Heard about the benefits of growing your veggies in a raised bed?
Keen to get started but not sure what the deal is?
I’m going to help you out with 10 key pointers to keep in mind when starting your raised bed garden.
You’ll be successfully gardening your raised beds in no time once you start using these raised bed gardening tips.
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Top 10 Raised Bed Gardening Tips
Don’t Walk on the Soil
One of the biggest advantages to gardening in a raised bed is that the soil typically stays looser and has much better drainage. This means that the roots from your veggies can grow easily through the soil and access all the nutrients and water they need without getting clogged up in heavy, wet soil.
But, if you walk on the soil, you cause it to get compacted which takes away these benefits.
So, the most important rule to remember for raised bed vegetable gardening for beginners is to not walk on the soil! Keep it loose and fluffy and your plants will thank you!
If you’re not sold on raised beds yet and want some more reasons for getting into this way of gardening, have a read of these advantages of raised beds.
Choose Size and Shape Carefully
On the same note, the size and shape of your raised bed is important. It’s going to be hard to avoid walking on your raised bed if it’s so big or wide that you can’t access the middle of it without walking on it.
If you plan the size and shape of your raised beds so that you can always reach the middle with an outstretched arm, you can avoid ever having to walk on the soil and it will stay nice and loose.
If you’re ready to build your first raised bed, have a watch this video to get started.
Mulch Mulch Mulch
Mulching is key to so many things in raised bed gardening.
Putting mulch down around your seedlings helps to prevent weeds from popping up.
It helps to keep moisture in the ground when the days get warm and dry, while also helping to keep the soil warm when the nights are cold.
Mulch also decomposes and adds valuable nutrients and organic matter to your soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.
Mulching regularly is one of the best things you can do to maintain soil health.
What You Put in is What You Get Out
While mulching is one form of input that is essential for maintaining your raised garden, it’s not always enough.
Soil can get depleted quickly when you’re growing intensively all year round. If you’re not giving your garden any downtime, you will need to add some organic compost or fertilizer to make sure there are enough nutrients present to feed hungry plants.
Some plants, like leafy greens, don’t require so much. But other crops like tomatoes and pumpkins are heavy feeders and take a lot out of the soil. If you let the soil get depleted then you’ll start to see yellowing leaves and reduced fruit.
You can even use your own compost from kitchen waste which is doubly satisfying. Get yourself set up with a kitchen compost tumbler and you’ll quickly get addicted to the satisfaction of composting your food waste.
Work With the Sun
Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, ideally more for things like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and spinach can tolerate a little less.
Work out how much sun your raised beds will be getting and plant crops accordingly. You can still try to plant crops that like more or less sun than they’ll get in your garden but they won’t do as well and it definitely won’t be as rewarding.
Another option if you want to plant things that tend to bolt in the heat of summer is to provide some shade. You can do this easily by screwing some posts to the corners of your raised bed and using a staple gun to attach some shade cloth on the south-facing side.
Many vegetables can be encouraged to grow upwards instead of along the ground. Anything that grows like a vine can be raised off the ground, allowing more space for ground-level crops underneath.
There are obvious options like tomatoes and beans, but did you know that cucumbers and any kind of squash, melon, or pumpkin can also be trained to grow up and over a trellis? (Just be sure to avoid letting heavy fruit hang freely in case it breaks off.) I’ve even seen huge pumpkins sitting on someone’s garage roof after the plant was trained to grow up there!
Including a mix of crops that can grow upwards and crops that stay at ground level can help you to get the most out of your space.
Be Smart About Irrigation
Did you know that some vegetables, like tomatoes, do better when their leaves don’t get wet?
That’s right, using a sprinkler and regularly wetting the leaves of certain vegetables actually encourages some fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
Using a sprinkler is also less efficient. You lose a lot of water to evaporation before it even reaches the ground, and you end up watering a lot of ground that doesn’t need it, encouraging grass and weed growth.
Setting up an irrigation system using drip feeds or soaker hoses is the much smarter option and is better for your garden and the environment.
Some systems can be set up to turn on and off on a timer so that you can go on holiday and be sure that your garden will be waiting for you, although likely a weedier version when you get back. Have more of a read of soaker hoses here before you get started.
Find a system that works for you and makes your life easier so that you can continue to enjoy gardening without finding it a chore.
Stay on Top of the Weeds
And while we’re on the topic of weeds… those pesky little opportunists…
The best way to control weeds is actually to prevent them from getting established in the first place. One of the advantages of raised beds is that you often start with weed-free soil if you build it up yourself using the lasagna method.
But alas, weeds will arrive. They’re good at that. Whether they arrive in the form of seeds in bird poo, on the wind, or in your compost, they will arrive.
A quick hoe only needs to take a few minutes if you have a small raised bed, but making sure that you prevent any weeds from getting established gives your veggies a better chance at thriving and not having to compete for sun, water or nutrients.
If you have some persistent, deep-rooted weeds like thistles or doc that are already established, a tried and true organic method for killing them is to remove the bulk of the leaves and pour table salt and boiling water over the remaining plant. Works like a treat and you can avoid adding harmful chemicals to your garden!
Extend the Season with Tunnels
Another way to get the best out of your raised beds is to add a little infrastructure to extend your growing season.
Raised beds make this really easy to do as it’s simple to screw some piping to the wooden frame of your garden bed and then wrap some UV-resistant plastic sheeting around them.
Raised beds already make it easier to plant earlier as their soil tends to be warmer than the ground, so if you add some more weather protection, you’ll be growing for even more months of the year and reaping the benefits of more produce.
Check out this video for a simple way to add hoops to your raised garden beds.
Jump in and Get Started!
You could read and read and read and watch videos on how to do it right until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, the best way to learn is just to get started.
Everyone has garden fails, even the most experienced gardeners. But when you fail, you learn. So you’ve got nothing to lose!
Start out with things that are easy to grow like herbs (rosemary, sage, mint, and thyme are notoriously hardy). Follow up with easy-to-grow greens like lettuce and spinach. Once you’ve had some successes and worked out how to incorporate gardening into your weekly routine, you can start thinking about more challenging crops like tomatoes.
Knowing how to do raised bed gardening doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming. Remembering these simple pointers should help a lot when it comes to getting the most out of your garden.
Have these raised bed gardening tips been helpful? Do you have any more to add?
Go ahead and comment below if you have any thoughts on what I’ve written, I’d love to know what you think!