New member: Tips for Getting Started

karen.gutierrez Posts: 4 ✭✭✭
edited April 2022 in Vegetables

Hi everyone. I am excited to be a new member of this community. I have a lot to learn from all of you. I have had a garden in years past, but it was not very successful for many reasons. One issue I have is the soil is primarily clay and difficult to work with. So, I want to try my hand at raised garden beds.

I have two questions to get me started, that I am hoping someone can help me with:

1) Where is the best place to look for cinder blocks to make the perimeter?

2) Where should I look to find "the best soil" to put in my raised garden beds?

I do not have a compost, and will be trying this out later once I get my garden started.




  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    Hi @karen.gutierrez. Welcome to the forum. If you pop over to the Introductions section, you can tell us a bit about yourself. What part of the world do you live in? There are categories for all sections of the globe.

    Do you know your growing zone? That will help us when making suggestions for you.

    One of the courses in the Academy is on "Nutrient Dense Soil". That might help with choosing the right type of soil for this year. There is a course in "Vermicomposting" that might interest you when it comes time to setting up your own compost.

    When you are looking for concrete blocks, try to get ones that are actual concrete and not cinder blocks which have a percentage of fly ash and left over unburnt fuel mixed in that could contain harmful chemicals.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi @karen.gutierrez welcome! Depending on what you have on hand the lasagna method would be a great way to fill new raised beds without compost. In case you aren't familiar with what that is basically you fill your bed starting with a layer of cardboard then add layers of leaves and other materials that will compost and leave behind amazing soil. There are a variety of ways to do it.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2022

    hi @karen.gutierrez I love the lasagna gardening method. I am lucky enough to have a lot of the supplies or know someone who give me some.

    I can get old straw, rotted hay (and it has to be rotted so that seeds are dead) wood chips, old leaves and when I did not have animals my neighbors supplied me with manure. My first few years I had no side to the beds. I just tamped the side and they strayed in place. Later I added recycled boards or pallets so that I could attach places to attach poles so that I could make covers for over the beds to extend my growing season.

    Here's an old discussion on lasagna gardening. I found it using the search button at the top of the discussion page

    And welcome to TGN!~

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    @karen.gutierrez Welcome!

    I would suggest trying a hugelkultur method, much like the lasagna gardening, but it puts old wood (logs, sticks) in the very bottom. It helps fill initially, and as time goes on, will help retain water in dry times as it decomposes. It will also add good organic matter to your raised bed.

    This can be done in a bed with sides, a container, or a no sided bed.

    Over time it will settle, but that's okay. You will add other organic matter as you continue to garden and will fill up that space.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Ahhh.. I forgot about Huggelkultur. If you have lots of wood and sticks its an amazing way to grow.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,483 admin

    @karen.gutierrez Hey there welcome to TGN. In Australia, a quick & easy way to top up raised beds is to buy soil (garden loam) at the landscaping supply place. A couple of disadvantages with this is, $$$ & you don’t know where the soil came from. So weeds, pH etc can be an issue. Access to a good manure source is always an advantage, I use horse poo.

    I have hardwood timber raised beds but I notice the timber in places starting to rot. I was only looking at cinder blocks yesterday to see how they would work. They were on a pallet at the Landscape Suppliers. Maybe even on 2nd hand sites, cinder blocks may come up, excess to requirement type situation. Even if you can’t lay your hands on cinder blocks to start with, don’t let that stop you. Just work out where you’re going to put them. Place either carpet, sheets of tin etc to kill of the grass/lawn for a week or so, then add some lime, manure & start to fork it through, this would at least be a start to your vegetable garden journey!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    I was thinking, you would be wise to ask about if Grazon was used in the production of straw/hay and if the manure may have that chemical in it...or go to an organic supplier.

    Here is a link discussing the chemical & what it did to one gardener's garden. It is something to be wary of.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 951 ✭✭✭✭

    @karen.gutierrez Welcome!

    Make sure to water plenty onto the ground before placing the cardboard, and then another good water onto the cardboard for the lasagna method.

    There are many quality methods mentioned.

    I use no till, bring in manure (one to two year dried horse or moose manure). First, I fatten all of the cardboard with the ink side up. I lay out the pieces flat and water them. Then, top it with old leaves, and add more water. Last, I rip apart and lay straw bales and then add plenty of water still leaving enough to water the plants. We have one water barrel for the garden. We use soaker hoses throughout our gardens. And then I smile

  • karen.gutierrez
    karen.gutierrez Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    Thank you, everyone, for all of your help with my questions. I am very grateful for all the ideas!

    One additional question: I live in a suburb in Minnesota (USA), so any idea where I might I find 1-2 year dried horse manure? I don't live by a farm or know anyone who owns a farm.


  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin
    edited April 2022

    @karen.gutierrez You may have to go to a garden center to find manure in that case. Usually at these, it is sold in bags.

  • Kuri and Kona
    Kuri and Kona Posts: 177 ✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie Wow! Until tonight, I thought that a lasagna garden referred to growing a box with tomato, spices, and other ingredients for making lasagna! I just looked up what it actually is, and it is an intriguing idea. I have horrible clay soil, and have been looking a lot into how to amend and make it useable. It will be a multi year project, so for now, I am mostly doing container gardening.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Kuri and Kona I think you would really like lasagna gardening. I have hooked several of my friends on it and its the only way they garden anymore. I love raised beds or bed piles better. I also have clay here - with the addition of large rock.

    @karen.gutierrez Ask around , check bulletin boards if you have them and even put an ad in a paper or online. You might be surprised who has some sort of manure. It doesn't have to be horse. And is there a zoo nearby?

    I was surprised when I visited NYC and found out they bagged their horse manure like trash and sat it out on the curb. All those police on horses create a unique way to dispose of manure. There would be aboput 15 bags twice a day for each horse station in the city.

  • MissPatricia
    MissPatricia Posts: 318 ✭✭✭

    I got my cement blocks at Tractor Supply. I think Lowe's and Home Depot also have them. One thing that has taken me decades to learn (lol) is that good soil is important. So I finally ordered a truckload of sand (that is 10 tons), bought peat moss and earthworm castings to make my own. I also bought a composter, but you could actually bury it in your raised beds as it will decompose fairly quickly. I am moving to raised beds too even though I have never had an interest in them. I guess they make sense. And you have to feed your plants if you want a good crop.

  • karen.gutierrez
    karen.gutierrez Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    @MissPatricia I didn't know you could order earthworm castings. That is interesting. Yes, I am watching the e-courses on this site and the importance of healthy soil seems very prominent in these courses. So I will make sure to keep this in mind. Where did you buy earthworm castings?

    Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    @karen.gutierrez Earthworm castings can usually be found anywhere that sells bagged potting soil. Walmart, Home Depot, Vesey's, Tractor Supply, Lowe's, even Amazon. Lots of different brands.

    Or take TGN's worm course and grow your own. :)

  • karen.gutierrez
    karen.gutierrez Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    @torey Thank you, Torey! I had no idea this was so available! I am going to check this out.

    Thank you again!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    @karen.gutierrez It can take some time building up a supply of worm castings, but it is fantastic fertilizer.

    I don't have room for a large bin (I wish that I did). I use mine for houseplants and to increase the nutrients in the soil less mix for seed starting.

    We also have some discussions on the forum about worm bins and what some members have done. Together with the course, it should give you a good understanding of what to do.

    Considering the recent posts on the forum about invasive worms, be careful that you aren't introducing those into your area. To avoid this it would be best to buy from a respected worm supply source.

    Add to this that there are both red wrigglers & India blue. I think I actually have India blue, and not red wriggler. Both are good composting worms, but the red wrigglers are certainly the preferred worms from my understanding.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,987 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Clay soil is a nuisance that many of us have to deal with. Raised beds are one good option, but not the only one.

    If you can add a significant amount of organic material such as compost, wood chips, decomposed leaf mulch, straw, etc. to the clay and blend it thoroughly with the clay, the result will be pretty good soil that can grow a fairly good range of annual crops. I'm experimenting with using leaves and rotting wood on a small corner of my property.

    It takes a lot of organic material to get the improvement, so it's best to start with a small piece of land even if you have access to more.

  • Mi Gardener
    Mi Gardener Posts: 16 ✭✭✭

    Cinder/concrete blocks can be found at most big box home improvement stores: Homedepot, Lowes, Menards, and other local lumber yards.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,162 ✭✭✭✭

    I some how had missed the "lasagna gardening" method. It sounds very interesting, and I'm going to try this

    for sure!

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,919 ✭✭✭✭✭

    For a quick start, if you have a Walmart near you, most of them carry Chicken manure and as far as soil, dare I say again Walmart and Big Box stores have organic soils. I picked up some from Lowes this weekend from a made by a local company, I would suggest skipping Miracle-Gro which started out as petroleum products.

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