If you’re into gardening but hesitates to start due to lack of space, then you should learn how to start a raised garden bed and build a raised garden in your limited space. A raised garden gives you almost the same benefits of organic gardens, but with less work and worry.
how to start a raised bed garden: choose your raised bed, location, and overall set-up
Some of the things that you must do first is choosing your raised bed, picking the right location, and setting up the beds.
choosing your raised bed
There are various materials that you can use for your raised bed. You can use wood (preferably cedar), recycled plastic, composite wood, or galvanized steel.
Using high-quality pressure-treated lumber might cross your mind, but it is not advisable especially when growing vegetables. The chemicals from the lumber will leach into the soil and eventually affect your crops.
The height of the beds may range at about 6 inches or higher. Keep in mind that the roots will grow freely if your bed is deeper. Also, adding more soil can hold more moisture, which lessens the need for frequent watering.
You can install one even on a concrete or poor compacted soil. A bed that is 10 to 12 inches deep is recommended. If you end up with this situation. Depending on your available space, you can always start with one until you learn how to grow more crops.
finding the right location to set-up your bed
To attain optimum productivity and plant health, your plants should get at least 8 hours of sun every day. You want to give your plants as much sunlight as possible, so placing your bed in the right location is essential.
The following are things you should consider in finding the right location:
- Avoid wet and low areas that could result in soggy soil.
- Water is easily accessible.
For you to build a good garden, you have to fill your beds with soil that will benefit your plants. An advantage of using a raised garden is you can fill it with a good blend of soil that is way better than the native soil in your area.
You want to fill the bed with loose soil that is rich in nutrients as well as organic matter. These will allow the roots to grow freely and let them access as much nutrients and water to grow healthy.
Before permanently placing your raised beds in a certain location, make sure that you have removed all perennial weeds and grass. Loosen the soil with a shovel or garden fork to about 6 to 10 inches deep. This will improve the moisture retention and drainage of the beds.
Doing this will make your plants think that they are growing in a bed with 12 to 18 inches depth even if the height is only 5 inches. Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and even tomatoes will grow freely in these beds.
When filling your beds, below is the recommended proportions to make a good blend:
- 10% potting soil (this is a growing mix that contains no soil but only peat moss, vermiculite and/or perlite.
- 30% compost
- 60% topsoil
If you are not able to access any quality topsoil, you can always go for a 50-50 blend that is comprised of compost and soilless growing mix. You can always add peat moss to the bed, but you should not add more than 20% in the total mix. Since it is naturally acidic, you want to control its amount in your mix and avoid affecting your crops.
how to start a raised bed organic garden: choosing what and when to plant
If you’re trying to learn how to start a raised bed vegetable garden from scratch, you’ll have to learn the type of vegetables you should plant and when to plant them.
what you should plant
When working in a vegetable garden, you should focus on what you and your family like to eat. If you’re into salads and other greens, you can plant lettuce cutting mix, head lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.
If you like cooking and are into home-cooked meals, you might want to learn how to start a raised bed herb garden along with planting potatoes, peppers, leeks, and onions.
As you build your raised beds, you should be focusing on maximizing productivity. As much possible, you want to avoid squeezing in a lot of plants as it may result in overcrowding. You want to grow healthy ones so as, minimize the competition for root space, nutrients, and water and also poor air circulation.
You’ll have to consider the growth habit of every plant like if it’s trailing, climbing, or bushy. Take for example planting carrots next to lettuce is fine. However, planting sprawling cucumber next to lettuce may cause some problems. You’ll have to use cages, stakes, and ladders to keep your beds as neat as possible and easy to manage.
There are some vegetables that you can grow right from the seeds, but there are also those that are best started with a seedling. It usually takes a shorter time to harvest if you start with plants.
If you’re residing in cold regions and the growing season is shorter, plants like pepper or tomato that are started from seeds will not be able to develop before frost. It will make more sense if you purchase plants or seedlings first than buying a pack of seeds.
Most root crops are sown directly from seeds, as they are not known to transplant well. As much as possible, the seeds must be sown on the soil where they are going to grow. With salad greens, they are recommended to be sown from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings.
when you should plant
Several factors must be considered when deciding when you should start planting. The following are some of the factors to consider:
- Type of Plant
Some plants can grow healthy in cool weather while some can be killed or damaged when temperatures are low.
- Soil Temperature
Most plants grow in soil temperature of about 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some can germinate in cool soil. You’ll have to learn what plants can thrive well in the temperature of your beds’ soil.
- Frost Dates
You should know the plants that are cold sensitive. These plants must not go into your garden until the dangers of frost are done.
- Midsummer Heat
Planting dates must also be determined even in areas with hot climates. Gardeners usually plant during fall instead of spring just to avoid the dangers of midsummer heat to certain vegetables. On the other hand, others are preparing for two planting seasons every year during late winter and early fall.
Once you have planted the seeds, it should be watered thoroughly until it reaches several inches deep. You should keep the soil moist until all seeds germinate and young plants have their first sets of leaves.
There are seeds with hard coating that will take days before seedlings come out. In case the soil dries out during this period, you will have to reseed as the process is interrupted. Using a landscape fabric, especially during summer, can help in keeping the soil’s top layer moist. Once the seedlings come out, you can remove the cover by then.
Young seedlings can be transplanted to your garden bed when the weather is drizzly, calm, and cool. When you transplant tender seedlings, they will most likely get damaged. If the weather is still sunny and dry, you can always cover them with the net or fabric or you can water them every day or every other day for a few weeks after transplanting.
how to start a raised bed garden in your backyard: tending and watering your plants
Other things that you’ll have to focus on once you have started planting is tending your garden and dealing with your watering schedules.
tending the Garden
You’ll still have to get rid of weeds in your raised garden bed. Though this will only be a common chore during early spring, you won’t have to deal with them midsummer. Whenever you see weeds crop up, remove them quickly to prevent them from competing for moisture, root space, and nutrients with your vegetables.
Since the soil on raised beds retains moisture, you’ll have lesser watering chores than what you would normally do with a regular garden. However, you may have to keep up with your watering chores during drought or hot weather.
The application of fertilizer is recommended midseason for crops that usually take 3 to 4 months to mature. If possible, use water-soluble fertilizer monthly especially those with fish emulsion, humic acid, and seaweed to keep your crops healthy.
Water-soluble nutrients are easily absorbed by plants. These keep them healthy and minimize the risks of having pests and diseases.
Start harvesting your crops whenever they look ready to eat. They are usually most nutritious and tastiest just before they get ripe. Make sure that you remove any foliage or spent fruit and diseased or damaged plant materials.
For plants like tomatoes and beans, you’ll have to put up a trellis or cage to support the crops. This will not only keep the garden neat but will also make harvesting a breeze.
When fertilizing these plants, it is recommended that you use all-purpose, granular organic fertilizer after planting and midseason. Row covers are also recommended when transplanting and to protect them from frost.
Watering the Plants
Though Mother Nature can provide the rain at least once a week, it may never be enough for your plants. You’ll have to make up for most of the water they need to grow.
There are various ways on how you can keep your soil as moist as possible. You can keep a rain gauge to keep track of the amount of rain. Using the right type of soil can also help in retaining the moisture needed by your plants.
Using certain types of soil can also help in retaining moisture. Clay-based soils can hold water while sandy soils only let water pass through. On the other hand, loamy soil can retain moisture but can also drain well.
For your plants to get enough water, you can add compost to the soil. The compost will act as the sponge and store water. You want your soil to still be aerated to have better drainage and prevent it from getting soggy.
Roots are the ones absorbing oxygen for your plants and they can drown if the soil is soggy for a long time. Mixing compost to the soil will keep the soil well aerated while giving the plants the moisture they need.
To monitor the soil moisture, you can simply stick your finger into the soil to the root zone. Do this once a week. The soil must feel lightly damp just like a sponge you’ve just wrung out.
During hot weather, the heat may cause plants to wilt. This doesn’t mean that they lack moisture. Most of the time, the plants reduce moisture loss through their leaves.
This is why checking the soil is necessary. To prevent loss of moisture in your raised garden, you can add mulch around the plants and then add organic matter.
You can use a water wand to immediately deliver water right where it is needed. If you’re going on a vacation and won’t be able to do watering chores, you can get a water timer for your soaker hose or sprinkler. Drip irrigation systems leak water at the ground level and keep the soil moist.
Keep your plants productive and healthy by not letting the soil dry out. Whenever root hairs die, plants must be able to regrow them instead of producing fruit. Water-stressed plants can potentially become tough and bitter so, be attentive to this particular need.