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 Post subject: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:39 am 
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Semen Strong
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Location: Cliffbar NJ
I am looking for a cheap way to get soil for my raised bed. At Home Depot they suggested Miracle Gro and a 2.5lb bag of the cheapest stuff was $13 and we need at least 10 bags for 2 4x4 beds. I would like to spend less than $130.

People keep giving me helpful suggestions for things that are ridiculously expensive (hey go to this great organic garden store, where the soil is prechewed by Japanese mountain goats, its the best soil anywhere!) or that are not feasible at the moment (why can't you just use your own compost? I don't compost yet).

I am getting frustrated looking because I find so much info but no real help in figuring out how to make my own recipe, so any resources are appreciated!

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:02 am 
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Saggy Butt
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Check Craigslist! People here are always selling or giving away soil. Sometimes you have to come load it yourself, but sometimes you can pay to have it delivered.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:11 am 
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Semen Strong
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Would I be risking contaminated soil though? We live in NNJ and I keep hearing not to garden in the actual soil, because its full of toxins and contaminants. We live by the Passaic, which is supposedly one of the most polluted rivers in the US...

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:14 am 
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Saggy Butt
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I guess it would depend on the source (and, more importantly, if you trust the seller). But we just ripped out our raised garden beds and sold our fancy organic compost-amended soil on CL.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:17 am 
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Semen Strong
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Thank you!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Our raised bed planters are not filled with dirt. We used upside-down buckets with plywood or something on top, then plastic lined so the wood doesn't rot too fast, to fill in the bottom two-thirds and only have dirt in the top 10" or so. It works out fine, I grow carrots, so they are deep enough for that. Probably I have to water more often then if they had more dirt, but as you now know, good dirt is expensive!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:24 pm 
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Can you get your soil tested? A lot of times you can do it for free and then you can just amend what you've which is cheaper than buying new soil. I was at a gardening workshop where they said no matter how bad your soil is, as long as it isn't toxic, amending it is always better than buying blends so I think it might be worth looking into. I personally wouldn't go the miracle grow route if it's something you are going to be eating. There are garden centers here where you can bag your own soil and it is considerably less expensive.

And I know you said you aren't composting yet, but I encourage you to start! I wish I had started years earlier because it is so easy and such a money saver. You can just start with a pile, just cover food scraps with leaves, it doesn't need anything special.

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:24 pm 
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Yeah also there are some retail places that sell it by the truck-load. Often the same kind of places you'd buy bulk rock and shitte for landscaping.

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:34 pm 
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~Sz wrote:
Our raised bed planters are not filled with dirt. We used upside-down buckets with plywood or something on top, then plastic lined so the wood doesn't rot too fast, to fill in the bottom two-thirds and only have dirt in the top 10" or so. It works out fine, I grow carrots, so they are deep enough for that. Probably I have to water more often then if they had more dirt, but as you now know, good dirt is expensive!!!

You can also put a deep layer of wood chips down and then put a mix of bought compost and soil on top - I think 6-8" would be enough for most crops. Call local tree services to see about getting a free load of chips dumped! And look up 'lasagna gardening' for the easiest way to make new beds. Like cooking, I don't follow their recipe but it always turns out okay. Our make-do recipe is too coarse for fine seeds the first year, so I primarily transplant into them - things like tomatoes and squash and kale/cabbage starts too.

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:41 pm 
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I've have a bin in my garage that is full of stuff from my indoor composter. Last year was the first time I used it and I mixed it with regular dirt. I was amazed at how much better the stuff I grew came in. I'm all excited because I won a raised bed at a charity auction and now I can grow real lettuce.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:25 pm 
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also for chips, the power company often has chips for free or super cheap; the county might have composting programs where you can buy or take the compost. also, the easiest thing to do might be to contact cooperative extension and ask what they suggest. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/county/

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:45 pm 
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I had a heck of a time finding soil for my raised beds in NJ. It is impossible to find good compost for sale anywhere around here. (everybody also always says how easy it is to make your own, but my compost bin has never produced good stuff) I ended up getting topsoil delivered. It was expensive so I can't really recommend that route.

I'm not sure about up by your area, but in central jersey the best bet is around Rutgers. Ag Field day was actually yesterday though, which is when they have their big plant sale and I'm sure there would be lots of people who could tell you where to get good soil. There are a couple really great nurseries in New Brunswick too.

Otherwise the only thing I can think of is to call your local Master Gardener and ask for some recommendations. They're the folks who could tell you about soil testing too.

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:22 am 
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I'm seconding lasagna gardening. Most of the bed is filled up with cheap materials like shredded newspaper, hay, or leaves. And then you use just a small amount of something like grass clippings or coffee grounds. You can possibly get coffee grounds from Starbucks or other local coffee shops for free.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:20 am 
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Semen Strong
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Thank you SO much for the tip about the Master Gardener program! There is actually a branch near me and they have a ton of great projects that we can visit with L.

Aubade, would you and Kai be up for a trip to Rutgers Gardens or Laurelwood Arboretum? We could do a toddler picnic!

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 2:59 pm 
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This might be late, but Home Depot has a store brand bag of Hummus and Manure for $1.59 for 40lbs. I filled my 4ft by 12ft garden with the cheapy topsoil bags and then did a layer of the hummus/manure. Now I compost in there over the winter so the soil is very rich.

We just built a 12ft by 18ft garden box in the back and to fill it 8 inches with soil, I am getting 5.5 yards of dirt delivered. It is half black soil and half Michigan organic compost.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 3:05 pm 
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Semen Strong
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Thanks! I just got Organic Top Soil at Lowes - it was about $100 for one 8'x4' section, but I'll look for Hummus and Manure (mmmm hummus!) at HD next time!

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 3:29 pm 
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haha. it actually has one m. :-) pronounced "hugh-miss"

mushroom soil is actually really great. (and it's a byproduct of mushroom farming, and being so close to kennett square, we have access to the motherlode.)

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 7:04 pm 
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One thing about raised beds vs the ground -- be sure to ask about any manure / enriched soil. You don't want it to be too hot. Actively composting soil and manure creates its own heat. I'm not exactly sure how to explain this so it makes sense.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 8:28 pm 
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Semen Strong
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That does make sense, and I hadn't thought about that issue. Thank you for the information. I will try and see if I can find any information as to how to best balance fertilizer and compost with raised beds.

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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 4:02 pm 
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I would also be cautious about using compost containing manure as most of it is from factory farms but you won't find that on the labels. When I asked about the source of manure in a "garden blend" available via a local garden company, they had a very shifty response along the lines of "Oh, ...um...I think we only get manure at an organic farm north of the city but I couldn't tell you which one." Yeah, right.

If you know of a sanctuary or someone with a rescue farm you may be able to get safer manure and also support them at the same time. Bat rescues do this.

Also keep in mind that research from University of Minn re: antibiotic uptake into produce from manure of animals in CAFOs. It's an unpopular subject with the media but something to keep in mind. Read this whole page from the Extension service but specifically this part about the antibiotics:
http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PL ... ntibiotics

And remember, manure from dogs and cats is a huge no no for vegetable gardens (I've heard of people composting it for ornamentals, I just wouldn't do it for edible). I had to scrap my entire garden after our yard flooded a couple summers ago. The neighbor never scooped their poo and we are downhill from them so I got a fly-ridden shiitake slurry after the water soaked in. Stench was unbearable. A soil scientist at our Illinois Ext. Service advised me to trash everything, don't even compost it if it was in the ground or low enough to touch the water. So the following year, I converted to raised beds to mitigate any future issues. I still wash our root veggies exceedingly well before using, just in case.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 6:00 am 
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This was my first time ever making raised beds or growing a garden in general. I made 4 of them. I went to walmart, their Earthgro topsoil is $1.24 for a 40 lb bag, just plain ol dirt. I used 10 of those per bed, one bag of miracle grow garden soil which was 2.50 on a sale, and about a quarter of a HA-UGE bag of peat moss which was about 9 bux. To feed the soil in a compost-y way without the actual work of a compost heap, I just bury my kitchen scraps deep down into the beds.

I had wanted to do everything organic and such, but this being my first time doing a garden, I didn't want to spend too much money in case my black thumb killed everything.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 4:06 pm 
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Michele LeAnn wrote:
To feed the soil in a compost-y way without the actual work of a compost heap, I just bury my kitchen scraps deep down into the beds.


I've done that myself and call it "in situ composting", no idea if there's actually a term for it. When I was a kid living in the country (circa 1976), my grandma would just throw the scraps "out yonder in the garden." She didn't even bury them.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 4:15 pm 
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BTW, if you need good vegan fertilizer and don't want to make your own, there's a vegan CSA farm out west that sells their own blend. I bought a bag and use it in all my flower pots and the raised beds that need a boost.

http://www.growveganic.com/

There's another one I can't recall the name of but it's made by a company that also sells animal products (blood/feather/bone meals).


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 6:15 pm 
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I would put coffee grounds right into the soil, but everything else I am afraid to heat up the soil too much. So, I do city composting. I put all my kitchen scraps in the greenery can and the city has always picked it up even when it was like 30lbs of orange peels buzzing with fruit flies. Then, when we need compost, we take an amazing trip to the awesome part of the city dump and mulch up.


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 Post subject: Re: Soil for raised beds?
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 11:20 am 
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~Sz wrote:
I would put coffee grounds right into the soil, but everything else I am afraid to heat up the soil too much. So, I do city composting. I put all my kitchen scraps in the greenery can and the city has always picked it up even when it was like 30lbs of orange peels buzzing with fruit flies. Then, when we need compost, we take an amazing trip to the awesome part of the city dump and mulch up.

OMG what is this magical kingdom where the city does your composting? I want to move there pronto! Seriously, Chicago proper is still struggling with doling out recycle bins and in our little suburb, all we have is recycling.


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