Best Gardening Tips For Successful Raised Bed Garden
For most gardeners, spring is the time for digging new planting beds. Until I learned better, I followed the same calendar. The secret is to build new beds in fall and seed them with soil-enriching cover crops. By spring, beautiful, fertile beds are ready for planting. And the only digging required is turning under the cover crop before planting, which I have found is a lot less work than busting up sod. This method combines the best of two time-tested garden-building techniques—layering and cover cropping—and the result is fluffy beds that are supercharged with fertility.
Not only is this method gentler on my body, but it also leaves the soil structure undisturbed, just as Nature intended. Earthworms and other beneficial organisms flourish, and weeds are choked out.
Lay it on thick
Once you have decided where you want your new bed to be, the process is simple and requires surprisingly little work.
1. Start with a layer of cardboard or black-and-white newspaper. Lay it directly on top of grass or weeds and thoroughly wet it. A good thick layer (10 to 15 sheets of newspaper) will smother weeds and sod, and all that decaying green matter will form the foundation of your spring bed.
2. Add a layer a couple of inches deep of moist garden soil to weigh down the paper layer and speed up the decomposition of the sod below.
3. Next, spread any fallen leaves, grass clippings, or well-chopped kitchen waste you have handy onto the bed. Be creative—a local brewery may have spent hops to spare, or a juice shop may have carrot pulp. Many coffee shops will gladly give you all the grounds you could want.
5. Plant a cold-tolerant cover crop directly on top. In frost-prone areas, plant in late summer or early fall. Some crops can tolerate temperatures well below freezing if you give them 6 to 8 weeks to become established.
Cover crops offer many benefits. They hold soil in place over winter and prevent erosion. Their roots reach deep to break up compacted soils. Leguminous varieties add nitrogen to the soil as they grow. And when the crop is turned under in spring, it provides a quick, plentiful dose of organic matter. Let the soil rest 2 weeks before planting.
Recommended Cover Crops
Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum): Tolerates cold
Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum): Fixes nitrogen in the soil, attracts beneficial insects, and increases earthworm populations.
Fava bean (Vicia faba): Survives temperatures to 10 degrees F.
Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa): Chokes out weeds, fixes nitrogen and tolerates cold to 0 degrees F.
In a cool, coastal climate, such as mine (where freezing temperatures are rare), cover crops will grow steadily through winter. Even if they happen to be killed off by a freeze, you can easily turn the crop residue under in the spring or plant seedlings directly into the mulch of the dead cover crop, which will provide weed control. Some cover crops, such as crimson clover, may green up again in spring even after a hard freeze.
Relax and wait for spring
During the short, chilly days of December and January, your garden will be at work even while you are inside with seed catalogs. The layers of organic matter will decompose, leaving crumbly soil behind. Because each bed is gently raised above the ground, the soil will warm as the days gradually grow longer.
In spring, turn the cover crops under before they set seed. If you’ve got a large area, consider mowing the crops down before turning them under. Let them decompose for about 2 weeks. Rake out your new spring beds, and they are ready for planting. You will be surprised by just how rich and loamy they are.
Raised Bed Gardening Tips
Raised bed gardening is simply gardening in beds that are raised higher than the natural soil level. This allows gardeners to grow plants they may not otherwise be able to grow because they aren’t constrained by poor soil conditions in their yard. This style of gardening is also easier when it comes to maintaining the plants because it is a lot easier to maneuver around the plants than it is in a traditional garden.
Raised bed gardening can be easy and enjoyable – here are some things you might want to consider if you are planning on installing a raised bed garden.
As with any type of garden, your raised bed garden needs to be placed in an area that is conducive to the growth of the types of plants you want to grow. If your plants need full sun, then you want to put the garden in a southerly facing area so that they get full sun. If they require partial shade then you want to place the raised bed garden in an area that gets partial shade. The key is knowing what your plants need and then finding the perfect spot in your yard that will provide it.
Raised bed gardens can be any height from six inches above the natural soil level to waist height. Many people find gardens that are waist height to be extremely convenient as far as maintenance goes and they can add to the appeal of your yard if you make them from aesthetically pleasing material. One thing that you want to consider with height is how deep the roots of your plants need to go. If the type of plant you are growing needs twelve inches of root depth, then you want to be sure that your raised bed garden is at least twelve inches tall.
One of the convenient things about raised bed gardens is that you can easily maneuver around them to maintain the plants. Therefore, you want to be sure that each garden is placed about two feet away from any walls, fences or other raised beds. You also want to be sure that the raised bed itself is no more than four feet wide. This will let you easily get to all parts of the garden from any side of the raised bed and make weeding, harvesting, and maintenance a breeze.
Needless to say, you want to construct your raised bed properly so that it does not fall apart. Many people use lumber for the sides of the garden, but you can also use bricks or stones as long as they will hold the soil in. You also want to be sure that the bed is level because if it is not, water will run from one side and pool on the other which will not be good for your plants.
The main benefit of a raised bed garden is that you don’t have to be held hostage to the soil conditions that you have currently in your yard. You fill the bed with the type of soil that you want, so you want to be sure that you find out the exact nutrients that the plants you are wanting to grow need and get the appropriate soil for those types of plants.
Making sure that you place your garden in the right spot, build it properly, and fill it with the right soil will give your plants all the things they need, and improve your chances of having a lush, thriving garden.
Materials For Raised Bed Gardens
Concrete blocks offer the raised bed gardener an easy way to make interesting shapes out of raised bed gardens. Concrete blocks are pretty easy to stack and their small length makes them a good solution for raised beds of different geometric shapes. If you think of your garden layout and design it to be aesthetically pleasing, then using concrete blocks to layout the design can be a great way to have a wonderful raised bed garden in your backyard without spending a lot of money.
One added benefit to using concrete blocks, as that they are uniform in size so you know that your garden will always be level which is important for soil drainage.
Rocks are another thing that can be used to contain a raised bed garden. If you want to use rocks then you want to arrange them much like an old-fashioned stonewall and be sure that it is sturdy enough so that the sides won’t cave in and spill the soil.
Using rocks can be a little bit harder and you have to have a knack for stacking them properly, but they can be very pleasing to the eye and add a lot of ambiance to your landscape.
Large containers that you can find in the garden store can also make great raised bed gardens. If you picture grouping a bunch of them together for an herb garden you can see how this could make a nice statement in your garden or patio that adds to the beauty of your yard and is functional as well.
These days you can get containers of all shapes and sizes, even ones that are fairly large that would allow you to grow quite a few vegetables. Needless to say, buying pre-made containers is about the easiest way to go because you don’t have to build anything and they can also be moved around to different parts of the yard if you decide you don’t want them in the place you originally put them.
When choosing materials for your raised bed garden, you want to consider the expense of the material, the ease-of-use and whether it will fit in the area that you have designated for the garden. Weigh all your options and pick the material that is right for you!
Growing Vegetables With Raised Beds Garden
Raised Vegetable Garden Plans
If you’re trouble together with growing anything within the earth that your back garden has to offer however you actually are determined to have that yard that you have always wished, then perhaps you must take a look at raised bed gardening. Raised bed gardening is fantastic because you don’t need to stress about what you can and can’t grow inside your soil. Actually, you won’t have to bother about your dirt whatsoever simply because you won’t require it in any way in making your new backyard garden a success. Your soil you’ll be making use of for the raised bed garden will rather be soil that you will purchase. Nonetheless, just before we get to grow all of the vegetables and flowers which you have been dreaming of, we initially have to take a look at how your new back garden will come to fruition.
First decide a location to place the new garden that will receive plenty of sunshine, as well as leave room around the thought out an area so that you can effortlessly maneuver around the garden bed. If you would like the stand or sit while gardening, you may want to consider elevating your garden at least 3 feet high off of the ground. After you have picked out the spot and the specifics for the location of your garden, it’s time to build it and bring it to life. If you already have the tools and materials to build the garden bed, then you are off to a great start. If you do not, however, the cost of the materials that you will need can be surprisingly affordable. Get yourself some untreated lumber (treated can cause some contamination issues with your plants), some wood screws, and find a good design and you are well on your way.
Once your raised bed garden is constructed, you are ready to add your soil and begin to plant. Make sure you allow each plant the necessary amount of room to grow that it needs. You won’t face some of the common gardening problems such as the constant pulling of weeds, nor will you have to deal with the same amount of insects that can’t wait to get a taste of what you are growing. These types of gardens are much easier to care for due to their size and the time you will save by being able to move around them with ease. The drainage of water can also be much more easily managed than that of a standard garden.
Overall, raised bed gardening is a great approach to maintain a garden that you are happy with and to have the ability to grow the types of things you would like to grow without many of the worries of regular gardening.
Choosing Vegetables For a Raised Bed Garden
The type of plants you choose for your raised bed will obviously be based on things such as your zone, the availability of sun in your garden, and your own personal preferences. But we’re going to talk about how to choose vegetables for your raised beds in a general way.
First of all, you should be sure to plant only those vegetables your family actually likes to eat. Sure, those golden beets may be beautiful, but do you eat beets? Do your kids like beets? Is your spouse going to run away screaming if you try to serve them? You should only plant varieties that you actually believe your family will truly enjoy.
The easiest plants to grow in raised beds include beans, Swiss chard, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and radishes. These plants are all great for beginners. Herbs are also generally very easy to grow. You should choose some of these easier types if you’re new to raised bed gardening or to gardening in general.
If you want to plant vegetables that reach maturity very quickly, you can choose varieties that are better for this purpose. Some of us can be very impatient. If you hate waiting around to harvest your first vegetables, you can try radishes, spinach, lettuce, beans, beets, squash, cucumbers, carrots, and peas.
If you’re a beginning gardener, you should probably stick to those plants you can grow during the normal growing season. You won’t want to get too complex or too complicated when you’re just starting out. You should stick with the easier varieties, and plant them during the normal growing season. Also, be certain to choose varieties that grow well in your area.
And be sure to choose varieties that will grow under your lighting conditions. If you have a very shady yard, don’t pick vegetables or herbs that like a lot of sun. You need to work with the conditions available to you, especially if you’re just starting out.
Maintaining a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
After you’ve set up your frames, you need to mix your soil and put it in. If you like, you can usually use about 25% of soil from your own garden as a base. Then you can add in equal parts sand and compost, and be sure to check the pH balance of the soil to be sure it’s within the range needed for your plants.
You can elevate your raised beds to provide extra protection against small animals. You can cover the bottom with chicken wire to help keep out small animals, and you can cover the tops with bird netting if you have a problem with birds or possums eating your produce.
You should mulch with a good organic mulch such as Lucerne or sugar cane. This will also help prevent the garden from drying out to quickly and also help to prevent weeds from establishing themselves. Most raised bed gardens don’t have a lot of trouble with weeds, and those few weeds that do appear are usually very easy to get rid of. Don’t throw them away though, either put them into your compost bin or leave them on the surface of the garden and gradually they’ll break down and become food for your plants.
In the unlikely event that your plants happen to become infected by a disease from the soil, you could get rid of the soil in your beds and start all over. You wouldn’t be able to do this properly in a standard garden, where you’d have to wait for perhaps two years to be sure the disease had been fully eradicated.
Raised beds are typically quite simple to keep moist. You’ll only need to water the raised bed, so you can save a lot of money on your water bill. You can also set up drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses that will water your plants for you. This can be better for your plants than watering from overhead because it can help prevent fungal diseases from spreading.
During the heat of the summer, your raised beds may dry out faster. This is due to the fact that the boards that make your frame get very hot, and can dry up the soil. If this happens, you’ll need to water more often than usual. This can be beneficial, though. The extra heat produced by the boards can help you plant earlier, and extend your season longer.
It’s very simple to maintain your raised beds. You can add organic material or compost to the soil in your raised beds whenever you add a new plant. This will help ensure the plants will have adequate nutrition. If your raised beds aren’t in use in the winter, you can add a layer of crushed leaves over the top of the soil. This helps protect the soil, and also helps provide a bit of organic material for the soil. You may need to add more sand or organic material occasionally to ensure proper drainage. If your soil is drying out too quickly or staying wet for too long, you’ll need to adjust the makeup of the soil.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Gardening Tips For Successful Raised Bed Garden
- 2 Growing Vegetables With Raised Beds Garden