Our Raised Beds

In Growing & Gardening, Updates by Nick0 Comments

Back in September last year I posted about raised beds and how I wanted to build them using permaculture techniques (yes I know, very eco-tree-hugger of me!).

Well, before our visit the lads prepared the foundations for the 5 raised beds we have built close to the house which will be our home garden – primarily for growing the veggies we will eat (as opposed to crops grown mainly to feed livestock and fruit trees/bushes). We had hoped to have had the beds built by the time we arrived in May but for various reasons that didn’t happen – so our goal was to get at least two beds built completely and then work with the lads to fill them as we wanted, so that they could complete the other three beds – and that worked out great.

Building the beds

We chose built raised beds mainly because (a) they are close to the house so we wanted them to look pretty tidy (b) we had a lot of reclaimed bricks from the other house on our property and if we needed more they are very cheap compared to new ones (c) we wanted the height and width of the beds to be easy for us to work especially as we get a bit older :-).  The five beds are each 5m long, 1.25m wide with 80cm above ground and 50cm below ground level. The walls are built on a concrete foundation.  Each bed also has a water pipe running into it, fed from the gutters of the main house and the three beds closest to the patio will also get the run off from the patio into gravel filled sink holes that will hopefully take water runoff below underground base level of the beds.

Filling the beds

Hugelkultur

The hugelkultur concept is that the large chunks of wood in the base/bottom of the bed soak up and store a lot of water that is available to the growing things above, and also as the wood decomposes it releases nutrients and nitrogen for use by the plants and crops.

The decomposing wood also attracts beneficial critters that help to churn up and decompose the soil, manure, wood and green matter mixture to create a nutrient rich growing medium – this is enhanced by layering compost and/or manure (тор in Bulgarian), green matter (in our case brush cuttings and grass from the land) and regular soil. You can find an extensive explanation of hugelkultur here.

The advantage in our case is that we don’t need to plant in it straight away so the content of the beds will be composting themselves for perhaps 12 months before we are ready to plant in them, so the soil should be really good (that’s the hope anyway). We couldn’t find a proper translation for raised beds or hugelkultur, but the lads call the beds “orangeini” which apparently means greenhouse (or парник in Bulgarian).

All 5 beds complete and put to bed!

All 5 raised beds complete and put to bed – we are REALLY happy!

Eventually, once the boundary walls and house etc. are all finished we will probably give the beds a covering of either very rough plaster or more traditional wattle & daub type plaster (mud, manure and straw) and a coat of whitewash to make them look a bit prettier – maybe!

The beds all got a good drenching during the bad weather and after that had passed, about 2 weeks later, they got another good drenching with the hosepipe.  The level had started to drop and there weren’t many worms present 🙁 but lots of wood lice (I think they are called Pill Bugs in the USA) which is OK at the moment as they tear up all the green material which is what we want.

When we return in October I am expecting that the level in the beds will have dropped quite a bit and my plan is to top them up with a layer of fresh brush/grass cuttings or straw and a layer of well composted manure up to the top.  I also hope to get some worms from an amazing biohumus farm in BG (www.wastenomo.eu) setup and run by Dimo Stefanov and add a couple of buckets to each raised bed to help improve the soil in them. That is not the perfect vermiculture medium but I think it will do a good job in the beds until we are ready to plant. Just FYI Bulgaria is one of the biggest exporters of worms for horticultural and agricultural purposes in the world!

We are going to try some other hugelkultur based planting areas, like some keyhole gardens around the house and in odds areas, as well as hugelkultur “foundations” where we plant stands of trees and bushes in what we want to be the pig area.

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