Have You Considered a Raised Vegetable Bed?
Anyone who has tried to dig a garden bed in a clay soil knows that it takes an almost Herculean effort to make it thrive. There is a solution: raised beds. They have so many advantages that raised beds are the only way I grow my vegetables.
First of all, you don’t waste your time fighting that losing battle against poor soil, because you are filling your raised bed with perfect soil from the get-go. Raised beds dry out quicker in the spring, and the soil warms faster. You can make them whatever size works for you. Also, with very little work after the initial construction, you will have beautiful, light, fluffy, nutrient-rich soil to plant in year after year.
The success of your raised bed depends on large part upon where you put the bed. Your raised veggie garden should be in full sun at least eight hours per day. Ideally, the site should also be near a water supply, garden shed, and your compost pile (you do have one, right?)
The materials you use to build your raised bed will depend largely upon your personal taste and your budget. Mine are built of six inch wide pine boards. They won’t last forever, but building a garden out of pressure treated timber is a really, really bad idea. However, it’s a really good for garden sheds. If you have a larger budget, cedar boards are a good choice, since they are more resistant to rot than pine is. Of course, stone or brick would make a great bed, too, but they will cost you more.
The advantage is that you will never have to worry about rot. There are plenty of people who don’t build any kind of an enclosure, simply raking their soil into flat mounds with sloping sides to shed excess water. I’m not a fan of this method because I like my soil contained. Also, the structure gives you a nice place to sit while you’re weeding or planting.
Preparing the Site
This is the most work you’ll ever have to do on your raised bed, I promise. If your bed is going in an area that was established lawn, as most beds do, you’ll have to clear the grass. The easiest way to do this is with a straight-head shovel. It takes a bit of work, but that’s the hard part, and it is done. After the grass has been removed, use a garden fork to loosen the soil.
There is no need to go crazy digging here. Why make it harder than it needs to be? Just stick the fork in the ground as deeply as you can, give it a wiggle, pull it out, and repeat. That’s it. Gardening doesn’t have to be torture.
After loosening the soil at the bottom, it’s time to put your structure in place. If you chose wood, construct your frame (being sure to use galvanized screws so they don’t rust,) and set it in. If you chose stone, bricks, or cement block, go ahead and construct it now. The best advice I can give here is to construct your bed as levelly as possible. To level it, just add or remove soil underneath the structure until it is level.
You want everything nice and even. If your bed is sloping, it’s not going to be pretty when you water. Picture your very own miniature Tahquemenon Falls.
Filling the Bed
Now that you have your perfectly sited, sturdily constructed, wonderfully level bed, you have to fill it with something! My personal preference is to fill the entire bed with compost. I never have enough on hand, so I buy the bagged compost they sell at garden centres and B&Q. It does the job wonderfully. It is light, fluffy, full of nutrients and perfect for growing everything from carrots to spinach. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using topsoil.
It’s less expensive, and, given some slow-release fertilizer and the addition of some organic matter (shredded leaves, grass clippings) in time, it will be just as good as the compost. However, if you are impatient for results, I’d go with the straight compost, or a compost/topsoil mix.
Now comes the fun part: planting time. You can put your transplants, or direct-sow into the bed. The beauty of it is, you don’t even really need any tools besides the ones at the ends of your arms. The soil, whether compost or amended topsoil, will be so light and fluffy that planting will be a dream.
After you have your transplants in, you will want to add a couple of inches of mulch. It will help keep the soil moist, and you’ll spend a lot less time weeding. If you have direct-sown seeds, wait until they are established before you mulch. I personally prefer cypress mulch, but everything from cedar chips, to cocoa hulls, to grass clippings will work wonderfully. It’s really up to you and what you want your garden to look like.
Here is where the true beauty of a raised bed comes in. At the end of the season, just rough up the soil, maybe mix in some shredded leaves that you have raked up from around your property. Throw in a handful of slow-release fertilizer, and you’re done. Come spring, all you have to do is add some more compost if your soil has settled a lot over the winter, rake it smooth, and plant away. And because raised beds warm and dry out faster than regular beds, you’ll be planting even earlier than before.
I hope you’ll give this method a try. It is a lot less daunting to plant a garden every year if you don’t have to spend so much time preparing a bed. I spent less than twenty minutes prepping my two four by eight beds before I planted this spring. As a result, I could focus on the enjoyment of simply planting seeds, listening to the birds, and feeling the cool air on my skin. Now, that’s gardening!
Another Voice – Added
Raised bed gardening has many benefits, and few drawbacks.
The raised bed will warm up earlier in the spring, allowing an earlier start to your growing season. The raised bed is easier to maintain by not allowing encroaching plants, grasses, or weeds into the bed. The raised bed can be a boon to an elderly person or a handicapped person by allowing them to sit on the edge of the bed while planting, weeding, or harvesting.
Disadvantages of a Raised Bed
One of the disadvantages of a raised be is that it takes more time than just digging a bed, and is more expensive but well worth it.
Making a Raised Bed Garden
I have many raised beds in my garden. I make them out of cement blocks. I find that cement blocks are long lived, they can be moved if necessary, they do not rot away like wood, and I can sit on the edge of the blocks while I work or plant in my garden. I make my raised garden beds with light blocks, about 18 inches long and 6 inches high. I have 7 blocks on either side, and 3 blocks at each end. I can reach from either side without having to step into the bed.
Finishing the Raised Bed
After I build my beds I dump all of my kitchen waste (vegetation only – no bones or meat scraps) into it for a period of time – usually a month or so, or even over the winter months. This used to be behind my summer house but better to put in straight into the raised bed. Then I fill my beds with potting top soil (so named at the local store) for about £2.00 per bag. I need about 20 bags of soil – 1 cubic foot each.
Then for a top dressing I buy a 4 cu. ft. bag of potting soil, and sprinkle it on top. I prefer the one with either fertiliser or water crystals, or both. I water my raised beds thoroughly before planting. I wait until it is no longer wet to the touch to plant my seedlings or seeds. Seed moms Garden
Other uses of Raised Beds in the Garden
I grow a lot of perennial flowers, and plant them in the raised beds in the fall, where they will over winter and really give a wonderful show in the spring. I also have a cement block bed where I put all of my compost (kitchen scraps, garden waste, etc.)
If I have too many plants (I plant in 8 oz. styrofoam cups which are reused year after year) I put them into an empty raised bed that has not had any soil put into it, and let the leaves fall on them or put straw over them. I have successfully over wintered many plants in such a bed.
Final Notes on Raised Bed Gardens
You will have to make sure that the raised beds do not dry out. I tell by the first plant to wilt that it is time to water. A raised bed needs to be watered more often than an in-ground bed. Also be sure and do not let your plants go dry in the winter.
The Best Way To Grow Vegetables And Flowers Using Raised Garden Beds
All gardeners love to have a garden that is full of flowers, trees and even tasty vegetables. Unfortunately many of us live in areas where the soil conditions are less than suitable for growing either of these sorts of plants. It can take a vast amount of time to get soil that has become compacted, back in to a suitable state for growing in it after a lifetime of pressure from construction and walking over it. Using raised garden beds to plant flowers or vegetables can help you to achieve a colourful and vibrant new look for your garden.
A raised bed is a container of soil that can be maintained easily. The great advantage to a raised bed is that they can be so flexible as they come in a range of different sizes. Another great thing about a raised garden bed is that you can have one that is permanently fixed to the ground using concrete or wood or you can have one that can be moved if necessary.
Whether you are choosing to grow vegetables and herbs or just flowers then a raised bed will be a good solution. The reason that they are better for growing is because the soil is less compacted and therefore allows more water and minerals through. If you’re growing flowers in them then they will receive a lot of nutrients from the soil and should be on a par with the sort of plants you’d get from a really good flower shop.
Those of you that like growing your own vegetables will benefit from the composition of the soil in a raised garden bed. Vegetables will be in the perfect growing environment thanks to the mixture of good drainage, compost and topsoil. When growing your own vegetables you can control the growing environment more easily. You can remove any small weeds as soon as they appear as well as being able to control insects by planting companion herbs and vegetables.
Should you make the decision to build or install a raised bed in your garden then you need to take a few things into account in order to get the best results. You want your raised garden bed to get the most amount of sunshine possible. For this reason where possible you should point them facing north. Raised beds can become dried out quickly so you will need to monitor the amount of water in the soil.
Moisture levels can often be controlled by making sure you water the bed during the morning and in the evening. Another good idea is to create a channel between a row of vegetables that will help the areas around the vegetables from becoming flooded by rainfall.