Part 2:
Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening

Part 1


Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening: Learn the Best way to use your raised bed as a Raised Vegetable Garden. A truly smart and economical way to bring fresh produce to your table.

Plant Spacings

For a truly productive raised bed garden, the gardener must relearn many aspects of planting. Gone are the long straight rows and wide spacing between rows. Raised bed gardens use space more efficiently. In fact, rows may not even be used.

  • Small crops such as the leafy greens and root crops can be planted in wide rows or just by scattering the seeds over a small section of the soil.
  • Medium size vegetables such as snap beans, peas or onions may be planted in rows with about 1 foot between each row. Or here again, a block planting with about 6 inches between plants can be used for highest return.
  • Large crops, such as tomatoes will need to be on 12- to 18-inch centers depending on their growth habit. Staking or caging the plants will allow for the highest plant density. Other devices can be used to increase the capacity of the area. Trellises and other structures can be made to let vine crops and other plants grow up instead of sprawling.

Efficient Space Use

A good gardener should be able to use the bed to its fullest potential. Careful planning must be used to achieve this. Group vegetables together based on the maturity time. Plant all short-season crops in one area so that when they finish producing they can be replaced by another crop.

This is referred to as succession planting. For instance in raised bed vegetable gardening, plant lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other leafy crops in one area so that the area can be replanted with beans, cucumbers, or some other warmseason crop after the first crop is harvested.

Also, interplanting may be used. This method utilizes the empty row space. For example, between rows of onions, plant tomatoes or peppers. By the time the onions are harvested, the other plants will just be reaching a large size. Succession planting and intercropping will help you reach the full potential in your raised bed vegetable gardening.

Do not overlook fall gardening . Most crops that produce well in the spring months will also produce in the fall. In fact, some crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage may even produce better in the fall as we tend to have a longer and more consistent cool period.

Planting Dates

You may be able to plant a little earlier because raised beds warm up quicker in the spring. By using plastic mulches and row covers, it is possible to plant as much as two weeks earlier than a traditional garden.

Watering

It is best to water when the soil dries slightly. One or more inches of water per week is the general recommendation. Many gardeners when raised bed vegetable gardening, use drip irrigation. Drip irrigation allows you to use less water and apply it more efficiently.

Drip tubing or a soaker hose may be purchased at local nurseries and garden centers. The tubes are then laid out over the bed, spaced about 2 to 3 feet apart depending on soil type. Using very low pressure (7 to 10 psi), the water slowly drips or oozes from the hose and filters down into the soil.

Drip irrigation places the water at the root system, which allows for less evaporation and prevents water from moving to nontarget areas such as the path. The drip tubing can also be buried below the soil surface for the most efficient delivery method.

Fertilization

Fertilization needs for raised bed vegetable gardening are the same as a traditional garden. It is best to start with a soil test. Before planting in the spring, a general application of about 1 pound of 10-10-10 can be spread over 100 square foot of bed and incorporated. Sidedress the crops during the growing season based on needs of individual crops. Do not overfertilize as this will lead to poor production.

Mulches

Summer mulches such as straw help to conserve moisture, cool the soil, and control weeds. Apply a 2 to 4 inch layer over the soil after it has warmed; do not apply too early as you may keep the soil cool and slow the growth of warm-season crops.

Plastic mulches, in reference to raised beds, now have taken on a new meaning. Black plastic laid over the soil a month before the traditional planting date will allow the soil to warm earlier and may allow you to plant as much as 2 weeks earlier. This means harvest dates will arrive sooner, and in many cases, the yield will be greater.

To get the biggest jump on the season , you will need to warm the air temperatures as well as the soil. Materials called floating row covers, commonly made from spun polyester, or similar devices made of clear  plastic film, can be used to trap the radiant heat of the sun. These covers, used in conjunction with the plastic mulch, will give the earliest returns.

Be sure to remove the row covers when spring temperatures increase to 80˚F so that temperatures under the covers do not build up too high and damage the plants. The floating row covers can also help reduce insect feeding on early season crops. If applied tightly around the framework of the raised bed, it acts as a physical barrier to prevent the insects from getting to the plants.

Raised bed vegetable gardening is a popular way for today’s gardener to produce fresh, high quality, good tasting vegetables. It allows for more efficient use of space to maximize your investment of time, energy and money. As with any gardening product, the fun and rewards come from your own experimentation and finding the techniques that work best for you.

Part 1


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The above written by: Dennis Patton, Ward Upham, Raised Bed Gardening, Kansas State University, April 2006

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