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Leaf Litter or Lumber Yard Leftovers? What to Layer Under Your Raised Bed (and What to Avoid!)

Leaf Litter or Lumber Yard Leftovers? What to Layer Under Your Raised Bed (and What to Avoid!)

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Raised garden beds have the potential to be very beneficial. Many people are starting to switch to using them because they allow you to garden without having to deal with so much back pain.

Also, it really helps in many practical ways that can help the plants. Raised garden beds typically have fewer problems with weeds and you’ll also be able to enjoy better water retention if you live in an area that has sandy soil.

There are many reasons to want to use raised garden beds in your garden area. If you’re just now installing some of them, then you might be wondering what you should put at the bottom of the beds.

What should you put at the bottom of a raised garden bed to get the best results? Keep reading to get more information so they will be as successful as possible.

Organic Materials

Experts say that the best thing to put on the bottom of a raised garden bed is some type of organic material. You’re actually going to want to place many organic materials that will turn into compost.

Gardeners often put organic materials such as straw, leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, and other types of yard debris at the bottom of raised garden beds. After you place organic materials, you’re supposed to put cardboard on the top of that layer.

The cardboard is there to help the organic materials compost faster. As an added benefit, the cardboard is also going to be capable of helping to keep weeds from sprouting.

If you don’t have cardboard that you can use to do this, then you can also use old newspapers. Both options are great for helping the compost to do what it needs to do while also preventing weeds from being problematic.

You don’t have to worry about disposing of the cardboard or newspapers either. They’re made out of organic materials that will break down over time.

Eventually, the cardboard and the newspapers will disappear and turn into compost. However, these materials will stick around long enough to help you prevent weeds from sprouting.

Mulching with Straw Is an Option

When you have concerns about moisture retention, it’s going to be wise to do what you can to help with that. One strong idea that can make moisture retention better in a raised garden bed is to use straw mulch.

Mulching with straw is going to solve any problems that you have with retaining moisture. If this is a significant problem, straw mulch will be the most beneficial thing to place at the bottom of your raised garden bed.

This is good for more than just retaining moisture, too. Straw mulch also does an admirable job of keeping weeds out of your raised garden bed.

To get the best results with straw mulch, it’s recommended to place a three- or four-inch layer in your raised garden bed. When the spring comes, you’re going to want to take the time to spade it into the soil.

You don’t want to go too deep when doing this because you’ll run the risk of bringing weed seeds to the surface. So long as you don’t go overboard, this should be a very good thing for your garden area.

Avoid Laying Carpet at the Bottom

If you’ve heard advice from some gardeners saying that laying carpet at the bottom of a raised garden bed is a good idea, you should know that this isn’t true at all. If you put some sort of carpet at the bottom of the raised garden bed, it’s going to cause you to have problems with drainage.

As any gardener knows, poor drainage can wind up being the kiss of death for many plants. You want to avoid causing drainage issues by putting material at the bottom of the raised garden bed that won’t truly help you out.

It’s notable that having carpeting at the bottom will also cause many root vegetables to encounter significant issues. It could limit the growth potential of the root vegetables and you certainly don’t want that to happen.

The same people who suggest using carpeting at the bottom of raised garden beds often tout using plastic bags as well. This is going to be a bad idea for the same reasons that you shouldn’t be using carpeting.

You Don’t Need to Have a Bottom

Another misconception that people have about raised garden beds is that they need to have a bottom. There really isn’t a reason to have a bottom on the raised garden bed unless you’re trying to protect the surface that is below the bed for some reason.

Having a bottom might wind up limiting what you can do in the raised garden bed. For example, you know that carpeting can limit the growth potential of root vegetables, and the same thing could happen if you have a bottom to the garden bed.

Even though you don’t need to place a true bottom, it’s still good to use weed barriers of some sort. That’s why placing cardboard above a compost layer will work so well.

If you don’t want to use compost, you could simply place a weed barrier that is made out of special fabric. These work well to prevent weeds from becoming a big problem.

Remember Not to Step on the Soil

You want to avoid compacting the soil when you’re taking care of a raised garden bed. The rich soil in the raised garden bed is going to do much better if you don’t step on it.

You’ll likely see better plant growth in the raised garden bed because of how light the soil is. If you compact it down by stepping on the soil, you’re ruining that.

This means that you need to care for the plants without actually stepping on the raised garden bed. If you can care for the plants without stepping on the soil, the aeration will remain high and everything will work out better.


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