organic vegetable gardens

Ten Tips For Raised Garden Beds

Try these organic tips and tricks to get the most out of your planting space

Raised beds are great: the soil in them warms and dries out earlier in the spring than regular garden beds, so you can get planting sooner. They allow us to garden without fighting stones and roots, and the soil in them stays perfectly fluffy since it doesn’t get walked on.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks: in hot dry weather, raised beds tend to dry out quickly. Roots from nearby trees will eventually find their way into your nice, nutrient-dense soil.

Here are ten even high-yield strategies that will make the most of a raised garden bed space.

Ten Tips for Raised Garden Beds

# 1: Never Walk On The Soil

The biggest advantage of raised bed gardening is the light, fluffy, absolutely perfect soil you’re able to work with as a result. When you build your raised beds, build them so that you’re able to reach every part of the bed without having to stand in it. Raised garden bed soil doesn’t need to be tilled as it is not compacted, but this can happen if you walk on the soil in the bed 

# 2: Mulch after planting.

Mulch with newspaper, straw, grass clippings, leaves, or wood chips after planting your garden. This will reduce the amount of weeding you’ll have to do and keep the soil moist.

# 3: Plan your irrigation system.

Two of the best ways to irrigate a raised bed are by soaker hose and drip irrigation. If you plan it ahead of time and install your irrigation system before planting, you can save yourself a lot of work and time spent standing around with a hose later on.

# 4: Install a barrier to roots and weeds.

If you have large trees in the area, or just want to ensure that you won’t have to deal with weeds growing up through your perfect soil, consider installing a barrier at the bottom of the bed. This could be a commercial weed barrier, a piece of old carpet, or a thick piece of corrugated cardboard. If you have an existing raised bed and find that you’re battling tree roots every year, you may have to excavate the soil, install the barrier, and refill with the soil. It’s a bit of work, but it will save you tons of work later on.

# 5: Add nutrient enhanced compost annually.

Gardening in a raised bed is, essentially, like gardening in a really, really large container. As with any container garden, the soil will settle and get depleted as time goes on. You can mitigate this by adding a one to two-inch layer of compost or composted manure each spring before you start planting.

# 6: Fluff the soil with a garden fork as needed.

To lighten compacted soil in your raised bed, simply stick a garden fork as deeply into the soil as possible, and wiggle it back and forth. Do that at eight to twelve-inch intervals all over the bed, and your soil will be nicely loosened without a lot of backbreaking work.

# 7: Cover up your soil at the end of the gardening season

Add a layer of organic mulch or plant a cover crop at the end of your growing season. Soil that is exposed to harsh winter weather breaks down and compacts much faster than protected soil. This technique also keeps the soil nutrient enhanced 

# 8:  Space Smartly

To get the maximum yields from each bed, pay attention to how you arrange your plants. Avoid planting in square patterns or rows. Instead, stagger the plants by planting in triangles. By doing so, you can fit 10 to 14 percent more plants in each bed.

Just be careful not to space your plants too tightly. Some plants won’t reach their full size—or yield—when crowded. For instance, when one researcher increased the spacing between romaine lettuces from 8 to 10 inches, the harvest weight per plant doubled. (Remember that weight yield per square foot is more important than the number of plants per square foot.)

Overly tight spacing can also stress plants, making them more susceptible to diseases and insect attack.

# 9:  Grow Up

No matter how small your garden, you can grow more by going vertical. Grow space-hungry vining crops—such as tomatoes, pole beans, peas, squash, melons, cukes, and so on—straight up, supported by trellises, fences, cages, or stakes.

Growing vegetables vertically also saves time. Harvest and maintenance go faster because you can see exactly where the fruits are. And upward-bound plants are less likely to be hit by fungal diseases thanks to the improved air circulation around the foliage.

Try growing vining crops on trellises along one side of raised beds, using sturdy end posts with nylon mesh netting or string in between to provide a climbing surface. Tie the growing vines to the trellis. But don’t worry about securing heavy fruits—even squash and melons will develop thicker stems for support.

# 10:  Mix It Up

Companion planting saves space, too. Consider the classic Native American combination, the “three sisters”—corn, beans, and squash. Sturdy cornstalks support the pole beans, while squash grows freely on the ground below, shading out competing weeds. This combination works because the crops are compatible. Other compatible combinations include tomatoes, basil, and onions; leaf lettuce and peas or brassicas; carrots, onions, and radishes; and beets and celery. 

There are many basics to having a successful garden in a raised bed, Remember to be flexible and open to new ideas that can help your garden

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Cilantro is a great easy to care for herb to add to your garden. Like all herbs they thrive when they are picked regularly and they grow fast. Cilantro wants to bolt after temperatures reach 75°+ (fahrenheit), never fear, because after going to flower they then become Coriander seed which is a common kitchen spice. Collect and store them for cooking or you can let the plant reseed itself, it will continue to come back as long as the conditions are right!

GARDENING SKILLS TO MASTER: FROM BEGINNER TO EXPERT

When you start gardening there’s so much to learn, it’s actually overwhelming if you try and learn everything in one season. Truth be told, a gardener never stops learning. Even experts who have done it for years, learn something new each season. One should never look at as to much to learn, rather, a journey that is a lifetime lesson with amazing rewards. 

Keep reading

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SPUD REPORT

This was supposed to be an evaluation of how effective shredded paper was as a mulch for potato growing. But, as is often the case in gardening, I made other, more interesting discoveries.

SHREDDED PAPER MULCH. Verdict - It is effective as a mulch but not superior to other options. Much better suited to large plots and raised beds than pots or tubs. Needs soil surface area contact, worm and microbe activity to really function at its best, break down and form a good, protective barrier.

WHAT I LEARNED. The best harvest was from the raised bed - bigger, better spuds by far (bottom picture). The 100 litre tub was next best and the planter pots (top picture) delivered the least effective yield per seed potato. Spuds clearly prefer large, uncrowded spaces with better temperature control to do their best.

MY NEW FAVOURITE POTATO. I put in 2 kilos of seed potatoes. 1kg each of Dutch Cream and Snow Gem. Equal plantings of each variety across the 3 sites (pots, tub and raised bed). Yield results:

Dutch Cream - 1.92 kg

Snow Gem - 3.53kg.

Assorted mixed tiny spuds = 200gm.

SNOW GEMS: Faster cropping, larger spuds, cleaner skinned and absolutely delicious! They have a soft, delicate flesh which makes THE MOST DIVINE mash ever! This is the spud I will be growing from now on. Ticks a lot of boxes for me.

IN SUMMARY. In my conditions spuds do best in a large space, shredded paper mulch works better here too and is satisfactory. Snow Gem variety spuds are a winner in the patch and on the plate.