Gardening is something many people try, but fail. They fail because they try to go too big too fast, they give up too quickly, or they don’t seek advice. Gardening can be easier than you think, but there is also some skills you can learn to make it easier and more rewarding. Here are some tips for creating a raised bed garden which will have you falling in love with gardening.
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Don’t make gardening any harder than it is. While it’s not as simple as throwing seeds in the ground and coming back in the fall to harvest your crops. Gardening can be made easier by using your brain, skill and raised bed garden ideas. If you are not sure what raised bed gardening is, read our An Intro to Raised Bed Gardening.
Location for an Outdoor Container Garden
Choosing a good location for your outdoor container garden is essential. If you choose the wrong location, it could mean disaster for your plants. The right location is one in which the plants get just the right amount of sun, are protected from harm from various outside influences, and is in a convenient spot for you to care for the garden.
The most important part of choosing a location for your container garden is choosing a place where the amount of sunlight is correct for your plants. This may mean locating part of your garden in one area of your yard, and part of your garden in another area.
If you have several plants that require a lot of sun, and several that require shade, you’ll either have to split your garden into two sections, or you’ll have to provide shade to those plants that need it.
Setting up Shade
This can be relatively simple for a container garden. If you just have a few plants that require shade, you can set up some sort of shade system. Using a tarp or other shade system, you can fashion a frame over your plants that blocks sun for most of the day, depending on how much shade the plants need. This way, you can locate your shade-loving plants with your sun-loving plants.
Keep Gardens Away from Dust and Debris
Next, you need to be sure to keep your plants away from the street, if possible. Pollution from vehicles on the road might damage your plants. Cars can also kick up dust that could settle on your plants, and their tires can also potentially throw rocks and other debris that could damage plants or break pots.
Close to the House
You should also try to keep your container garden as close to your house as possible. There are several reasons why you want to do this. First of all, you need to be able to easily reach your garden to take care of it. If you locate the garden too far from your house, you may be hesitant to tend to it.
Also, the closer to your house your garden is located, the less likely it is that it will be harmed by critters. Rabbits, deer, gophers, and other garden pests don’t like to get too close to human scent. If you keep your garden closer to your home, the animals will be able to smell your scent more strongly and might be unwilling to approach your garden.
Another great reason for locating your garden near your home is in case you need to move your plants indoors. Sometimes you might have unexpected bad weather or other problems, and you might find a need to bring your plants inside to protect them. If the plants are closer to your house, they’ll be easier to bring in.
Away from Pests
If you have had a garden in a particular location in the past few years, and it had heavy infestation from insects, you might consider putting your garden in another part of your yard. Sometimes pests will return the following year to a previous location in search of the same food they had the year before. If you relocate your garden, you have a small chance of keeping these insects from finding your garden this year.
Consider What You will be Growing
If you’re growing very large plants like corn, choosing the right location from the start is extremely important. These large plants may be too heavy or too awkward to move safely, so they must be located correctly from the beginning. Careful planning can avoid any location disasters, so be careful to plan your garden thoroughly.
Tips to Creating a Raised Bed Garden
The first step in creating a raised bed garden is to decide how large you’d like it to be. It should be no wider than 4 feet, so you can reach comfortably from the end to the plants. Make sure you can reach the plants from all ends. Most people stick with 4×4 foot plots, and you can do many 4×4 foot plots or one 4×12 or 4×20 or whatever you want!
If you can’t reach your plants from any of the sides, the garden is to wide or long. You need to be able to weed, prune, trim and harvest what you plant so make sure you can reach them.
Building the Frame
You can build your frame out of standard lumber. 2×6 lumber is good enough for a frame that will house shallow-root vegetables such as radishes, lettuce, and spinach. If you want to grow larger vegetables like corn or tomatoes, you’ll need 2×12 boards, so your soil can be at least 10 inches deep.
There are many places to find instructions or raised bed garden plans for building what you need. Maybe building one isn’t your cup of tea. No worries, you can buy them in all sizes and shapes. Check out some of these raised bed gardens and planters for sale.
Type of Lumber to Use when Creating a Raised Bed Garden
Opinion varies on whether or not you should use treated lumber. If you use untreated lumber, it will rot within a few years and you’ll have to start your garden all over from scratch. But, if you use treated wood, it has a small potential to leech toxic chemicals into the soil which might be picked up by your plants and passed to you.
If you want to be on the safe side, you should stick with untreated wood. But treated wood is very convenient, and many scientists claim the chances of anyone actually being harmed by the small amount of chemicals that might leech into the soil would be miniscule. This is a personal choice, so whatever you decide is right for you is just fine.
Pre Cut Lumber
You should have your lumber cut for you when you buy it. You need the lumber ends to be perfectly even so soil won’t leak out once you put your raised bed together. This is extremely difficult to do yourself unless you have a large saw. A circular saw or handsaw probably won’t cut it.
Check your local Facebook groups for handymen in your area. There are always people who can come and put together/build things like this. Giving locals jobs is a great way to keep the economy going. If you are not able to build them yourself, find someone to help out.
Supplies Needed When Creating a Raised Bed Garden
You’ll need to use three 4-inch ribbed deck nails at each joint to put your frame together. Other types of deck nails just won’t hold tightly enough to ensure your bed won’t fall apart until the pressure of all that soil and plant material. Pick up a quality hammer, level, tape measure, square and hand saw if you don’t already have them will help.
You can also buy an easy to assemble kit, along with a watering kit like this Tool-Free, Cypress Raised Garden Beds.
Assembling the Frame
You should assemble the frame on a flat, level surface, not directly in the garden if you can help it. Your frame will be much sturdier if it’s assembled on your deck or driveway. Then you might require help moving it to the garden, as it will probably be heavy.
You should leave a minimum of two feet between boxes, preferably three feet. You need enough room to move around comfortably. Be sure to choose a good location right from the start, because once they’re filled with soil, they’d be impossible to move without emptying them!
Placing the Frame
You can dig up or till the soil underneath the frames if you wish, but it’s generally not necessary. Most plants will grow just fine in the 6 or 12 inches of soil inside the frame, and they should be able to push through the ground if they really need to. As long as you provide very high quality soil with plenty of organic material, your plants should never need to shoot roots down past those 12 inches.
Your soil should be the highest quality soil you can manage. You can purchase commercial potting soil, but it generally won’t be high enough quality. Add more organic material to this soil. You can use homemade compost, composted manure, or other rich organic material to make the soil you use the best possible quality.
Choosing Plants When Creating a Raised Bed Garden
The type of plants you choose for your raised bed will obviously be based on things such as your zone, the availability of sun in your garden, and your own personal preferences. But we’re going to talk about how to choose vegetables for your raised beds in a general way.
Plant What You Eat
First of all, you should be sure to plant only those vegetables your family actually likes to eat. Sure, those golden beets may be beautiful, but do you eat beets? Do your kids like beets? Is your spouse going to run away screaming if you try to serve them? You should only plant varieties that you actually believe your family will truly enjoy.
Having things planted in your garden that you don’t like or eat is a waste of garden space. Why grow a bunch of squash, if you never use it. While giving fresh produce away is fun, that isn’t why you garden.
Easy Plants to Grow
The easiest plants to grow in raised beds include beans, Swiss chard, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and radishes. These plants are all great for beginners. Herbs are also generally very easy to grow. You should choose some of these easier types if you’re new to raised bed gardening or to gardening in general. If you don’t have a ton of time to devote to gardening using Easy to Grow Varieties.
Fast Maturing Plants
If you want plant vegetables that reach maturity very quickly, you can choose varieties that are better for this purpose. Some of us can be very impatient. If you hate waiting around to harvest your first vegetables, you can try radishes, spinach, lettuce, beans, beets, squash, cucumbers, carrots, and peas.
Plants that mature fast can be fun. Enjoying your garden throughout the growing season is great! Have some cucumbers with your fresh lettuce and spinach. Make a casserole with squash, carrots and peas. Or even join a farmers market and sell some of your veggies.
If you prefer to get your plants out as early in the season as possible, you should choose varieties that are especially good for early planting outdoors. Some varieties you can plant four to six weeks before the last frost include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, peas, and spinach.
You can plant beets, carrots, radishes, and Swiss chard up to four weeks before the last frost. You’ll be able to plan beans, corn, summer squash, and tomatoes on the date of the last frost. And you can plant cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, and winter squash about two weeks after the last frost date.
Keep an eye on your weather forecast to know when planting can start. Joining Facebook groups for gardening in your area helps too. Even joining gardening clubs in your area.
If you want to extend your growing season as late in the year as you can, you should choose great fall vegetables. You can harvest beans, Swiss chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, squashes, and tomatoes up until the last frost.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, lettuce, and spinach can all be planted just a few weeks before the last frost and will have time to mature before the frost hits. And you can plant lettuce and radishes up to a week before the first frost in many areas!
Tips for Beginning Gardener
If you’re a beginning gardener, you should probably stick to those plants you can grow during the normal growing season. You won’t want to get too complex or too complicated when you’re just starting out. You should stick with the easier varieties, and plant them during the normal growing season.
Also, be certain to choose varieties that grow well in your area. You should check your USDA zone chart to be certain a particular variety of plant will grow well in your area. Don’t pick varieties that won’t grow in your area, no matter how tempting they may be.
And be sure to choose varieties that will grow under your lighting conditions. If you have a very shady yard, don’t pick vegetables or herbs that need full sun. You need to work with the conditions available to you, especially if you’re just starting out.
Tips for Your Raised Bed Garden
Creating a raised Bed Gardening is something anyone can do, and should do. Here are some extra tips to get the most out of your gardening. Some of these tips are mentioned above, but here’s a reminder for you.
You can elevate your raised beds to provide extra protection against small animals. You can cover bottom with chicken wire to help keep out small animals, and you can cover the tops with bird netting if you have a problem with birds eating your produce.
Weeds and Disease
If you’re worried about weeds in your raised beds, you can mulch with good organic bark mulch. You can also use black plastic or weed guards, but it probably won’t be necessary. Most raised bed gardens don’t have a lot of trouble with weeds, and those few weeds that do appear are usually very easy to get rid of.
If your plants happen to be attacked by a disease from the soil, you can get rid of the soil in your beds and start all over. You wouldn’t be able to do this in a standard garden, where you’d have to wait for two years to be sure the disease had been fully eradicated.
Raised beds are typically quite simple to keep moist. You’ll only need to water the raised bed, so you can save a lot of money on your water bill. You can also buy drip irrigation systems, Worry-Free Watering! Garden Grid™ Watering Systems, or soaker hoses that will water your plants for you. This can be better for your plants than watering from overhead, because it can help prevent diseases and fungus.
During the heat of the summer, your raised beds may dry out faster. This is due to the fact that the boards that make your frame get very hot, and can dry up the soil. If this happens, you’ll need to water more often than usual. This can be beneficial, though. The extra heat produced by the boards can help you plant earlier, and extend your season longer.
Yearly Maintaining When Creating a Raised Bed Garden
It’s very simple to maintain your raised beds. You need to add organic material to the soil in your raised beds every year in the early spring, before you plant anything. This will help ensure the plants will have adequate nutrition.
When your raised beds aren’t in use in the winter, you can add a layer of crushed leaves over the top of the soil. This helps protect the soil, and also helps provide a bit of organic material for the soil.
If you have a disease infestation that comes from the soil, you should remove all of the soil from the bed and dispose of it, starting from scratch with new soil. You’ll need to be sure to get rid of as much of that soil as you can.
You may need to add more sand or organic material occasionally to ensure proper drainage. If your soil is drying out too quickly, or staying wet for too long, you’ll need to adjust the makeup of the soil.
Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on the material you used to build your frames. If you’ve used untreated wood when creating a raised bed garden, this is especially important, because it can rot quickly.