Successful Raised Bed Gardening

Successful Raised Bed Gardening

Gardening is still a favorite hobby for families and singles alike, but smaller lotsor no lots at all have peaked the interest in  raised bed gardening. This popular gardening method makes it possible to grow fresh vegetables and fruits in small areas just a few square feet. As the awareness to eat locally grows, locavores are spreading the word; growing on a small scale in a raised bed puts delicious, fresh food on the table.

Soil extended above ground level warms up faster in the spring, allowing earlier seeding opportunities. Many gardeners are faced with challenging soil conditions.
Heavy clay or light sandy soils present growing conditions that frustrate even the
most experienced gardener. Raised bed gardening allows the grower to mix a recipe of the best ingredients for optimum growth.  Top soil, compost, peat moss and nutrients permit healthy plants to grow in denser plantings that reduce weed infestation.

While some gardeners just mound up the soil in rows, most growers use some type of framework to contain the soil.  Raised bed gardening has become so popular that many gardening suppliers sell kits all ready to snap together.  Railroad ties, landscape timbers, rock, cement blocks or bricks are also useful in constructing a raised bed. Do not use lumber treated with CCA, a chemical used in the preservation of wood. Do not lay down a plastic material before building the bed as this will prevent drainage and cause plant loss due to waterlogged soils.

The size of the raised bed depends on the gardener but keeping the bed just four
feet wide permits an easy reach from both sides.  A six to eight inch depth of the
bed is recommended because most of the main feeder roots are at this depth. Locate
the raised bed in full sun if at all possible, if not, at least a half day of
sunlight is necessary for good plant growth.  A water source should be located
nearby because raised beds dry out sooner than conventional gardening. 

One of the biggest plusses of raised bed gardening is the option of choosing a soil mix for growing a successful garden. Choose a good quality top soil ammended with compost or peat moss or some other organic matter.  The planting mix should drain well and be easy to work with.  It is best to loosen the soil below the raised bed to a depth of six inches, mixing the amended soil in the top two inches. Install the framework and fill the bed.  It is helpful to get a soil test to determine fertility before the seeds or transplants are planted.

Many rules of ordinary gardening don’t apply to raised bed gardening.  No need to
think in long single file rows with wide spacing between rows.  In fact, forget the rows.  Plant intensively, in blocks, grouping the early vegetables together.  When that harvest is complete, pull the plants and continue the season with green beans and squash.  A trellis can be installed to grow vining crops up instead of sprawling out and taking up so much room. Straw mulch, leaves or grass clippings can be used to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool.

Raised bed gardening is a great way for today’s busy gardener to keep fresh food
coming to the table from the first cutting of lettuce in the spring to the last
tomato of the season.  A lot of good nutrition, exercise and reward awaits the
gardener tending the abundant harvests enjoyed from raised bed gardening.

Learn more tips to becoming a successful do it yourself gardener at Do It Yourself Gardening. Shirley volunteers as a Kansas State University Master Gardener, and is a graduate of the Kansas School of Floral Design. She owned a successful garden center and floral shop for 10 years and has 49 years experience growing flowers, veggies, berries and trees.

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