Raised beds

Discussion in 'Holistic Farming' started by KMA, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. Old McDonald

    Old McDonald Member

    Location:
    Inland Portugal
    I would be interested to hear reports from you if you do decide on that approach. I am sure you are aware of the terraced vineyards in the Douro and some of the German vine areas on extremely steep slopes. Similarly terraced olives were common here too. There are still a few areas. I know of one about 20 miles from where I live, but it appears to be neglected now. Hearsay only, but I am told that vegetables, and occasionally a fruit tree instead of a vine or olive, were planted in these terraces.

    There is still a lot of scope in these places for people who are prepared to put in hard work. I reckon you, @KMA, and a few others that post in this section of the forum would really enjoy the challenge of a few acres around here. Obviously you would not make much (if any) money, but you would enjoy life if you eat meat, cheese, lots of vegetables, drink wine, and do not tell the locals how to do things - just do it your way and let them slowly realise for themselves that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
     
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  2. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Yeah I'm learning a lot from you lot, even if its to run things past you folks and refine my ideas. If I had steep ground I'd certainly put in terraces but even dad's place is pretty level, it might be an idea for the area to the side of the ramp out of the swamp but the neighbouring field is let for cattle through the summer and the fence is pathetic even though it was only put up 3 years ago. Thinking of offering to put a new one up if they pay for the materials, good fences make good neighbours

    One of the advantages of the internet, particularly forums like this is how quickly ideas can be disseminated from different areas of the world. I would think terracing techniques from the like of Peru would be worth a look. Bet they could grow some powerful garlic :nailbiting::wtf::LOL: I've just put in some Red Duke I'd overlooked which is supposed to be a pretty potent variety originating in Russia.

    My real regret is I haven't got the land for other livestock as they are my specialist area, veg is really a new area for me, other than swedes barley &etc., so lots to learn and keep my mind occupied as well as physically active. Move to a warmer climate with more area does have some appeal though. I'm also incapable of leaving things as is, some work, some don't, other's need refined. The first lettuces I tried to grow in pots last year weren't that great until I increased the pot depth from 5 to 7 inches. Brassicas don't seem to do very well in planters. After speaking to a very helpful seed tattie grower I've changed things a bit, though WTF I'm going to do with 25Kg of tattie fert when I only need a tablespoonful/planter:scratchhead:

    My son has built his first big raised bed using half sleepers he took out one of his sheds that he's renovating
    to go with his stockboard ones and it's looking good, he should have enough boards to build quite a few more. I grow extra seedlings in my propagator and greenhouse and give him the surplus if he wants them, I've also given him some of the tattie manure to him but I've still got about 15kg
     
  3. Pasty

    Pasty Member

    Location:
    Devon
    If one was to do terraces, do you dig or build up, if you see what I mean? I guess it depends what is underneath to some extent. Either way I assume each 'edge' needs a spporting structure of some kind.
     
  4. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    If I was building a big terrace like along a hillside, I'd dig down and throw up if you see what I mean, you'd have to dig over the soil anyway, then support the lower 'edge' of each terrace with a dry stone wall. Need to be a properly built wall rather than those half arsed efforts with only one side of doubling:mad:, unless of course you had some proper big boulders you could build a Galloway dyke from which is a whole different skill especially using granite.

    I've come to the conclusion that the old maxim "the best fertiliser is a farmer's feet" holds true for gardeners hands and much prefer not to wear gloves for potting and planting.
     
  5. Old McDonald

    Old McDonald Member

    Location:
    Inland Portugal
    @Pasty The ones I have seen for grapes and olives are built up. Build a dry stone wall and fill in behind it with organic matter, soil etc. if available, and plant. They drain well enough. I would imagine that the stone for the walls would be taken from the area that becomes the planting area rather than be carried onto the site. That would be a herculean task.

    Along steep river valleys, the Douro being Portugal's prime example, the walls tend to be long. There is often no natural soil and so initially I understand the grape vines were planted into the broken rock/shale. Eventually the soil improves, but grapes produce good quality wines in "soils" that would not support much else. Their roots go down tens of feet. These terraces are often wide enough that donkey carts could travel on a flattened track between the terraced rows of vines. If not, it was hand humping. Modern equipment has changed it all so that they bulldoze tracks where needed when planting new vineyards. The same steep hillside of the river valley is still used to grow the grapes for Port and Douro Whites and Reds. I have not seen the Rhine vineyards, but from photographs they appear to be the same.

    For olive trees the walls are built for each tree individually because it saves a lot of wall building as the trees are spaced much further apart than vines. The walls are in the form of part of a circle - however much of the circle as is needed to meet up with the slope of the hill. There are thousands, possibly millions, of such trees. They are mainly neglected now as far as I have seen because the olives have to be carried off by hand. Millions of olive trees on the flat are similarly neglected but that is because the owners have left the land, or lived elsewhere when it was inherited.

    The advantage of these terraces or individual "planters" for trees is that the work is done on a flat area and not a steep hillside; the vines or trees are in a deep bed; and there is no erosion because each terrace stops any downward movement of runoff. Obviously exactly on the contour is ideal for the long terraces, but I suppose that is not always possible. The height of the wall (for vines) depends on the steepness of the hill. For olives it appears to be whatever was convenient to form a big enough "planter".
     
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  6. Old McDonald

    Old McDonald Member

    Location:
    Inland Portugal
    You posted as I was replying to Pasty. As far as I know only sufficient stone to build the wall was removed from the area where the grapes were to be planted. As posted, there is often no soil as such so "digging" in the conventional sense is not really an option.

    I have similar ground here that my wife has been making into ornamental gardens. She just needs to get a bush or shrub started and she can keep it going. She has to do weeding immediately after a decent fall of rain because there is no soil for her to dig up the weeds and she has to rely on the roots being slightly easier to pull out when it is wet. It works.
     
  7. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    @Old MacDonald fascinating as usual, such a shame all the hard work that was put in is now neglected and going to ruin. If I remember correctly on Fuerta Ventura they used a system where the trees were grown in sumps dug into the rock to collect any moisture, that place is seriously arid. It's amazing where things can grow there's a wind-blasted tree above Lake Windermere (or there used to be) that is growing from between a cluster of limestone or slate slabs which have somehow got tipped onto the vertical, obviously enough matter been blown into the cracks to allow it to germinate and grow.

    Am I right in thinking that there's a place that was growing unusually good grapes for an area, when they eventually traced the vine roots they'd tracked towards where a donkey had been buried decades before? Pretty sure it was somewhere in the Iberian peninsula.

    Just a thought but would a weed-wand be any use for your wife's weeding or are things generally too dry?
     
  8. Old McDonald

    Old McDonald Member

    Location:
    Inland Portugal
    It is not going to ruin The trees are neglected, but these walls will stand for many centuries. There are numerous Roman walls, bridges, aquaducts etc. in Portugal. They are not ruined - except where various idiotic armies have used them for target practice, like the French did with the Sphynx, but they are neglected. The trees could be brought back into production, it just takes somebody with the will to do it.

    I suspect your story about the dead donkey is a myth. Never heard it before, but a similar story is that in this locality the best producing quince trees are planted on top of a Frenchman. Napolean's troops were stationed in and around what is now my house for a few days during the Peninsular campaign and the rumour is that the soldiers, being French, went looking for stray crumpet at night - some were caught, slaughtered and buried with a quince planted over the top of them.

    My wife prefers to dig out each weed by hand and ensure it is like Monty Python's dead parrot - totally dead, deceased, etc. etc. I do spray nearby and along her edging stones, but she does like to be at close quarters wiht her foe.
     
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  9. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    I suppose it must be down to climate/vegetation growth, anything that is abandoned round here is reclaimed by nature in short order plenty of dykes round here that I can remember being in good order are now little more than a ridge of higher ground in the landscape, same in the Lake District away from the tourist areas.

    I've got a couple of weeds (couch and ground elder) I'm going to have to regularly glyphos to keep under control as the last thing I want to do is break them up:mad:

    Just to look on brighter side the things that have gone well
    DSCF9446.JPG DSCF9459.JPG DSCF9441.JPG DSCF9457.JPG

    1. Dug out and removed massive tree stump, rubble, stripped back a couple of yards of old dyke and replaced with post /rail and built new dyke cheek, still a bit of tidying up when I get the tractor and trailer back
    2. Garlic and Langor shallots planted and doing well
    3. Bird feeder made to replace the dying apple tree I removed to give better access to sort out the drains
    4.1st and 2nd tatties now all in planted and safely in a cage for now.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
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  10. New Puritan

    New Puritan Member

    Location:
    East Sussex
    @KMA - that all looks very organised. I've not got my spuds in yet, and I'm down in Sussex so should probably have managed it a few weeks ago. I saw my dad yesterday and his potatoes are already coming through the ground.

    For container growing this probably isn't so relevant, but I have found that growing mustard between the rows of potatoes reduces wireworm. I heard of this somewhere ages ago, and have to say it seems to work. I think it's simply that the mustard is in the cabbage family, and the smell confuses the wireworm so they can't home in on the potatoes as easily. As I grow my vegetables on an allotment, the advantage is that there will be plenty of other potatoes being grown elsewhere nearby on other people's plots which they can then target instead. I realise this doesn't make me sound very public spirited, but unfortunately the reality of trying to prevent pests is that successful prevention will often mean the pest goes somewhere else.
     
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  11. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    I'd hardly call the swamp organised, cleared maybe and I have surprised myself by how much I've managed to get done since the turn of the year. Maybe by the end of this year I might be able to call it a garden. Biggest hold up is budgetary constraints but I should have enough later in the month to hire a mini-digger for a week and get the trenches dug, then its the pea gravel. After that I should be able to really crack-on, I've already got all the bits I need to put the beds together and I'll treat all the timber while I'm waiting to be able to hire the digger. I'm very happy to put in the necessary hours of hard graft and there's a lot of satisfaction in being able to look at something and say "I did that" with quiet satisfaction. I'm hoping to have the first 3 beds in by the end of April which will be early enough for most crops here.

    Not heard of the mustard/potato thing sounds like a plan though.

    I'm a bit early getting my spuds in but I had them stored in a warm, dark, dry cupboard in the basement and they were chitting like mad so I thought I'd get them in before they took over the house. I've been re-potting the perennial herbs and have put them into the cage with the tatties for now. Still got the main-crop (Orla, Cara and Setanta) to put in. Until I get the drains in everything has to be mobile, I've got another large cage 8'x6' like the one in the pic that I can deploy but wherever I put it would be in the way just now.

    Definitely jumped the gun with the tomatoes, beans and courgettes so I'll have to be careful and keep my fingers crossed. The propagator hasn't helped as things seem to be germinating in half the normal time, 3 of the lettuce were up through 3 days after I sowed them.
     
  12. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Arghh! I'm blaming @Pasty and @Old McDonald. Decided it would be a good idea to terrace the slope down from the gate. WTF was I thinking! working with a barrow and 3 buckets, 1 for stones, 1 for weeds and 1 for treasures. So far loads of broken glass, crockery, chimney pots, an old leather shoe sole, the bowl of a tobacco pipe, 2 glass marbles 1 clay marble and few barrow-loads of decent soil which has been put aside.

    Most of the stone has been used in the bottom of the drainage trench and the remainder is being used to back-fill the top terrace. I'm building the retaining wall of the top terrace with blocks of sandstone which I'm reclaiming from various areas of the garden, then backfilling it with stones and rubble before topping it with decorative gravel. There's no point in trying to make a planting area as it's next to the road and one of the dogs' favourite places.

    For the rest of the slope I'm thinking of raised beds although I did have the idea of a series of cold frames.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
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  13. Pasty

    Pasty Member

    Location:
    Devon
    I know the feeling. We lived in a modern (70s) house in the village for a while which had a retaining wall about 6' off the back wall and a garden going up from there. I decided we needed a bigger space out back so took down the wall and removed the 'soil'. You wouldn't believe what the builders had dumped in there.
     
  14. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    DSCF9464.JPG DSCF9470.JPG

    1. making a start
    2. progress so far

    and if the spanner doesn't stop photo bombing he's going in with the rubble
     
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  15. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Mini-digger collected this morning. Started with what I think will be the most awkward trenches - the main one and the shortest spur. got them done by half three. Making a start on the third trench after a cuppa and hope to have all the trenching done by stopping time tomorrow. Its as lot easier than digging by hand but hard on the concentration as I still haven't got it intuitively yet, the controls are logical enough though.

    I really wonder WTF the previous occupiers of this place were thinking, huge amount of crap to sort out even after I've got the drains in:banghead: the more I dig the more things :scratchhead::scratchhead::scratchhead:
     
  16. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Well that's the trenching done, just need to put in the levels then line with pea gravel. DSCF9481.JPG DSCF9482.JPG DSCF9483.JPG

    Bit of a hold up with collecting it as apparently the trailer is needed to collect 2 years worth of horse sh!t to collect from a stables first and

    Son; 'How much cattle sh!t do you need, dad?'

    Me; 'Eh what? Where from?'

    Son; 'From the shed I've rented out to my neighbour for their for dairy heifers'

    Me; 'Erm, let me think about it'

    Now I calculate 1 barrowload of FYM per year is enough to do a 12x4 bed so even if I can get all 8 beds built this year I'm only going to need 8 barrowloads. Quite WTF we're going top do with more than 6 ton of horse sh!t + about the same of sheep and feck knows how much cattle sh!t is beyond me at the moment but I'm reluctant to turn it down
     
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  17. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Fence round the kero tank finished and levels in the trenches done. At a bit of an impasse until I can get the pea gravel which won't be before Wednesday. Strawberry towers are getting lots of positive comments.
     
  18. Nell

    Nell Member

    Location:
    Scotland
    @KMA is now demolishing a rockery...type thing in front of the house and is using the decorative gravel to line his top terrace.

    He now has two new fweinds - a huge feck off v. unhappy tarantula that had me running away screaming and this little chap, which google says is a juvenile palmate newt.

    newt.jpg
     
  19. KMA

    KMA Member

    Location:
    Dumfriesshire
    Spid has been dodging my attentions all day, Nigel the newt has been relocated to a purpose built bijou little residence nearer to where the outflow from the drain will be. Also found another china marble/stopper thing, half a curling stone, 3 what appear to be sandstone drain toppers but haven't finished excavating them yet. Finally two pipes which I think are meant to take the water from the drop pipe from that part of the guttering but are bone dry despite the rain, something else to sort out :scratchhead:.

    The wall for the top terrace is now complete and have blinded the rubble infill with the pea gravel/potting grit from the bit I'm demolishing. There's some small decorative gravel mixed in which I'm sorting out for later use. I've got a fair bit of sandstone to put aside and the other stones are back-filling the trenches to reduce the amount of pea-gravel I'll need to buy in.
     

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