Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Make & Plant a Raised Bed Garden


Do you long to feel the warm earth between your fingers and pick luscious red strawberries from your very own backyard, but are thinking to yourself, “I don‘t have the time or the space.” Well, I have good news for you! Gone are the days of the roto tiller. Grab some compost, seeds, a few boards, and pick a sunny spot, and follow these easy steps to plant your very own raised bed garden!


What Will I Grow?
I remember a couple of years ago I bought a cute little sage plant from my local farmers market. I planted it in my raised bed herb garden, and by the end of the summer that tiny little plant had grown to such an enormous size, it took up over half of my garden space. Right about that time it occurred to me, “What in the world am I going to do with this sage plant because I have never used sage a day in my life except for a few sprinkles on our Thanksgiving turkey?” I learned my lesson that day to only plant in our garden what we eat. As much as we love zucchini, squash, and pumpkin, we have never planted them in our raised beds because they take up so much space. Instead, we grew pumpkins in our landscaping this year to allow for more room in our garden, which was a lot of fun for the kids.

Where Will I Grow It?
Begin watching where your yard receives the most sunlight throughout the day and this will probably be the best spot for your raised beds. It is wise to draw a plan of your raised beds and think ahead to future phases. When we first added raised beds to our backyard, we decided on three. One bed for strawberries, another for tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, kale, and spinach, and the third for herbs and raspberries. This year we will be adding three more beds. Because we eat so many salads, we are designating one raised bed just to spinach and other salad greens. We are also going to add a bed of asparagus and another for tomatoes, because we sure love our salsa around these parts!

A wonderful book to help you with your backyard raised bed garden planning is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

How Do I Construct a Raised Bed?

There are many ways to construct a raised bed. In the construction of our raised beds, we used three 2 x 6 boards 8 feet each. Two boards were left 8 feet long, while the third was cut in half, making it 4 feet long. This made the dimensions of the beds 4’ X 8’ each.

This type of construction easily converts into a lovely winter garden as well.

What Type of Soil Should I Put in My Garden? 
Start gathering organic materials now for your raised bed gardens. It is not necessary, but you can even buy a compost bin to house this gardener’s gold. We have always used the amazingly simple and successful methods found in the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. Organic materials such as grass, leaves, vegetable peelings, peat moss, manure, etc. can be layered in your raised bed for a visually appealing garden while creating better soil. - no tilling….no heavy digging…no kidding!

Here is a handy dandy YouTube video to show you how.

What if I Don’t Have a Backyard for Raised Bed Gardening?
Try your hand at container gardening! You can grow just about anything in a container. Check out this clever way to grow potatoes.

So no more excuses! Grab yourself some dirt and get planting. Before you know it, you will have fresh, organic produce growing in your own backyard!

- Shawn Neal

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