Raised Vegetable Garden: Find the best tips you have to know for growing your own vegetables and flowers in raised flower beds. Raised bed gardening has become a popular gardening practice. Smaller lots and families have led to the downsizing of planting areas and the amount of produce needed.
Raised bed vegetable gardening is fun and enjoyable for the gardening enthusiast. Planting and tending a garden is still a favorite hobby and pastime for millions of Americans. And, the taste of fresh-picked vegetables is beyond compare.
A raised bed garden offers several advantages over conventional gardening plots. Soil raised above ground level warms up more quickly in the spring, which allows for earlier planting dates. These beds are usually filled with high-quality soil which improves drainage and increases yield. A raised vegetable garden is smaller than traditional gardens making them easier for most people to maintain.
For example, the denser plantings help reduce weed infestations. The main disadvantage of this system is that elevated beds tend to dry out more quickly in the summer months, increasing the need for watering.
The beds are usually raised off the ground 6 to 8 inches. The framework for this structure can be made from several types of materials. Some gardeners suggest not using a support but, instead, mounding the soil. This is the simplest method and works well.
Most gardeners use some sort of framing materials such as railroad ties, landscape timbers, planking, rock, manufactured blocks or bricks. Wood products used should be treated with wood preservative to increase the life of the structure because wood rot can become a problem over time.
Questions sometimes arise over the use of treated lumber in vegetable beds. The most common wood preservative traditionally used (chromated copper arsenate or CCA) was phased out on December 31, 2003, for virtually all residential use, including raised beds. Two other products, ACZA (ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate) and ACQ (ammoniacal copper quat) have replaced CCA and may be used for raised bed construction.
Well-documented research has shown that CCA, ACZA and ACQ may be safely used to construct vegetable beds. However, some gardeners still prefer to line the sides of beds with polyethylene plastic so that roots do not come into contact with the material. Do not use plastic on the bottom of the beds as this will prevent drainage.
The size of the raised bed varys depending on the gardener. A suggested size is either 4 × 8 foot or 4 × 10 foot. The 4-foot width is preferred because it allows for an easy reach into the bed from either side to tend the plants. This keeps soil compaction from occurring because the garden soil is not walked on. Length of the bed can also vary depending on type of construction materials used and the space available for the bed.
A 6 to 8 inch depth of the bed is recommended because this will allow the added drainage and improve soil tilth needed to produce healthy plants. This depth is also where most of the main feeder roots of the vegetable crops will be located for nutrients and water uptake.
As with any garden site, the raised vegetable garden should be located in full sun for best production. If a full sun location is not available, pick a spot that will get at least a half day of sunlight — shady areas will result in poor production. The bed should also be located with a water source in close proximity, as raised beds will require more water than conventional plantings.
The best location also provides wind protection. Summer winds can take their toll on vegetable crops. A tree, shrub screen or border will work if it is on the south or southwest side to protect the raised vegetable garden from harsh summer winds.
One of the greatest advantages to raised bed gardening is the ability to amend the soil. For instance, soils in some areas tend to have high clay content, which drain poorly and are hard to till when either too wet or dry. Soils in newly constructed areas are not always adequate. Raised vegetable garden beds are wonderful in this situation.
Several types of amended soil mixes can be used, but usually include good topsoil and organic matter often in similar portions. This gives you a planting mix that drains well and is easy to till . Some soil recipes call for perlite or vermiculite instead of sand. The disadvantage of these materials is they are so light, they tend to float to the top where they are washed away.
When incorporating the soil mix, several guidelines should be followed. It is best to loosen or spade the existing soil. This will improve drainage from the bed and prevent waterlogging. Spade or till 6 to 8 inches deep. Next, blend a small amount of the amended soil mix into the existing soil. This will help avoid the problems that can arise from having two different soil layers.
Incorporate about 2 inches of mix into the upper few inches of existing soil. You are then ready to begin filling the raised vegetable garden bed. The result will be 10-to 12-inches of rich soil for plants to grow in. It is also important that a soil test be done on the mix. This will help you determine what fertilizer needs to be added.
Contact your local Extension office for information on soil testing.