I work off the farm as well – and my honey is not healthy to help right now- so I am doing most of the work- and I’m NOT a spring chick! (He already thinks I am crazy for wanting to move out here in the first place!!!!) I scour the neighborhood town for leaves in the fall- and have even had wood chips dropped off sucked out from an old attic to use for mulch and compost. So how do you chop your leaves? a lawn mower will just shoot them all over???? I cannot decide of row direction either- so I have started both in different sections of the garden- and I have planted some lilac rows mid garden to give some shade on the north side and provide a windbreak and micro climate on the south side of it. We also live in MANITOBA and today is April 15th – and we still have 3 to 4 feet of snow in places – HARD COLD WINTER this year with LOTs of snow- so our growing season will be really short this summer by the time we can get IN the garden. Probably zone 2 to be safe- sometimes zone 3. Can you give me some suggestions? Ideally I want to get to NO till- easy gardening!!!! But I gotta get there!

  • April 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm
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    If I start preparing the area with the straw/leaves and plastic now (mid-April) for this year’s garden, will that be enough time to kill the grass and have the area ready for an early-June planting? I live in northwest Pennsylvania.

  • April 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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    I grow in northern New Mexico where we have an old world watering system that uses flood irrigation from 400 year old acequias (irrigation ditches). Rain is sparse so we rely on snow melt from the mountains. Have you ever seem a system such as yours using flood irrigation? I am intrigued,but not sure if I could make this work for my watering system. What do you think?

  • April 2, 2014 at 4:19 pm
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    I’m a little confused, your instructions say to put down 4″ or so of hay and cover for two weeks, then later to remove the plastic and add another 6″ or so of hay plus the actual gardening soil = around 12″ off the ground?! In the pictures it looks like the entire raised row, including the soil is about 4-6″ off the ground. Please clarify, I’m worried to make little Himalaya death beds for my garden!

  • March 21, 2014 at 11:41 pm
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    How deep does the soil need to be? You said 6″-8″ but i would think that would require a lot more than just a couple of yards of soil. I attempted this today with one 20′ row and used nearly 2 cubic yards of top soil and its only about two inches deep of soil.

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:19 pm
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      Adam – the few inches of dirt mixed in with the straw is usually good enough – our raised rows are not very high at all and have a little slope. You will incorporate the ground underneath as well as you keep gardening

  • March 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm
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    Can I build raised rows even if I didn’t put out a plastic tarp before winter? If yes, what steps should I take in the spring?

    • March 21, 2014 at 11:43 pm
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      We just dug down about three inches deep and pulled the grass up. Seems to have worked thus far. Just a lot more work.

  • March 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm
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    I have an 18 x 30 garden and I bought woodpile tarps on sale for $3 and fold them in half for the 24″ between rows to keep out weeds. Worked great and lasts for years! I also put compost in my rows, and I collect grass clippings from my first mowing and put around my tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli and they love the nitrogen! The only weeding I did was the creeping charley on the sides of the garden that wanted to work its way in. Easy-Peasy!

    • April 7, 2014 at 8:52 am
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      Where did you purchase your woodpile tarps?
      Thanks!

  • February 8, 2014 at 1:21 am
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    Jennifer – try using layers of flattened cardboard over the whole area. Then put your straw or leaves (we use grass clippings) in rows over the cardboard. Last, topsoil over that. I started 2 of my 4 raised beds in the spring of 2011 this way in an area of my yard with weak, weedy, slightly gravelly soil. Nary a weed has popped through. After reading this article I made 3 raised rows in another area of my yard in spring of 2013. I did cardboard first, grass clippings, then topsoil. Worked perfectly! I’m in Ohio and not sure if this will work for your conditions, hopefully it will 🙂

  • January 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm
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    Your article has really got me thinking! I was all set to build boxes for a raised bed. Your way seems simpler and much less expensive! However, I’d like to build my garden right in front of the house, where it’s covered with very aggressive Bermuda and Johnson grass. I seemed to have missed the window of time in the fall to lay down the black plastic to kill the grass. How would you go about starting it for this spring? And do you have any recommendations for keeping it out during the growing season. It is VERY aggressive here in Oklahoma! Thanks!

  • January 12, 2014 at 7:09 am
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    We just found this website and we’d like to have our raised bed garden this spring. Should we cover the area with straw and plastic now or wait until spring? I’ve read (on a different website), that covering the area in winter, when the weeds and grass are not growing, won’t do any good. Thanks, in advance, for your advice.

  • December 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm
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    what is the fertilizer needs for garden

  • December 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm
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    We are planning a 30 x 50 garden for this spring, and we have access to free wood mulch (the kind that is made from the chipper that comes through and shreds peoples branches and sticks). Would it be OK to use this instead of the straw in the walkways? We already mulched leaves, spread over the garden area, and put down our plastic, so this will be only for the walkways. We are so excited to give this a try with our daughter!

  • November 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm
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    In the south you need to wait until April to start planting most veg,s

  • February 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm
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    Do you think it’s too late for us to try this method of gardening this year? We are in NE Texas. We did a small raised bed garden last year and I was looking to do a little bigger, but I HATE weeding, LOL. I was against tilling for that reason! We just haven’t prepared the ground at all yet.

  • February 26, 2013 at 10:48 am
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    We have a very small yard in a suburban neighborhood but we do rent a 30×50 plot at a local community garden. This will be our 3rd season but I’m wanting to really do a good job rather than hodge pogde. So we are going to follow your map of what to plant and where, but I’m wondering where to plant corn? Also, since we don’t have the same plot every yr and the community has a farmer come in and till everything under in the fall then plants a cover rye which they then till under in the spring would it be best then to just make our rows with some straw and compost? I don’t want to put a lot of money into the soil as it’s good soil to start with and we’ll only have it 1 season.
    -central IN

    • February 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm
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      You can certainly make your own rows with the straw, compost and some of the tilled dirt. I don’t blame you for not wanting to put a lot into it if it is just a year – so that would be your best bet. We do not plant our corn in the main garden – mainly to keep the raccoons from finding it. In fact – we put it at the top of the hill about 200 yards away! It will certainly do fine though in this plan – and if I was going to work it in somewhere – I would grow it near the cucumbers. Hope that helps and good luck with the garden this year!!!

  • February 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm
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    Last year I tried using straw as a mulching material but it appears there were seeds in it which started growing so much that I had to take it all off. How do you prevent that from happening?

    • February 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm
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      That is a great point Lynn…most straw is just the left over chaffe from the fields…but if it had been baled with weeds etc,, or is stored near hay where seeds can blow into it- it can certainly have seeds that germinate from it. we have a really good supplier of straw that we have never had a problem with – but you certainly want to know how it was baled and from where to avoid that problem. You can also keep it covered until you use it to keep weed seeds from blowing into it. Hope that helps – Jim

      • April 3, 2013 at 8:17 am
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        I am so excited to have come across your blog. I am a beginner and have wanted to build a good garden, but was always a little overwhelmed by the process. After reading your blog, I no longer feel that way 🙂 Thank you!! I am also from the central Ohio area and would love to know where you get your straw. Thank you for this wonderful website! I am over joyed to have found it 🙂

        • April 3, 2013 at 9:15 am
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          Good Morning Sara – we are so glad you like the blog and thank you for the wonderful compliments! Sounds like you are not too far from us – we are over past Granville – and we get our straw from a couple of local farmers from the Nashport area. I know one thing for sure- it needs to warm up a little faster in Central Ohio this spring!! 🙂

          Jim

  • December 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm
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    Really enjoying visiting your blog. I found you through Homestead Revival. Would love for you to join our blog hop too.

  • December 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm
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    I love the idea of your beds. But I don’t think it would work everywhere. My ground is very hard. I thought at first it was all clay but when test results came back it is actually a mix of compacted sand and clay. I ended up double digging my garden beds 18″ deep which was a real chore and adding a lot of organic material: straw, leaves, compost. When we double dug those beds there was absolutely no signs of life: bugs, worms, etc. Of course, I only needed to to it once. . After double digging and adding the material I had raised beds as you mentioned. I topped them off with a layer of compost and straw, similar to what you have done. I, like you, love the idea of never tilling. I use pine straw and wheat straw as walkway cover.
    And as one commenter has noted, I have a terrible vole problem. I think they love all that straw! I have ended up having to make my beds with wood and line the beds with 1/4″ hardware cloth. So far, so good with keeping out the voles. I’ve also had to line my compost bins with the hardware cloth. I was hoping that I could eliminate all their food sources, they would go away but I still see their trails. I think I need a pack of cats! Thanks for your post. I look forward to seeing part 3.

  • December 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm
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    This is brilliant! I don’t know how I missed this series, but I’m glad to be getting caught up. I’m curious about irrigation. Thanks for sharing this very doable method!

  • November 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm
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    Sure does look great. I have the raised beds but they seem to attract more than their share of voles, chipmunks, and moles.
    Thinking of building boxes with hardware cloth. Any other thoughts?

  • November 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm
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    Great information! Would love to have a big garden like yours. We live in a neighborhood on just under an acre, but our lot is wooded and sloped. We had to build raised beds in boxes due to the slope and only have 6 hours of sun in the Spring. (less in the Fall) Last year we purchased compost, but this year we gathered and shredded a huge pile of leaves and will make our own compost this year. Regarding your straw, what kind are you using? Yours looks thin and is a lighter color than the straw I’ve used. Would also love to know if it breaks down and if you leave it the next season and just top it off with fresh straw or if you remove it and put down new straw. Thanks!

  • November 27, 2012 at 11:37 am
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    Thanks for the info. I will be following your series! This sounds similar to lasagna gardening which I’m planning on implementing for our very small garden at our house. We plant raised beds now and make new soil every year by composting in the rows of the existing garden. We do this because we have no place to put our plant waste now living in a neighborhood. So, we have a compost pile for yard waste, a compost bin for food waste/leaves and the garden rows as well. Thanks again for some great information! (We garden in northeast Ohio, within walking distance to Lake Erie.) Have a great week!

  • November 27, 2012 at 9:40 am
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    Hi Jim and Mary! Thank you so much for sharing about raised rows! I am learning and implementing as much as I can to my raised bed garden. We already have the raised beds, just not the good soil in them. Do you have suggestions for ways to purchase that rich soil other than what you mentioned? We have no feed mills that sell growers mix/top soil. The only other thing I know of is purchasing bags from Lowe’s and that could be expensive. The only other thing I might could do is borrow a tractor and dig up the topsoil from the woods in the back yard. It’s just fool of weeds and blackberry brambles, though. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Blessings from Bama!

    • November 27, 2012 at 10:15 am
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      Greetings from Ohio – I think at this point I might trade you for your warmer weather :). If you already have your soil in place – there are a couple things you could do to help enrich what you have. First – consider a quick cover crop when temps allow. If you grow a cover crops of winter rye or buckwheat – and then turn it over with a pitchfork after it has come up bright green for a three weeks or so – it will go along way in improving your soil. Repeat again in the fall and you will be amazed at how much it adds to your soil.
      I would also really suggest compost for existing beds. And for now – concentrate on putting in large amounts where your planting holes go. It will cut down on how much you spend (if you can make your own – even better!) As for the growers soil – you might check with local landscapers to see what they use and where they get it. Hope that helps!! Jim

      • November 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm
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        Hi Jim! Thank you so much for getting back with me on this! I am in the process of making compost, but I don’t think it will be enough for all of the beds. I am also raking leaves to apply to the raised beds, we have plenty of those! I like the idea of planting a cover crop. With our mild temps, it should grow nicely! We are blessed with warm temps here! It was seventy or so Thanksgiving day! Thanks again! Bama!

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