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Nov 4, 2010 10:29 AM

Raised bed for winter garden

Hi there,
I just put in a raised bed to get started on a fall/winter garden. I missed the late summer season, but I'm looking forward to trying my hand at some specific winter crops. I know I'll have to cover it at some point and I'm totally fine with that. It's designed to have hoops added over the top and I'll get some cloth when the time comes.
My question is this. I didn't do the best job leveling out the space before I layed down the bed. Will there be a problem if my bed is a bit lopsided?
I am thinking it's not such a big deal, as the area of yard is actually not flat to begin with, but then I got to thinking, drainage.
If it's slanted a bit, will water accumulate on one end, and drown the plants in that area?
I believe I have good drainage, and there is a mixture of soil and pebbles below the bed (the bed is 11" deep).
It's not too late to pull it out and try to level the ground more. I was going to fill it with dirt and ammendment today, then let it sit a few days before planting it up this weekend (Before the rain I hope!).
I don't especially want to start over, but I will. I really don't want to look at it all season and be dissapointed with my efforts.
Your advice please? I am going to provide some photos, not sure if it will show the slant on the South side. I'd say it's about a 15% slope. That's totally a guess though.
eta: my photos are always sideways! I don't know why, so sorry!

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  1. It should be fine if it is on a slight slope. If you are worried maybe put some landscape fabric on the low side( inside the bed) and add dirt on top of it? What are you going to grow? I am lucky and can grow veggies threw the winter in Ca. I just started kale, snap peas, chard, lettuce carrots, and beets.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jay D.

      Thanks for the reply JD. I am also in CA, northern California and I look forward to being able to grow quite a bit this winter.
      I was at my local nursery today and was pleasantly surprised when an expert there told me I could grow chard, celery, lettuces and cabbages without any problems with frost. i.e., no covering.
      Can this be true?
      I plan on doing radishes, onions and garlic, but nothing too big as I only have one 4'x8'x11" bed. Won't put in the second one until next Spring.
      I am thinking of lifting out the bed and trying to get the ground just a little more level. So far I have two votes for 'no problem', you and a woman at the Nursery. I think it will just bug me all winter to look at the slant.
      I know, silly, but that's me.
      The whole snap pea thing as a winter crop confuses me, btw!

      1. re: rabaja

        I know the snap pea as a fall/winter veggie throws a lot of people. I live in the Bay area and it is mild enough. They take up some room so it might not be what you want to try with only one bed. Chard, kale,radish, beets,carrots all do fine unprotected, lettuce as well.
        Check out the fall seeds at Territorial seeds.

        Might as well fix the slant now and put it behind you if it is going to bug you?

    2. I'm on the not a problem side as well. If it really bothers you, you could make the downhill side wall slightly higher and level out the soil when you add your amendments. Just tack on another board slightly wider than the width you think you need to accommodate the amount of fill to bring it up to level.

      Most definitely you can grow all those things mentioned by Jay D and your nursery. We're in the Blue Ridge Mts in Virginia and we grow all that through the winter (except the peas) although we already have our plastic tunnels in place. We also have broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsnips, celeriac (celery is continually problematic for us), cutting celery, rutabagas, and fava beans growing right now.

      Last year we were harvesting into January and would have probably harvested through to spring but a severe ice storm brought down the plastic before we could get out there and unload the weight.

      2 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        Thanks so much for the reply Morwen! I was hoping you would weigh in, as I've read many of your informed posts on this particular board.
        I may try to level it out a tiny bit, but I am not going to beat myself up about it now, so thank you.
        I am trying to decide what to go with in terms of variety and space. I like the idea of cutting celery as opposed to celery and celeriac for sure. With my limited space, it seems to me, the more root veggies the better.
        What problems did you have with regular celery? I like the idea of cutting celery for soups and stocks and stews, and I know I probably won't get pale traditional celery (which I prefer) so why bother.
        One thing, I bought dirt and amendment at one nursery, who told me to mix it up and let it sit for a few days so it's not so 'hot'. When I mentioned this at a second nursery, the guy there said if the amendment came in a bag it's already sat enough and I can plant in it immediately.
        What do you think?

        1. re: rabaja

          If your amendments are hot at all you'll be able to feel it. If it's cold enough out, you'll be able to see it steam. *Most* stuff bought from nurseries or in bags should be just fine. Usually if something is referred to as hot it's either compost that's working or manure breaking down or a combination thereof and shouldn't be put on the garden until it's completely done working. If you can find llama poo you can put that straight on your garden because it's one of the few cold manures and a very good fertilizer. There are a number of llama owners in our area and they're happy to see us haul it away!

          Where celery is concerned we just don't seem to have any luck with it. Others in our area grow it well. We don't have any problems with celeriac so I use that in stuff for celery flavor and crunch as well as a veg in it's own right. Cutting celery has a strong flavor so it's good in cooked stuff and the leaves used sparingly are nice in salads or garnish. I've found cutting celery slow to grow from seed so if you can pick up started plants you may prefer to do so. If you can grow celery, you don't need to blanch it. Green celery actually has more flavor and nutrients. To blanch celery you don't need to go to the trouble of hilling it up, just cover it with a bag when it gets big enough that it's starting to bunch.

          The nice thing about root veg in limited space is you can interplant them with top growing veg. For example, plant beets and when they come up, thin them and plant lettuce in between the beets. If you nip a few beet greens when you're cutting your lettuce, no big deal, they're good in salads. Radishes with their short growing times, can be planted in and around lots of other things because they're generally ready to harvest before what they're planted with becomes competitive. When you're doing interplantings just remember to take into account how much space a plant takes in all directions when deciding what to plant around it. Something may need say a 12" spacing but it's leaves may spread out in a 4' diameter on it's way to maturity. This is a lesson I'm still trying to teach DH (engineer) as he maps out our gardens for space efficiency. He keeps planting shorter plants in front of taller ones based on the seed spacing thinking they'll get plenty of sun. Then the taller plants leaf out in all their glory and cover the smaller ones up, shading them out and killing them. Not efficient. Ooops....sore spot and point of contention....sorry.... ;-)