Raise the Bar in Your Garden: A Guide to Raised Bed Growing
Spring is here and it’s time to start planning your garden. Why not try something a little different this year and build a raised bed in your backyard or in your greenhouse? Raised bed growing is considered a step up from simply gardening in the ground because you have more control over soil quality. For example, you can aerate the natural ground soil and use it in your raised bed or you can buy soil that contains the nutrients most important for your crop.
Raised beds can grow almost any of the same crops you would grow in the ground, from flowers and vegetables to small bushes and shrubs. With the many benefits associated with raised bed growing, you should consider building one this year so you can garden in it for years to come.
WHAT BENEFITS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH RAISED BED GROWING?
Raised bed gardening is an excellent alternative to growing plants directly in the ground. In a raised bed, you control the conditions your plants are exposed to. First, you are able to choose the texture and content of the soil you grow in. Natural soil tends to be tightly packed and lacking nutrients, while the soil used in raised beds is nutrient rich and aerated, allowing you to plant crops closer together. Raised bed gardens produce almost twice as many flowers and vegetables per square foot as ordinary gardens.
Another advantage of raised beds is the extended growing seasons. Soil in raised beds tends to warm up more quickly in the spring and stay productive later into the fall than ground soil. This gives you time to plant an extra crop or two, increasing the amount of fresh produce you will be able to bring to market or your table.
HOW DO I CONSTRUCT MY OWN RAISED BED?
Building your own raised bed garden can be a fun start to the growing season. All you need to get started is the perfect spot to build your garden. When choosing a location for your raised bed, it’s important to consider how much sunlight hits the area, as well as if there is a water source close by. Once you have a good area picked out, find the flattest spot and start building.
Once you decide on your spot and choose a size for your raised bed, it’s time to prepare the site. To be safe, even if you are planning a shallow bed, you should dig out some of the existing soil in order to give the roots enough room to grow. Once you dig your hole, place some galvanized wire mesh over the soil to maintain a barrier between your soil and the ground soil to protect your plants from pests.
After the mesh is placed, you can start constructing your frame. We recommend using recycled plastic lumber because it is rot, crack, split and splinter resistant and won’t need to be replaced over time. It’s important that your raised bed frame is level so the water doesn’t pool on one side of the bed when you are watering your plants.
Next season, the same raised bed can be used to grow again. Simply add some compost to the soil and plant new plants.
HOW CAN I KEEP PESTS OUT OF MY RAISED BED GARDEN?
Though pest problems are minimal with raised bed growing, burrowing animals can still be an issue on occasion. To avoid losing your crops to these critters, we recommend placing wire mesh at the bottom of the bed to keep them out. This is much more cost effective than replacing your entire crop after the pests get to it.
HOW CAN I MAKE MAINTENANCE EASIER IN MY RAISED BED GARDEN?
Maintenance can be made easier down the road by taking some preventative measures when installing your raised bed. You can outfit your raised bed garden with a watering system and soil warming cables during the install process. By burying soil warming cables about 6” into the soil, you have a system that will automatically turn on when the temperature drops below a certain set point. Having these cables in your raised bed garden will help plants grow more quickly and extend your growing season.
Installing an irrigation system into your raised bed at the time you build it is also a great idea because it will save you the hassle of watering your plants by hand later. We recommend a drip tape system that can be customized to fit your needs.
Raised bed gardening is not only efficient and cost effective; it is fun and really adds to the look of your yard or greenhouse. By building a raised bed this spring, you are providing yourself with a great garden for season after season.
Do you use a raised bed garden? What crops have you grown in it in the past?