A modern person needs a dacha not only to satisfy the peasant’s instinct and provide his family with vegetables and fruits, but also as a place to relax from city problems and bustle. And no one doubts that it is always more pleasant to have a rest in a conveniently equipped beautiful territory. The topic of our article is “smart” beds from the point of view of organic farming.
The main goal of organic farming is to preserve and increase soil fertility. And the technology of the device of “smart” beds will help us learn how to properly plan and decorate a personal plot.
Beds in organic farming can look different, but the main principle of their formation is to make the most of small areas.
“Smart” paths should be at least 40 centimeters wide – so it will be convenient to walk on them, carry a wheelbarrow, carry water and so on. The most inconvenient thing in the garden is right angles. Therefore, when laying “smart” beds and “smart” paths, you will have a wide field for experimentation and creativity. You can equip oblique, triangular, radial beds, in this case everything depends on the convenience of their use and maintenance.
“Smart” beds can be raised above the ground or deepened into it, can be “edged” and filled with humus. The height of the raised beds ranges from 20 to 80 centimeters, and the width can be different, it all depends on what is planned to be grown on such a bed.
Organic farming is constantly evolving. Practicing gardeners from year to year improve the methods of creating “smart” beds, come up with various forms and configurations. The main thing here is to understand the basic principles, to understand the essence of the process, and then everything will depend only on your desire and capabilities..
Raised container beds
The vegetable container is a type of raised bed used in organic farming. The width of this structure, as a rule, is about a meter, any length, and the height is from 30-40 cm to 70-80 cm. It is convenient to organize such beds right on the lawn, and decorated with tiled laying they will give your garden a unique design – a kind of flower beds for vegetables … In the center of the bed, you can install a trellis for climbing crops. And ideally, such a “flower bed” should be covered with a transparent roof, this will protect vegetables from various diseases.
For the walls of a vegetable container, thin materials (plywood, slate, thin boards, and especially iron) are not suitable, since such a bed will be very hot in hot weather. And you cannot equip it in the shade – there will be no good harvest. In this case, the frame must be made thoroughly, because strong winds can damage it, and the weight of the plants during the fruiting period is not small (50 kg per running meter). It is best to use timber or logs, brick or wild stone.
The lined vegetable container is filled in layers only with organic matter. At the very bottom, you can put rotten large tree branches, shavings, wood chips. Next, a coarse, unripe organic matter is placed, which is watered with bacterial fertilizers to accelerate ripening. We will talk with you in more detail about these fertilizers in the following articles. Unripe organic matter is sprinkled with humus and earth. Further, to the very top, the bed is filled with a layer of ready-made compost. It is important that this layer is at least 15–20 cm. Sand or earth must not be mixed with the finished compost, as this makes it compacted and settles. It is not required to loosen such a bed, in the spring you just need to add a layer of ready-made humus on top, and when the planted plants grow up, the soil must be mulched with straw or other suitable materials.
Watering the vegetable container is best done internally. To do this, when laying the beds, you need to evenly dig in several containers with holes (pipes or plastic bottles), which should be filled with water as needed. You can also bury hoses under the humus, wrapped in nylon stockings or other synthetic materials that allow water to pass through. The end of the hose is led out and connected to a water source. The main thing is not to forget to turn off the water after 15-20 minutes, so as not to overmoisten the garden.
A vegetable container is best made with a roof made of transparent materials (plastic wrap, cellular polycarbonate). This, of course, somewhat increases the cost of the structure, however, the roof reliably protects the plants from diseases. There is practically no dew under it, which provokes the appearance and development of late blight, peronospore and other dangerous diseases.
The vegetable container is raised high enough above ground level, so the soil in it warms up and ripens earlier. Any heat-loving crops in such a bed can be sown earlier than usual. If you correctly calculate the time and location of plants, then here you can first harvest radishes and watercress, then build a trellis for tomatoes or cucumbers in the middle, and plant beets, onions or carrots in the place of the radishes. After collecting root vegetables in the fall, you can sow radishes and salad in a vegetable container again.
As you can see, the vegetable container is convenient and beautiful. Such a bed saves space in the garden and allows you to get a harvest of various crops during one season. The large volume of nutrient compost allows you to minimize watering, feeding, weeding and loosening. There are a lot of advantages, however, there are also disadvantages.
You need to build a vegetable container, and you need to find strength, time and money for this. For such a bed, a lot of organic matter is required, which also needs to be taken somewhere and made sure that it is of good quality. These three perceived shortcomings lead to the fact that the vegetable container in personal plots is not common..
Experienced gardeners, taking the arrangement of the container bed as a basis, came up with simpler and cheaper options, but no less effective and convenient. For example, some crops can be harvested directly on the compost heap. For this, an additional compartment is attached to the place where the compost ripens. In the spring, half-prepared humus that has lain under the film all winter is thrown into this compartment. You can plant zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and tomatoes on such a bed..
Raised box beds are very popular among adherents of organic farming due to their ease of arrangement and high efficiency of use..
A box is a stationary bed, the sides for which can be made from the material available. In this case, any boards, slate, plywood and the like are suitable. The height of such a bed is, as a rule, 15–20 centimeters, width – 1–1.2 m, and the length can be made at your discretion. The bed-box is filled with organic matter: a layer of semi-ripe manure or compost is poured on the bottom, and ready-made high-quality humus is laid on top, with a layer of no less than 6-7 cm.
If the box is wide, then the rows can be located both along and across. In order for the plants to receive more sunlight, the rows in such a bed should be arranged in a north-south direction..
In the middle of the box-bed, a trellis is made for climbing crops, such a bed can be covered with a roof. That is, to put it simply, a box is a low container. And its main advantage in this case is the moment that a lot of organic matter is not needed to fill the garden. However, a thin layer of compost quickly loses nutrients and moisture, and in the heat such a bed should be watered more often. This can be done with a hose, or buckets from a large container. A sufficiently thick layer of mulch is required to retain moisture. To feed the crops growing in the box, it is recommended to use various organic fertilizers, which will be described in detail in the following articles.
If the soil on the site is good, then it is not necessary to loosen the box. The earth will loosen under it on its own to a sufficiently large depth (in the first year already twenty centimeters). As we have already found out in the article “Stop destroying the earth by digging and weeding”, soil inhabitants – earthworms and bacteria – will be engaged in structuring and loosening. Next spring, you just need to pour a few wheelbarrows of ready-made compost into the garden, and plant vegetables directly into it. If the organic matter is of good quality, then there will be few weeds, and those that appear are removed quite easily.
Using a simple frame or wire arcs, the bed-box can be quickly turned into a greenhouse, in which it is convenient to grow seedlings of various crops in spring.
When using this type of “smart” beds, the main thing is to fertilize them correctly and water them in a timely manner. Then in boxes, as in a vegetable container, three or four crops of different vegetables can be grown per season..
As you have already noticed, our list of “smart” beds is built on the principle – from expensive and productive, to cheap, but no less effective to use. Practicing farmers on their plots combine the advantages of all types of beds, reduce the cost of laying them and adapt them to the conditions of a particular site.
If the groundwater is low enough on the site and it never gets heated, the narrow compost bin can be dug into the ground. Thus, a kind of garden trench is obtained..
The main advantage of in-depth beds is that they can be dug right into the virgin soil. To do this, they dig a trench in the sod, two bayonets of a shovel wide and a bayonet deep. The length, as in previous cases (vegetable containers, box beds), depends on your desires and capabilities. Even boards made of boards are not needed here. Half-ripe manure is laid right on the bottom of the trench, and on top is a layer of ready-made compost, at least 6-7 centimeters high.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans can be planted on such beds … After the plants have grown, the trench must be mulched with any available material. We will describe in detail what materials can be used as mulch in the following articles..
In the future, all care will consist in timely watering as needed. And you still have to mow the grass in the aisles with a sickle a couple of times per season. In order not to do this, the aisles can be covered with burlap, and covered with gravel from above – and it is beautiful, and the weed does not grow.
The main advantage of recessed trenches is that they retain moisture remarkably, and the plants grow well here, even with moderate watering. And the main drawback is that you certainly can’t get away from the classic gardener’s pose when caring for such a bed..
Ornamental garden basics
As already noted, a modern person needs a dacha not only to grow vegetables and fruits. Most people use their vegetable gardens as a vacation spot for the whole family. Let’s figure out how to decorate a personal plot without spending a lot of space, effort and time.
Structures such as gazebos, fences, and southern walls can be used to equip garden beds. If the fence is made of mesh, then it itself will be an excellent trellis for tall climbing crops. You just need to dig a trench nearby and fill it with organic matter. This bed is ideal for growing cucumbers and beans. The advantages are obvious – there is no need to build a trellis, and it does not take up space, and flowering plants, with skillful care, are also a wonderful decor.
In the same way, you can surround the gazebo with a trench. In this garden you can plant various types of decorative pumpkins and beans that bloom with red, white, or even purple flowers (hyacinth beans). A gazebo decorated in this way will become a highlight of your summer residence and a favorite place for family gatherings. It should be noted that it is not recommended to plant the gazebo with cucumbers, sometimes they get sick and lose their decorative properties.
The southern and eastern walls of various summer cottages are able to warm up well in a day and give the plants reflected light and heat, which contributes to the acceleration of the growth and development of heat-loving crops. Such walls can be an excellent support for cherry tomatoes, and below you can plant attractive-looking cabbage varieties such as kohlrabi and broccoli.
In order to give the backyard a well-groomed look, all the free spaces between the “smart” beds need to be mowed regularly – this will turn the weeds into a motley lawn.
We master virgin lands
You have become the proud owner of a summer cottage. But here’s the bad luck – the land on it has never been cultivated or has been cultivated for a long time, and you do not see any possibility to grow a crop in the first year, since the development of virgin lands is an unusually time-consuming business. Do not despair, on the contrary, you are in luck – you received a plot with living land and, with a skillful approach and correct processing, you can preserve its fertility for many years. What to do in order to be able to grow your own crop this season?
Experienced gardeners, in the process of studying and understanding the principles and techniques of organic farming, have come up with several ways to use virgin soil for garden beds already in the first year. We have already talked about deepened trench beds.
On the principle of in-depth beds, you can arrange a place for growing various melons and gourds. You don’t even need to dig trenches for this. To set up such a bed right in the sod, it is enough to dig a hole about a meter in diameter and two bayonets deep. We fill the hole as usual – semi-ripe manure will go to the bottom, which can be mixed with coarse unripe organic matter. On top, in a layer 6–7 centimeters thick, pour the fully ripe humus. Pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, melons and watermelons grow well in such pits..
All subsequent care for such a bed will only consist in timely watering. In order to prevent weeds from growing here, the virgin land around must be covered with burlap or some other material (cardboard, old rugs, etc.), and covered with organic mulch (straw, sawdust) on top. Under such a carpet, weeds will die, and next spring you will only have to loosen the soil with a flat cutter.
Another great way to treat turf easily and efficiently is with a special mulch for virgin land reclamation and weed control. This technique is considered one of the “smartest” techniques used for many years by permaculture gardeners and organists. Its essence is as follows.
At the beginning of May, fresh weeds poured with juice are trampled down – this is a wonderful food for soil organisms. A layer of unripe humus mixed with manure and a small amount of compost are scattered over the weeds. To speed up the process, all this from above can be treated with special bacterial fertilizers. Newspapers and magazines are laid on humus with manure in 2-3 layers, you can use packing cardboard for these purposes. A layer of nutrient organic matter, 10–15 cm thick, is poured directly onto the paper (this can be unripe manure and unripe humus). From above, all this “cake” is covered with straw, foliage or hay. With such a coating, paper or cardboard cut off weeds, and a layer of organic matter holds moisture well and provides nutrition.
Of course, you cannot sow seeds on this bed in the first year – therefore, seedlings of large plants (tomato, peppers, eggplants, as well as various melons and gourds) are planted here. They planted in a certain way – they dig up straw and manure a little and poke a layer of paper with a shovel, and the roots themselves will find their way down. Then watered and again buried with a layer of mulch. If it rains relatively often, then there is practically no need to water such a bed.
The next year, all this “pie” will settle and turn into high-quality compost, the soil will loosen from below, and a happy gardener will have a new fertile and weed-free garden. All that remains is that every year add humus – and you can sow whatever your heart desires.
So, let’s summarize our conversation about laying organic beds. What do you need to plan and organize a convenient and beautiful personal plot for a long time and without significant time and financial costs? Let’s highlight several basic principles:
- we always use the geometry of narrow beds;
- on dry areas, we lower such beds into the ground, and on flooded areas we raise them above the soil surface;
- fill any beds with organic matter, and later mulch well;
- we periodically mow all the paths between the beds to prevent the growth of weeds.
By following all these not very complicated rules, you can not only grow a good harvest, but also turn your garden into a conveniently organized and beautiful place for the whole family to relax..