Raised bed vegetable gardening is the go-to version of gardening for anyone willing to immerse themselves in this expedition, but lacks the garden space to do so. Think of it as contained gardening with a much larger pot, and customizations made to better suit your crops.
This type of gardening can be very fruitful as long as certain crucial bases were covered from the word go. For a beginner, you may rely on guesswork and waste a lot of time and resources for meager or disastrous results. Do not fret because we will talk about all the essential points that will help you perform raised bed vegetable gardening like an expert.
To begin, raised bed vegetable gardening takes the form of small raised plots of soil and other material used in gardening practices, contained in a box of wood or concrete. As mentioned earlier, it is ideal for people squeezed for space or gardeners with enough space that want to optimize on the myriad of benefits of a raised bed garden.
Vegetables especially blossom in this type of garden. Apart from saving on space, here is why you should also jump on the raised garden beds bandwagon.
Table of Contents
A well-made box garden allows drainage, especially in the heavier clay soil. If you only have this type of soil at your disposal, do not balk at gardening. Simply employ a raised bed to aid with better drainage. While veggies require water to grow tasty and sizeable, they fare terribly when drenched and are likely to rot and die. These gardens allow you to customize your soil to suit your plants’ needs.
We have established the necessity of moisture in the growth of vegetables. Therefore you cannot have soil that just drains all the water and goes back to complete dryness. Raised vegetable gardens retain the much-needed moisture for the health of your plants. In areas with sandy soil, this is the best method.
Better weed and critter control
When building a box garden, refrain from turning your soil by digging. This furthers weed infestation. It is better to use the no-till style. It is also advisable to buy your soil from a local supplier, as it is less likely to be weed infested. With raised beds, it is also easier to manage any weeds that may occur. The cardboard installed in your garden will keep weeds away.
The concrete or wood encompassing the contents of the bed also keeps critters away.
No soil compaction
Raised beds come in a variety of sizes. Whichever size you go for, it should allow you to work on your garden from the sides. This way human steps or kneeling in the garden does not compact the soil. Compaction prevents aeration, which is paramount for the performance of your crops.
Prevents soil erosion
Soil erosion occurs when moving air, rainwater, and human activity causes the soil to wear away. Raised bed box in the soil, which prevents it from eroding. To prevent soil erosion in larger gardens and farms try a hand in forestation and cover crops. However, smaller plots will do just perfect with raised gardens.
Warm soil aped up the growing process for your vegetables. Raised bed gardening contributes to achieving just that. The best part is that they will serve you better particularly in colder seasons when the soil in the garden is frosted.
With these types of gardens, you can have your garden anywhere. You may want to turn your traditional garden into raised beds, or you could put them on parking spaces made of concrete or even walkways with cobblestones on them. This is because after you make your raised beds, you can fill them with your own soil and that is enough to grow your veggies on.
People with disabilities can work in raised garden beds too as they are accessible even on wheelchairs. They are elevated and their sizes make them reachable from all around the perimeter. Moreover, even people with back problems can just garden while sitting on the edge of a well-built raised box garden.
- Aesthetic appeal
Raised bed gardens look much better than the regular garden. They are easier to organize; weed and the planting order of crops make them pretty.
Best practices for raised bed gardening for beginners
Now that you have incentives on why you should consider raised bed gardens for your veggies, you need to know how to manage successfully one so that it may give you maximum benefits and so they may last you a while longer. Let us get to it.
- Avoid monoculture
This is the practice of planting a single crop in one raised bed for prolonged periods. What this does is deplete the same nutrients on your soil and long-term, renders the soil infertile from deprivation of microorganisms that are good for your growing crops.
Instead, make a habit of growing a variety of plants on the same bed to aid your soil with managing the nutritional contents. For instance, instead of piling your single bed with a bunch of kale, arrange it so that you have a row of kale, spinach, green onions, and some herbs like mint or parsley. This way, you have different veggies consuming different levels of nutrients from the soil.
Remember to crop rotate on the next planting season too. For example, if in one raised bed you had leafy greens and some herbs, the next time you plant consider planting some beets and radishes instead and then grow the previous crops on another bed instead.
The wonderful thing about raised bed gardening is that you can fill them up with your special soil that will favor the health and development of your veggies. With the right contents such as compost, mulches, and the right soil, you may get away with not fertilizing regularly.
However, this depends on the crops you are growing. Some may need additional nutrients and you need to assist them. Therefore, remember to fertilize your box garden and try to keep it organic. Organic compost will be kind to your soil and to your vegetables and will not have long-term effects caused by chemical fertilizers such as burnt crops, smaller harvests, and even unhealthy vegetables. To the soil, chemical fertilizers are not very beneficial.
Covering the top of your soil with mulch materials is essential to your raised beds. Some mulches include grass clippings, hay, straw, dry leaves, leaf molds, wood and bark chippings, old newspapers, and more. Mulching is your friend because of a variety of reasons.
Moisture – Mulching prevents direct exposure of the sun to your soil. This limits the evaporation of the wetness in the soil and keeps the soil moist. Some veggies like spinach and carrots enjoy a lot more moisture and adding mulches on the soil surface they are grown in will ensure they receive enough.
Weed control – Weed seeds that find their way into your raised bed garden will not take root if you mulch. The mulches will blanket the topsoil and prevent weed seeds from growing with the rest of your crops.
Nutrients – Mulch materials are previous living organisms that die. The mulches eventually decompose and become food for your growing veggies. They mix with the soil and the bit of fertilizer you keep adding and form more compost that not only keeps your veggies happy but your soil healthy.
Erosion – Erosion is uncommon in box gardens. It is in fact one of the best ways to prevent erosion. However, wind may sometimes carry away the topsoil on your raised beds. Curb that by adding some mulch atop it.
- Beneficial bugs and birds
Pests can be a menace for your veggies. While a raised bed garden can keep most of them away, you need some for your plants. Here is why.
Natural insecticides – It sounds a little insane that you need bugs to keep away bugs, but it works. Consider that not all bugs and bad guys. Some worms that chew onto the leaves of your leafy greens are food to ladybugs. Birds on the other hand like to feast on some hazardous insects like gardens. This natural ecosystem keeps you from constantly spraying your vegetables with insecticides that have negative effects on your plants and soil.
Additionally, when predator bugs and birds visit your raised beds, they are less likely to attack your crop if there are other pests to feed on. To achieve this, you need to capitalize on some plants that attract beneficial bugs. They can be flowery like strawberries or fruity like tomatoes.
Pollination – these beneficial bugs and birds are your agents of pollination. They will keep your raised bed garden thriving by aiding in fertilization and pollination.
Weeds can be detrimental to the well-being of your vegetables. When they take root in your raised beds, they compete for nutrients with your crops. This is why you need to constantly lookout for any weeds developing on your vegetable beds. Whenever you go to your raised beds to water, fertilize or even pick veggies for dinner, be sure to weed a bit. This way you avoid the accumulation of unwanted plants in your box gardens.
Watering your crops is imperative. Most vegetables especially love moisture. This does not mean drenching them, however. Your raised beds must contain functional drainage. Some people put granite sand underneath their beds for better drainage. While you can just water your veggies with a can, this may be tiring and sometimes ineffective.
Investing in a good irrigation system is more advisable. Soaker hoses, sprinklers, and drip irrigation work well. Most gardeners will recommend drip irrigation as it serves all sizes of raised garden beds and may even come with timers for efficiency.
- Variety labeling
Label your seeds in the storage bags and on the raised beds. This way you can keep track of which crops did well and which suffered. You cannot fix a problem you do not have a diagnosis. Moreover, when certain breeds do extremely well, you might want to be consistent with those. That is why you need to keep track of what you planted.
To do this, you can write the names of the seeds on pieces of paper and stick them on each correlated plant. To prevent weather damage, you can insert them in clear plastic bags. You can also make inscriptions on wood, stone, or plastics. Another option would be to draw sketches of the order of your plants and arrange the respective seeds in a similar order.
You can also use colored straws. Put each colored straw in the bag of seeds and plant a similar straw next to the growing crop.
- Plan ahead of harvest
Before harvest, have a predetermined plan of what you are going to do with your raised bed, what you are going to plant, in what order, and whether your soil has enough nutrients or it will need boosting. This limits the guesswork when planting next, therefore increasing productivity.
Having the relevant information to work with simplifies the workload too. Then you can have fun gardening instead of working on it like an unenjoyable chore.
- Harvest on time
You started your raised bed vegetable garden, handle your soil with care, planted delicious veggies, watered, fertilized, weeded, and mulched. You fell into a routine. Now that your veggies are ready to get out of the raised bed and into your kitchen harvest is simply interrupting with that routine.
Some gardeners also get busy on other matters and forget to harvest altogether. Yet, it is the whole point of putting those seeds and seedlings into the ground in the first place. Not harvesting on time decreases the quality of your product, as they may wither or rot.
Do you remember the bugs and birds? They will have a field day ingesting your tomatoes, leafy greens, and even the herbs. Therefore, when your yield is ready for harvest, do not delay and do so.
Bonus Tip: Plant in threes
This means that you should plant every single crop thrice on the raised garden beds. For example, if you are planting chard, basil, and lettuce, depending on the size of your beds, plant thrice the same crop in a row.
Of course, if your box garden is bigger you can go with as many as possible–as long as it is not monoculture– but for the smaller one ensure at least three bundles of each. This ensures that you have plenty to harvest after sacrificing some veggies for bad bugs, to attract good bugs.
Now go and get started. Happy gardening!