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Raised veg. bed problems

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Please can you advise on following: In spring of this year I put up two adjacent 4 4ft by ift. deep raised bed frames where previously lawn on clay soil. Turf was removed and soil beneath forked over. Beds filled with topsoil (from garden centre) with multi-purpose compost mixed in. One bed to 8 inches and one to 4 inches because I ran out of money and energy! I tried second early potatoes in the deep one which made lots of above ground growth but very few potatoes. After the potatoes I tried some radishes. In the shallower bed I planted out runner beans in fibre pots in a wigwam and some lettuce in the corners. Everything grew really slowly with the lettuces refusing to fill out and only a few radishes came to anything. I decided to take the beans out because, although the plants made growth and flowered only a few beans grew big enough to pick.
I thought at least the removal of the beans would be easy in the uncompacted soil mix so imagine my horror when I could hardly move the fork and when I did there was a tearing sound of roots. The whole filling of the frame was infested with very fine roots - to the extent that I felt I could almost lift out the whole filling as a mould if I were strong enough. The roots did not seem to be attempting to put up shoots but I found some slightly thicker roots going down into the original soil beneath. I had found similar masses of roots in flower beds but had put them down to old pot compost which had clearly been emptied over the beds.
What on earth is this stuff and, more to the point, how can I get rid of it - preferably without too much physical effort since I'm not as fit as I was.
Another thing I found was that the bean roots had pigeon egg sized growths and I think the roots from them were growing horizontally. I wonder if that is because the roots did not want to or could not penetrate the clay beneath?
Sorry question so long but putting the story into words is alnost as much a challenge as trying to grow stuff in this garden. (I have grown all the above plants with reasonable results in other gardens). I would be really grateful for any advice. Thanks Richard



Sorry you have had so much trouble Richard.
My advice would be to put down a sheet of polythene under your new soil compost mixture, make holes in it with a fork. You must have roots from trees or hedges growing up into the fertile soil, taking all the goodness out.
Runner beans are tap rooted and require at least 9ins. in which to grow.
The lumps on the runner bean roots are normal and had they grown down they would appear as a thick root.
You will need to feed your soil for future plants i.e. blood fish and bone. Top your raised beds up to about 6ins. high and grow only shallow rooted plants, that should be enough to be ging on with. Get back if you need any more help.

25 Sep, 2008


hi richard
when i made our raised beds, i put down weed control sheeting first then put the frame over this and then filled with i would suggest moving all the soil into one bed putting down the sheeting and then transfering the soil over, and do the same to the other bed.not what you want to hear i know , maybe if bob a job comes round!! lol
also put in plenty of manure to give the soil some nutrients for next year.our runner beans are grown in about 12 inches deep soil . hope this helps.....steve

26 Sep, 2008


Hello Doctorbob and Steve and many thanks for both replies. Richard

28 Sep, 2008


I see the first post was in 2008! I have been having invasive root problems ever since I began my raised beds in Aug 08. The trees are out my control as they are outside my wall. I have pruned branches, dug over beds every so often removing forkfuls of roots, tried weed barrier etc. Nothing has worked - those tree roots grow and grow!

Has anyone helped you solve your problem? I am considering re-doing the raised beds using a differnt strategy. I plan to make them much deeper and even cement them at the bottom making several drainage holes. In effect it would be a big planter - approximately 2m x 1.2m. Has anyone done this? I would really appreciate help!

12 May, 2011

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