by Jennifer Poindexter
Raised bed gardens are becoming all the rage. What’s not to love? You can choose your own designs, have more control over the growing environment, and grow a variety of plants in a set-up unique to your property.
However, some people struggle when using this gardening method. If you ever have a hard time growing in raised beds, or if you’re looking for ways to improve your raised bed garden, you’re in the right place. I’m going to share a few of my “secrets to success” when growing in raised beds.
Here’s what you should know about raised bed gardening.
1. Place in Full Sun
When growing in a raised bed garden, you must consider your garden placement before you do anything else. This garden may not work for every vegetable, fruit, or flower you’d like to grow.
However, you should pick a place which works for most plants. With this in mind, be sure to pick a location which receives approximately six to eight hours of sunlight per day to meet this growing condition for a variety of plants.
2. Consider the Bed Size
This is one of the first things I recommend when speaking with friends about raised bed gardens. You must consider the bed size.
If you can’t stand on one side of the bed and reach the other side, without stepping in the middle, your boxes need to be smaller. This will ensure you can care for your plants without unnecessary hardship.
3. Consider Bed Spacing
We’ve discussed how large the actual raised beds should be, but you also must consider the spacing between each raised bed in your garden.
If you can’t kneel in front of one of your beds and move comfortably without bumping into the one beside it, the beds are too close. It’s a good idea to be able to fit a wheelbarrow between each bed as well.
4. Build with Durable Materials
The first set of raised beds I ever built weren’t constructed from durable materials. I was young, on a budget, and built with what I had to work with. However, I knew my raised beds weren’t going to last forever.
If you’re building raised beds that you need to last, be sure to choose materials which won’t rot. Metal or cedar wood are some of the most durable options for constructing a raised bed garden, and they shouldn’t contain harmful chemicals that could leach into your soil.
5. Maintain a Walkway Between Beds
My current raised bed set-up is much better than what I started with. Yet, over the years, I’ve realized the importance of maintaining a walkway between the beds. It can be rock, mulch, or pavers.
However, it’s ideal to lay landscaping fabric and create a walking path. This isn’t only for looks. In fact, it stops the need for mowing and weed eating around your beds. In turn, this stops grass and weeds from having the opportunity to land in your beds. This reduces the amount of weeding you have to do overall.
6. Mulch, Water, and Fertilize Correctly
Mulch, water, and fertilizer are key ingredients to a successful raised bed garden. Most crops require deep watering because it encourages stronger root systems. However, you should be mindful that crops with shallow root systems must be watered shallow as well.
Once you discover the correct watering style, be sure to mulch around your plants. This keeps weeds down and moisture within the soil. Finally, fertilize your plants as needed. They have minimal soil to work with in a raised bed which means the nutrients are limited as well. Be sure to supply everything your plants need to provide their opportunity to thrive.
7. Dig Deeper
You’d like to grow plants that have deep root systems, but if you build your beds tall enough, this could equate to many materials and a lot of soil needed to fill the beds. How do you get around this?
If you’d like deeper beds that aren’t taller, put your frame in place to know where your border is. From there, begin digging beneath the beds. You can dig up to a foot in the ground. This will provide the depth the plants need without making taller beds. It should also provide ample room for deeper root systems to form.
8. Weed Barrier Can Work in Some Cases
If you’re building taller raised beds, or only desire shallow raised beds, you can place weed barrier in the bottom of your boxes.
This will stop any weeds from sprouting, in your beds, from beneath them. Anything you can do to stop additional weeding is a bonus.
9. Keep Soil Aerated
One of the great things about raised bed gardening is you’re in control of many of the growing elements. You control which soil to use and what you’d like in the soil.
Therefore, you should have soil that’s light, fluffy, and well-draining. Over a few grow seasons, the dirt can become compacted. Use a garden fork to regularly “fluff” your soil and keep it aerated. This makes the growing conditions better for most plants.
10. Amend Soil at Each Planting
As I mentioned earlier, a downside to raised bed gardening is your plants have a limited amount of soil to work with.
For this reason, it’s vital that the soil be amended after each planting. This will help replace any nutrients the previous plants might have used. It’s a step taken to ensure your new plants will have all they need in their growing area.
11. Invite Pollinators
Pollination is key to any style of garden. We need pollinators to spread pollen from one plant to the next to ensure we get a productive harvest.
How do you invite pollinators into your garden? By adding annual flowers to the growing area. It will brighten your grow space and ensure your crops are fully pollinated, simultaneously.
12. Don’t Walk in Your Beds
Now it’s time to discuss a few things you shouldn’t do when growing in raised beds. One of the biggest no-no’s is to walk in your raised beds.
As discussed earlier, if your beds are the right size, you shouldn’t need to walk in them. Try to avoid this at all costs because it compacts the soil which isn’t good for many plants.
13. Don’t Forget to Extend Your Grow Season
When growing in a raised bed, you have the ability to easily extend your grow season. You can fit your garden bed for a DIY cold-frame top.
The top can usually be constructed from wood and old windows. Add a few hinges to the lid, and you can cover your raised bed as needed. This would allow you to grow cold-hardy vegetables for longer periods of time.
14. Don’t Forget to Winterize Your Beds
Finally, when using raised beds, don’t forget to winterize them. Remove all dead plants, debris, and weeds from the grow space.
Finish the process by either mulching or planting a cover crop. Certain cover crops, like clover, are great for putting nutrients back into the soil. When the next growing season rolls around, till the cover crop into the soil and let it compost to help the next round of plants.
This concludes our secrets to success when growing in raised beds. By utilizing these fourteen tips, it should help you grow a variety of plants with less hassle.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to create a grow space that fits into your property and serves as a place for you to learn new gardening techniques while growing healthy foods and beautiful plants.