Raised bed garden plots are ideal for use where soil is sterile, where no soil exists, for people who have trouble bending, or just because you like the convenience of them.
Raised beds warm up faster in the spring and allow for earlier planting, the soil in them is also less compacted and nutrients can be kept confined within the soil beds. The growing season can easily be extended in a raised bed by adding a DIY hoop house over the top with PVC pipe and plastic sheeting.
This method of gardening provides many benefits. Use these tips for creating raised bed garden plots and start reaping the benefits this spring.
Location and Construction
Select a sunny location that is near a water source. Irrigation can come from soaker hose, watering can or other DIY methods, a nearby water collection system or spigot makes watering much easier.
Raised bed frames can be constructed from almost any material. Recycled lumber, concrete blocks or bricks are ideal. All the frame needs to do is keep the soil in place. Build the frame as high as is comfortable for you.
Space beds 2-4 feet apart. The distance should be determined by what will go in those paths between the beds. If it’s only foot traffic, 2 feet of spacing is sufficient. If you will using a wheel barrow, lawn mower or tiller in or around the garden the space between the beds will need to wide enough to accommodate the equipment.
Placing in-organic material on the pathways between the beds will prevent weed growth and reduce maintenance. Landscape fabric, recycled carpeting, roof shingles, etc., will do the job.
Using organic matter, like wood chips or straw, between the beds can attract pests, so it’s best to use in-organic in this area.
The beds should be no wider than 4 feet so you can reach the center from either side without stepping inside the bed.
Creating a mixture that is 50/50 soil and compost will provide plants with a loose, fertile growing medium. Organic gardeners have their own favorite type of fertilizer, like peat moss or animal manure, which can also be incorporated into the initial soil mixture.
Fill the raised beds to within four inches of the top with soil mix. Avoid walking in beds.
Mulch and Fertilizer
Mulch the plants after they have reached 6 inches in height. Add 2-4 inches of organic matter, like compost, wood chips, sawdust or straw, on top of soil. Don’t allow mulch to come into direct contact with plant stems.
Organic mulch will prevent weed growth, retain soil moisture, and slowly decompose to improve soil structure. Certain types of rough organic mulch, like wood chips and ashes, will also act as an organic pest control. Snails, slugs and other creeping, crawling pests will not cross over rough, crunchy mulch to get to tender garden plants.
Compost can be added as a side dressing of fertilizer in mid-season, or you can make compost tea and use weekly. Place a trowel full of compost in an old sock or similar fabric pouch to create a ‘tea bag’, then place the tea bag in a 5 gallon bucket of water to steep for 5 days. Use compost tea to water plants once a week. Keep several buckets of tea steeping so you’ll always have some nutrient-rich compost tea to feed your plants.