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Raised Bed Gardening

The Basics: Gardening In Raised Beds

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Farmhouse Raised Beds

This kitchen garden is DIY, made with conventional lumber and the Raised Bed Corners.

There's nothing like a well-tended vegetable garden with rows and rows of abundant crops, weed-free and lush, sparkling in the afternoon sun. The truth is, it can take years of hard work to create such a garden. And for some folks, all that "work" is the joy of gardening: amending the soil with wheelbarrows of compost, the annual spring tilling — and lots of weeding.

Even if you don't have a lot of time for gardening, you can still have a productive vegetable garden, no matter the size. How? Start with a raised bed. It's the shortcut to a plentiful harvest, even in the first year. Here's why:

  • Better soil: With raised beds, you can control the soil you’re growing in. If you do not have access to quality topsoil, an acceptable substitute would be a 50-50 blend of soilless growing medium (often called "potting soil") and compost. For last year’s soil, feel Raised Bed Healthy Soil Booster Mix to reinvigorate your soil from last season. Determine how much soil you need with our handy Garden Bed Soil Calculator. Keep in mind that a deeper raised bed will require less watering, and the more freely the roots will grow.
  • More food in less space: Ensure that every square inch of space is utilized by using vertical supports or succession planting. Try a cucumber trellis that can be under-planted with lettuce!
  • Season Extension: You are able to start your spring crops sooner in the season as raised beds tend to warm up more quickly than the ground.
  • Fewer weeds: There is little room for weeds to grow when raised beds are densely planted. When they do manage to grow, the loose soil makes them easy to remove.

 

Choosing a Raised Bed

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Our Forever Raised Beds can be set up in minutes and last for decades. Made from a composite of recycled wood and plastic, they have the attractive look and feel of silvery aged cedar, but will never splinter or rot.

 

Raisedbeds.com offers a wide selection of raised beds, from complete cedar kits, metal garden beds, or composite raised garden beds, to aluminum corner kits for that DIY raised bed project you’ve been meaning to start. There are also a variety of elevated raised beds, for no-bend gardening.

 

Location and Set-up

For optimum plant health and productivity, place your garden in the sunniest part of your yard. Most vegetables should receive at least eight hours of full sun each day. Avoid low, wet areas where the soil could stay soggy, but you’ll want to have relatively easy access to a hose.

If the soil in your yard is relatively good, prepare the site by removing any sod or perennial weeds and then loosening the soil to a depth of about 6". Do this before you put the raised bed in place and try to avoid stepping on or otherwise compacting that freshly aerated soil. Plants will be able to develop a strong root system with this extra depth, as well as improve drainage and moisture retention.

 

What to Plant 

Choose vegetables that you like to eat — or try something that's new to you.

Fill your garden with the types of vegetables you like to eat. If you're big on salads, plant head lettuce, a lettuce cutting mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. If you love cooking, plant onions and peppers, leeks, potatoes and herbs. Try to include at least one vegetable that's new to you. Discovery is half the fun.

Gardening in a raised bed is all about maximizing productivity.

The challenge is to grow as much food as possible while resisting the temptation to squeeze in too many plants. Overcrowded plants never reach their full potential because they're stressed by poor air circulation and competition for water, nutrients and root space.

 

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Increase productivity by using vegetable supports, such as Tomato Cages.

Tending Your Garden

Planting intensively keeps weeds to a minimum. Weeding may be a bit more frequent in the early spring, but by midsummer your weeding chores should be over. When weeds do crop up, be sure to remove them quickly so your vegetable plants aren't competing for moisture, nutrients and root space.

An advantage of raised beds is that the soil will not fry out as quickly as it will in a regular garden. The sides of the bed help retain moisture and the plants shade the soil to reduce evaporation.

Consider applying fertilizer midseason for crops that take three or four months to mature. A monthly dose of organic fertilizer is also helpful, as this is an easy way to minimize pest and disease problems. These water-soluble nutrients are immediately absorbed by plants and help keep them healthy during stressful periods.

 

 

 

Raised Bed Irrigation Kit

Soaker hoses make watering easy. Our Raised Bed Irrigation Kit includes our Snip-n-Drip hoses and connectors to make a watering system that fits any configuration of beds.

Watering

Different types of soil have different abilities to hold water.

Adding compost to the soil will improve its ability to supply your plants with just the right amount of water. Plants absorb oxygen through their roots and can drown if the soil stays soggy for weeks at a time. Raised beds and compost can help prevent this from happening.

The best way to monitor soil moisture is with your hands. When you stick a finger down into the soil, it should feel lightly damp. Don't just feel the surface; get your fingers down to the root zone (3" deep or so) at least once a week.

In hot weather, plants may wilt during the heat of the day. This isn't always an indication that they're moisture-deprived. In many cases it's simply a way for the plant to reduce moisture loss through its leaves. Checking the soil to be sure.

One way to minimize moisture loss is through planting intensively in a raised bed. Plants shade the soil surface and help protect one another from the wind. Mulching around plants with 2-3" of shredded leaves or straw is another effective way to retain moisture and add organic matter to the soil.