Raised bed know-how

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Hi gang. I want to put some raised beds in my backyard (not much room) and am just curious how deep they should be and what kind of soil I should use. I have pretty fertile soil in my yard but I suspect I should mix in other things to optimize it for veggies. Chicken manure? Cow manure? Any kind of additives?

I'm very new to all of this so please forgive me for my ignorance.

Mike
 
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Mike, those are very good and well thought out questions, definitely not ignorant. Your beds, if they do not have a bottom to them, (like a perforated plastic liner or a thick layer of gravel) don't have to be very deep. We have five raised beds, and none are deeper than 8". The plants' roots will go down as deep as they need and since your are in southern California, your soil should be pretty good.
I can't advise on soil since I'm working with blackland prairie soil and sandy loam (yeah, Texas has it all!). I bet someone else on this forum can help with the soil question.
Mixing well-composted manure (chicken, sheep, cow) in before planting is a great idea. We keep chickens and the neighbors have cattle, but I've seen bags for sale at nurseries and big-box stores. Just make sure it is well composted or you can burn out plants with the high-nitrogen chicken manure, or get some very interesting plants from the sheep and cow manure if it didn't get hot enough to kill any lurking seeds.
 
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Thank you so much for your reply!! My next question would be how to mix the soil and manure. Is there a certain ratio or way of knowing how much to supplement the soil with?
 
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Just mix until it feels good. There is really no hard and fast rule. If it is fairly loose feeling and doesn't clump when wet, it should do fine.
 
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The lovely thing about composted manure is that it is very mild and the plants use what they need and ignore the rest. Tjohn's advice is good--try a bit in a 5 gal bucket, or in a small section of your raised beds, and if it reacts as Tjohn said, go ahead and use that ratio.
 

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