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Moving to OK - to raise beds, or not to raise beds?

15 years ago

Hello there -

I posted this over in the Oklahoma forum and one respondent suggested I repost here. My basic question is that with the heavy clay content of where I'm planning to move (a location with entirely unimproved soil, torn up prairie), should I build 2' tall raised beds ringed with 8" pressed stone/concrete blocks and full of sandy loam+compost, or should I dig down into the soil, amend with loam+compost and ring it with a barrier? I guess the question is, when the summers are very hot and dry, does a raised bed make sense, or will it just dry out too fast? (I say raised bed to mean a bed that's actually defined and walled, not just a bed that's a little higher than the surrounding ground.)

Anyway, here was my original post:

There's a very good chance I'll be moving from St. Paul, MN (zone 4) to Broken Arrow, OK (zone... 6? 7?) within the next month. I've seen the land that my new house will be on. It was scrub prairie and now it's been leveled and churned. The soil is mostly clay with a fair amount of rock added for variety. Looks nasty.

So I was thinking raised beds, as I don't want to go through the years of work to get the soil into condition for growing things. I figure I can fit in six beds with internal dimensions of 4x12, about 2' high, edged with that concrete builder stone they sell at Lowes or garden/hardware stores. Also, I can put in four beds with internals of 4x2. Those will be for the garden "thugs", like mint, horseradish and rhubarb.

I figure I need 1000 cubic feet of stuff to go in the beds. What's a good combo? I think the standard square foot gardening ratio is 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost and 1/3... what? vermiculite I think. Is that a good idea to go with?

How much, if at all, should I dig into the existing soil, or should I just plop the beds down right on top of it? I can just specify areas where they don't lay down sod, so existing grass isn't an issue.

What should I incorporate for watering? I was thinking I'd have them sod the areas between the beds and keep them wide enough to mow between. Or I could lay down pavers or pea gravel, but it seems to me that might be expensive for little return. Or would it be worth it down the road?

Anything else I'm missing? There aren't any trees nearby to threaten shade.

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