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Frequently asked questions
Will the corrugated steel on my box garden make my soil too hot?
This is a great question. It has to do with three terms: albedo, reflectivity, and emissivity--fancy words that have to do with how well a surface reflects heat. For example, shiny surfaces like steel, snow, and aluminum have high reflectivity, so the light or heat is reflected quickly away--not stored for long periods like it is in darker, more absorbing surfaces like asphalt. So roofs, for example, that are made with shiny steel like the one we use on our box gardens will reflect heat back more quickly into the atmosphere than say a black plastic container box. This is why, supposedly, houses with reflective metal roofs are more energy efficient. In New Harmony, our plants have done amazingly well in these box gardens. WE also have some of these box gardens in St. George where the climate can be extremely hot in the summers. The plants are doing very well, but the boxes are in an area that gets shade as well as sun--which you would do with any garden in a hot desert climate. Our boxes in New Harmony are right out directly in the sun since our climate is cooler. But, we do hit 100+ temperatures each summer as well. Our vegetables have all flourished and there has been no indication that soil gets too hot. Think about tinfoil just out of the oven--how quickly the heat is reflected and how quickly the foil returns to room temperature. This is a similar scenario.
How should I fill my garden box? What should I do BEFORE filling it?
BEFORE filling your garden box, be sure you set up your irrigation the way you want it. Before the box is filled is the best time to pull irrigation lines up through the bottom. If you are not sure how you want to set up your irrigation, you can just set an "L" shaped PVC pipe up through the box with the bent end sticking out the bottom of the box to hold a spot for future water lines. Some people prefer to keep their water lines on the outside of the box so the lines are easily accessible for future repairs or changes.
Make sure you space your boxes about 3 feet apart to make it easy getting in and around them. You want to make sure your wagon/wheelbarrow or other equipment can easily get around them as well.
Also BEFORE: If you are worried about critters digging around or coming up under your boxes. Cut a piece of hardware cloth or other wire mesh-type material about 10-12 inches longer and wider than your garden box and lay it on the ground under your garden box. There should be about 5-6 inches of hardware wire sticking out from all sides. You can cover this later with weed barrier, rock, stepping stones, etc. Having this under and around your box will inhibit critters from coming up into your soil and wreaking havoc on your garden from below. Before you fill your box is also a good time to lay down weed barrier, rock, or mulch around your boxes, so you can get the area around your box the way you want it before it is too heavy to move.
Because these boxes are so tall, there is a lot of space to fill. We recommend filling the bottom of your box first with compost materials--dead leaves and grass clippings*, tree limbs, logs, and sticks, hay, manure, chicken and bunny bedding/droppings, etc. Materials that will decompose over time and will add nutrients to your soil. During your spring pruning, trimming, and yard clean up, you may be able to find all kinds of things you could use to fill the bottom of your box. *Note: If you use grass clippings, make sure the grass has not gone to seed, and if you will be eating from this box, do not use grass clippings if your lawn has been treated with any type of pesticides or chemicals. If this box is going to be used for shrubs or flowers, and you don't plan to eat from it, you could also put things like shredded paper and cardboard in the bottoms of your box--a great way to recycle! Some people like to put bricks or rocks in the very bottom of their boxes. If you do this, just make sure none of the rocks or bricks are pushing up against your metal sheeting. You don't want to have bulges in your metal where rocks, or even large branches, have settled.
Finally, based on what you plan to grow, fill the top half with a variety of nutrient-filled soils. There are lots of videos available on YouTube with ideas on the soil you should use for your box. Here is some advice from a local Utahn: “I recommend filling raised beds with the Square Foot Garden mix: 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 compost (ideally 3-5 different types of compost for a good mix of nutrients). More compost should be added before every planting. Peat moss and vermiculite never need to be added again,” (Beuna Tomalino, owner of Basil & Rose and local garden coach).
We also recommend not filling your box all the way to the top. We typically fill to about 8 inches below the top. This provides a protective area for new seedlings and young plants from wind and too much sun. This, of course, is different if you are planting a flower bed, shrubs, or other decorative plants. You will want the soil near the top for these in most cases so that your beautiful flowers can be seen!
Why do you use redwood for your boxes?
Redwood is a durable, long-lasting wood that is naturally rot-resistant and insect-resistant. It is known to stand up well to the elements and has a beautiful color.
Why are there sometimes black stains on my redwood product?
One of the great properties of redwood is the high level of tannic acid in the wood which helps repel bugs--a great bug repellant in your garden. However, tannic acid over time can cause some graying in the wood or black spots. There are some ways of remedying this. We like the response given by Redwood Empire: http://www.buyredwood.com/faq/what-are-black-stains-my-deck-and-how-do-i-get-rid-them
Why don't your garden boxes have a bottom?
We typically do not put bottoms on our boxes since they are meant to connect with the earth below them and allow earth worms and other beneficial microorganisms to come up from below. We have, however, made custom boxes that people have requested for a patio. These include a 6ml plastic liner and a wooden bottom to prevent leakage. Depending on where the box is sitting, we also offer to line the box with a weed barrier which will allow water to drain slowly out the bottom. In this case we would leave some space between wood planks in the bottom to allow this flow to occur.
Better water drainage for the soil.
No worry about the weight of the soil on the bottom of the box or standing water in the bottom.
No worry about liners or a wood bottom deteriorating over time.
Your box will be much lighter and less expensive.
Is there an inexpensive way to get all the soil I need for my garden box?
In Southern Utah, Washington County Waste Management and Landfill provides an opportunity to drop off organic material to be composted. You can also pick up a truckload of this compost at a super low cost. Here is the link:http://www.wcsw.org/compost/ Payson Utah and other cities also provide a similar service. Check your local waste management facility to find out if this is available to you. Please note: It is always good to check with your facility on what types of items are included in their compost. Be aware that some facilities may take in treated wood or biosolids which may add unwanted chemicals into your compost. It is always just good to check!
How much do the 4x8 Redwood Boxes weigh?
They are just about 90 lbs.
What gauge is the corrugated steel used in these boxes?
We use 31-Gauge (utility-gauge) for our corrugated metal. It is metal roofing. Here is a description from the manufacturer:
Answers to Common Myths about raised garden beds.
This article has some great explanations to common questions and myths about raised garden boxes: https://www.selfsufficientme.com/fruit-vegetables/10-common-myths-about-raised-bed-vegetable-gardens-or-planters