Growing vegetables in a large allotment style expanse of soil is a wonderful thing, but growing them in a raised bed is so easy that it opens veg growing up to more people of all abilities.
Raised beds can be any size and shape so they fit into any space, it can even be made from a large pot. They can also double up as a cold frame during cool weather by placing fleece or plastic sheet over the top
Are Raised garden beds better for vegetable gardening?
Raised beds are a fantastic choice for your first vegetable garden. Whether you use large pots or purpose built raised bed, you’ll have free draining soil to plant it. This can be very helpful if your ground soil is not great for planting in.
So, What are the Benefits of raised garden beds?
Raised garden beds are great for growing a variety of vegetables, flowers or fruit. Growing small numbers of plants instead of long rows.
Raised beds are also really good for keeping weeds down, they make it easier to avoid standing on your beds and compacting your soil. You’ll also have amazing free draining soil.
By far the best of all the slugs, snails and pests won’t be able to get to your plants.
How do you build a raised bed?
- Decide where you want to build your raised bed. Prepare the base so it’s flat.
- Once you have decided how high you need your bed to be, you need to cut your corner posts to size. Beds can be anywhere from 15cm up to approximately 1 meter. The deeper the bed the more. Variety of plants you are able to grow, but if you only want to grow salad leaves the a meter deep of soil is a waste.
- Once you have your posts, just work out how many and what size side pieces you need and cut them to size.
- You might need help for the next step. Screw the boards onto the end posts then add the sides. When your finished your raised bed will take shape.
- If your not going to place a base on the bed, its a good idea to use some landscape fabric to line your bed so soil doesn’t leech out during watering.
- Now add your soil. For vegetables it’s best to use your best garden compost. Let the soil settle for a day or 2 before planting so you can be sure there’s no air pockets.
- Now simply plant your plants. Space them appropriately and your good to grow!
How deep should a raised vegetable garden be?
There is no hard and fast rule for the depth of a raised bed. It really comes down to what plants you want to grow.
Salad leaves can grow in as little as 15cm of good soil where potatoes need a lot more. As a guide, I like to make sure my raised beds are 30cm tall at least. You can make them taller still to make them easier to maintain if bending over it tricky.
Make your bed as big as space allows. You might like to build more than one so you can rotate your crops.
Do I need to remove grass for raised bed?
When your looking for space to put your raised bed, you don’t need to dig over your lawn, you can just simple cover an area of turf with thick cardboard or weed membrane and place your raised bed over this.
By the time you have your layer of soil covering this layer its thick enough to stop weeds and the grass growing. Eventually the grass and weeds die away and feed the soil as the cardboard layer decomposes.
What do you put in the bottom of a raised garden bed?
Again cardboard is useful for lining the bottom of the bed if your placing it on grass etc. however a base isn’t needed if your putting the bed straight onto soil.
Although some people still do as perennial weeds and nasty’s like bindweed and brambles can survive and grow through this depth of soil.
You can also line the inside of your raised bed with weed suppressant membrane to help keep the soil in the bed.
How do you prepare a raised garden bed for planting?
To get your bed ready for planting, there’s a few steps to get the very best harvest you can year after year.
3 Steps for Improving Your Raised Bed garden soil
- Add good garden compost. Make your own garden compost from your own kitchen scraps find out how here!
- Plant a Cover Crop like fast growing lettuce or radish while waiting for other seeds to grow. In the winter you can use green manures to feed and protect your soil. Pea and beans crops also help to fix nitrogen in the soil which is a real treat for leafy green plants.
- Try no dig gardening. Don’t waste effort digging compost, manure or other materials into your raised bed. Simple layer on the top and soils life such as worms will do the job for you. I like to lay over a thick sheet of cardboard from waste boxes and packaging. Then cover this with a good layer of homemade garden compost. Sometimes we add manure, blood fish and bone feed or even grass clippings in a thin layer to add organic matter to the soil.
What vegetables grow best in raised bed
My 5 top Veggies to Grow in a Raised Bed
- Root vegetables. This crop can be tricky to grow in clay soils. The prefer soft crumbly soil that has no stones in it. So raised bed gardening suits these crops as you can control the conditions a lot easier than in the soil. It is also much easier to net these crops from carrot root fly and other airborne pests with a net over the whole bed. Pests like the carrot root fly is said to only fly around 60cm off the ground so again raised beds can be adapted to fit the needs of this crop easily.
- Leafy greens. Leaves are a wonderful crop to grow from colourful rainbow chard, lettuce or spinach there such a diversity and variety within this category of veg. Having them in raised beds helps to add drainage, makes cloching against the worst of the weather easier and the soil can be amended much easier in the soil.
- Onions. This crop like to be left well alone. They hates weeds and other plants growing near them so giving them their own raised bed makes this process easier. Onions like the drier soil in a raised bed too.
- Tomatoes and chillies. My raised beds are near my back door so I can pick and eat very quickly. I keep plants like my tomatoes, chillies and aubergines in the raised beds so I can keep them closer to the house in my raised bed so I can pick easier, cover the crop with fleece easier if the weather turns horrible but also have more access to them. I can water more and be there to spot pests occurring quicker with this needy crop.
- Pumpkins. With modern breeding there is now such a variety of pumpkins and squash to choose from. Including patio pumpkins that can be grown in large pots. I grew the variety ‘Festival’ last years and we loved it. A pretty variety to have near the house.
How often should you water raised beds?
Raised beds can dry out very quickly depending on the preparation you’ve made.
If you have added lots of organic matter for example the bed will be able to hold more water in the soil and keep it ready for the plants when its needed.
The general rule of thumb is to water your pots and raised beds daily. I tend to find using a finger helps too.
Pop your finger into the soil near your plants and if the soil feels dry then water it. If not leave it till the next day.
Another way to save moisture is to mulch the soil. Mulch helps prevent water evaporation. When mulching for moisture retention, use a thick layer of mulch 2-4 inches deep.
You can mulch with almost anything but some popular choices are, compost, grass clippings, fine stone chipping etc.
So there you go,
• Plan where to put your beds
• Build them
• Line them with weed fabric
• Fill with soil and garden compost.
• Plant your seeds or seedlings and off you go!!
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