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  Section: Medicinal Plants / Production & Management on Farm
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Preparation of Beds

⇒ Yield Maximization
  ⇒ Maximum Economic Yield (MEY)
  ⇒ Plant Population and Crop Yield
    ⇒ Plant Population and Geometry
    ⇒ Response of Crop Plants to Plant Population
⇒ Time of Planting
⇒ Preparation of Soil for Sowings
  ⇒ Burying Debris and Weeds
  ⇒ Aerating the Soil
  ⇒ Incorporating Compost
  ⇒ Ensuring a Frost Tilth
⇒ Depth of Sowing
  ⇒ Methods of Digging
    ⇒ Single Dig
    ⇒ Double Dig
    ⇒ No-Dig
⇒ Preparation of Beds
  ⇒ Size of the Beds
  ⇒ Types of Beds: Flat or Raised Beds
    ⇒ Why Raised Beds
    ⇒ How to Make Bed
    ⇒ Preparation of Paths and Slop
  ⇒ Seeds and Sowing
    ⇒ Seed Germination
    ⇒ Seed Vigour
    ⇒ Seed Viability
    ⇒ Longevity
    ⇒ Seed Dormancy
    ⇒ Types of Dormancy
    ⇒ Seed Treatment
    ⇒ Seed Treatment for Breaking Dormancy
  ⇒ Spacing for Seed Sowing
⇒ Crop Establishment Techniques
  ⇒ Nursery Techniques
    ⇒ Nursery Site
    ⇒ Nursery Methods
    ⇒ Ideal Seedling
    ⇒ Seeds and Sowing
    ⇒ After Care
    ⇒ Optimum Age and Pulling Out of Seedlings
    ⇒ Dapog Nursery
    ⇒ Dry Nursery
    ⇒ Nursery Techniques for Tobacco
⇒ Planting Techniques for Field Crops
  ⇒ Rotation
  ⇒ Random or Bulk Planting
  ⇒ Planting Under Irrigated Condition (Garden Land)
  ⇒ Sowing Techniques
    ⇒ Method of Sowing
⇒ After Cultivation Practices

The normal rectangular vegetable plot being broken up into a series of narrow beds, set between access paths. As we have already noted, digging may be needed to break up soil compaction. A key consideration in adopting the bed system is that it enables you to avoid this and to maintain a good soil structure. The beds can be anywhere from 3 to 5 ft (90 to 150 cm) wide, to suit the individual. The guiding principle is a width that enables you to reach all parts of the bed comfortably when sowing, tending or harvesting the crops. Most people find a width of 31/2 to 4 ft (105 to 120 cm) is adequate for their reach. The paths between can be narrow, to avoid undue waste of productive ground, but preferably of sufficient width to accommodate a wheelbarrow: 18 in (45 cm) is normally sufficient.

Size of the Beds
The beds can be any length, but it is convenient to break them up with crosspaths to facilitate access - and to avoid the temptation to walk across them. In this way, each bed will be accessible from a path on all four sides. This also provides a cordon sanitaire between the beds and any encroaching vegetation. They are best aligned north to south so that tall crops do not shade out lower, adjacent plants. Beds tend to be straight, but there is no reason why they should not be curved for aesthetic or other reasons.

Types of Beds: Flat or Raised Beds

  1. Flat beds: Flat beds are simple to prepare and involve putting the organic matter on the width of a bed, leaving path spaces between. In a dry area, or with dry soil, this has the advantage that less surface area is exposed to wind and sun, and the moisture will not drain down from the beds. Flat beds may also preferred for certain crops, such as potatoes, which benefit from
    earthing up and then being dug out.
  2. Raised beds: Raised beds are built up higher than the surrounding paths. In many ways this is a logical progression from the decision to go for no-dig cultivation. It is often referred to as intensive   raised   bed gardening, because it can   result in   significantly higher yields. Horticulturists adopted this spacing too, quite inappropriately, and it became the yardstick - witness the standard instructions on most seed packets.
  digging of agricultural land
Fig. 3.1: Digging. (A) Single dig, (B) Double dig

Why Raised Beds?
There are two reasons for the higher yields on the bed system - raised beds in particular. First, the ability to carry out weedling from the adjacent paths makes wide spacing between rows redundant. It has been established that optimum yields can, in fact, be obtained if closer spacing, based on grid patterns are employed. Secondly, the raised bed is usually associated with a higher level of fertility as a result of the application of regular and substantial amounts of organic material and the excellent soil structure and soil life that is maintained. It should be noted, too, that the overall increase in yield will more than compensate for the loss of ground given over to the paths.

How to Make Bed?
The best time to do this is when the soil is neither soggy - especially important with a heavy soil -nor too dry. At this point, you have the option whether to go for a no-dig system from scratch, or first to dig and incorporate manure or compost. Some raised bed practitioner's strike a compromise, starting the bed off with a double digs and lavish incorporation of organic matter, and subsequently relying on a no-dig annual mulch. Others choose to dig every four or five years, relying on mulches in between.

The soil in the bed may first be loosened with a fork, as a one-off cultivation. At the same time remove any large stone. Remember, the aim is to clear the topsoil only. Ignore stones below 6 in (15 cm), as these assist drainage. The same applies to old roots.

Preparation of Paths and Slop
The paths around the bed are now created, defined with a string line attached to wooden stakes. Dig out 6-8 in (15-20 cm) of soil and drop this on to the bed, which is thereby raised (especially useful if your topsoil is not very deep). As you do so, break this soil into a reasonable tilth. Do not dig the path too deeply, as this will make a trench, which will be difficult to work in and maintain. The beds can be given a convex slope or can be flat, but I would recommend a flat-topped bed because this will reduce moisture loss by limiting the surface area and will also make for ease of working and spreading of compost manure. Sloping sides tend always to be falling into the pathways.

For flat top, however, you will need to support the sides with planks or other suitable material.

  making raised beds
Fig. 3.2: Making raised beds.

Finally, spread your organic matter over the bed. With the bed system this will go further, since it is being confined to the intensively cultivated bed surfaces alone, not spread over the whole vegetable plot. In time the beds will slump a little, but you will never 'lose' them, and they will, of course, be raised annually by the application of organic mulch.

The paths need to be covered to prevent weeds settling in and spreading to the beds. They can be turfed over, which will certainly look attractive, but they will require mowing. Besides, the sward may compete with the plants. Wood chips make an attractive covering and are, on balance, more suitable. They can be laid on old carpeting or other material, to extend their life. If soil is a truly sticky, yellow viscous clay with little dark topsoil, you may find it exceedingly difficult to create paths as described or to create a tilth on the bed. In that case the only alternative-is to import large quantities of compost or even topsoil to make the beds, in effect making your existing topsoil.

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