Raised Bed Gardening For Organic Garden Vegetables

Raised Bed Gardening For Organic Garden Vegetables

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Cherie Kuranko ~ “InkSpot”

All Rights Reserved.

Most people who choose to build raised gardening beds do so because they have poor soil or poor drainage in a standard plot style vegetable garden. Raised bed gardening offers gardeners an earlier planting date in the spring and they are easy to maintain and harvest from.

A raised garden bed may be built directly on the ground without any side supports, but it is best to use some sort of material to help hold the soil in place. You may use brick, concrete blocks, stone, wood or even straw bales to construct the sides of a raised garden bed.

Wood is the most common and generally least expensive permanent material. Use a rot resistant wood, such as cedar, or one of the new composite type lumbers and you should have good results. If you are seeking a non-permanent raised bed or you are testing out an area before installing a permanent raised bed you may want to try building a straw bale bed. The bales will rot down over the year–making for good composting material for next season.

You may build the raised vegetable garden bed any size you wish, but it is important to consider the width carefully. If the bed has access from both sides you should limit the width to about four feet, unless of course you have really long arms. You should be able to reach the middle of the bed from both sides so you can maintain it and harvest from it without entering the bed itself. Raised beds should not be walked on as it compacts the soil. To avoid this keep your width to a decent size and you should have easy access to all parts of it without entering the bed. You may choose any length you desire. A good minimum depth is 10-12 inches. Most vegetables need at least 6 inches to grow properly, but carrots and turnips need deeper soil depths.

An easy depth and size to build is 4′ X 8′ foot with a depth of 12 inches. By keeping the length 8 foot long you spend less time cutting boards. You will use four boards for the sides and cut only two boards in half to make a 4′ wide bed. You would therefore need six 2″ X 6″ X 8′ cedar boards to build this size raised bed. To make a 12″ deep bed you will have two frames stacked on top of each other. By building stackable bed frames you leave your options open for either using your frames for two separate (6″ deep beds) or stacking them for the full 12″ raised bed.

You will also need 8 heavy duty 5-6 inch wide hinges. You may join the frames using a simple butt joint, drill out the holes and screw it together with galvanized screws, but I prefer using hinges so I can easily lift the frame at the end of the season for storage. Wash and sun dry it. Then fold it up and store it in the shed. This will help your frames last longer and it is easier to change out the soil if you desire at a later date. In addition to the hinges you will need to add side plates to the cedar boards to keep them from sliding off when they are stacked.

Site Preparation: Choose a site that receives at least 8 hours of full sun per day. It should also be level ground with water source nearby. Dig or scrap off the top layer of sod. First place a layer of landscape fabric and then place your completed raised bed frame on top of it. You may add a thin layer of crushed rock next if you are concerned about drainage.

Mix aged organic compost or manure to the topsoil and mix well. Then put it inside the bed frame and rake it out evenly. Make certain your bed is level so water doesn’t pool at one end or side.

If you plan to use a drip irrigation system you should install it prior to planting your seeds. A soaker hose also works well in raised beds, which tend to dry out quicker than a normal ground plot. Some sort of irrigation system can save you time watering during the growing season. Adding a thin layer of mulch of grass clippings, leaves, wood chips or straw/hay will also help the raised bed retain more moisture.

Then it is time to plant your vegetable seeds. Because raised vegetable beds require minimal space and less maintenance they are a great way to garden for those with limited time or garden space.

To continue gardening in the raised bed it is good to use the following tips:

Topdress the entire bed with about 2″ of aged compose or manure each spring. You may also plant cover crops at the end of the gardening season in the fall to help beef off the nutrients and nitrogen in the bed soil. Some good cover crops include clover, hairy vetch and annual rye grass. There are many others to choose from as well. If using cover crops you will need to turn the soil and let the crop rot down in the early spring.

Cover the raised bed when not in use to avoid erosion and soil nutrient loss

Before planting turn the soil to avoid compaction. Fluffy soil is good gardening soil.

TURN YOUR RAISED GARDEN BED INTO A MINI HOOP HOUSE:  You may also turn your raised bed into a hoop house to extend the gardening season, grow cool weather crops (like kale and other greens) and to get a jump start in spring planting. To do this you can use PVC pipe for the hoops and a bracket attached to the side of the cedar boards to anchor the PVC pipe to each side. Cover with plastic and you have a mini hoop house.

RECYCLED DIY GARDEN TIP: Old garden hose can be used as clips to hold the plastic to the PVC pipe. Cut a 4-6″ piece of garden hose. Then cut it in half. Place it over the PVC pipe with the plastic sandwiched between the hose and pipe.

COPYRIGHT © 2011 Cherie Kuranko ~ “InkSpot”

All Rights Reserved.

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Written by InkSpot
Copyright © 2000-2011 Cherie Kuranko –

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