Garden-fresh foods are known for their amazingly juicy and sweet flavors and vibrant textures. Nothing can compare to fresh vegetables, especially when you grow them in your home and with your efforts.
Among the most satisfying things in life is growing your own food. This allows you to not eat any non-organic vegetables and save a lot of money since you can grow whatever vegetables you like in your garden.
The task may seem daunting, especially for beginners, but you will eventually love this extremely rewarding hobby. You do not have to worry about starting a raised bed vegetable garden as we are here to help you to build your raised beds and how you can grow healthy vegetables.
advantages of raised bed vegetable gardening
Raised bed gardening is considered the easiest thing any beginners should start with. It is among the modern types of gardening that you can try. It comes with a lot of benefits especially when growing vegetables. One of which is you get to amend and control the soil easily which saves you from tilling or digging every year.
The soil in raised bed gardens is better than ground soil and makes watering easier. If you are dealing with a back problem, you can choose to build a raised bed vegetable garden with legs. Other advantages of this type of gardening are as follows:
improved quality of soil
The soil in raised bed gardens is considered much better than the soil in row gardens. One of the reasons why is that raised bed garden soil never gets stepped on and is less subjected to the weight of any garden machines. Thus, it does not get constantly compacted.
Aside from that, filling the beds will allow you to use high-quality soil and create a fine mix of amendments and fertilizer. This is more affordable since none of the soil additions will get wasted in or on the paths. Everything goes into the raised beds.
If the native soil in your property drains too slowly or too quickly, a raised garden bed allowa you to make up the best soil for growing your vegetables. Since it is raised, it improves drainage, especially in clay soils. You can create a soil mix according to your specifications like creating fine loam even if your area has sandy or clay soil.
increase in yield
One of the reasons why raised bed vegetable gardening is recommended for beginners is that it offers more yield, which means it is more rewarding. Raised beds warm up more quickly than the surrounding soil in spring, which allows you to plant vegetables earlier than in flatbeds.
The light soil helps in improving the movement of both air and water and roots can spread out freely as they search for nutrients. This allows gardeners to plant on raised beds more densely than in a traditional garden with the same space.
Yields increase because you can plant more than in conventional garden spaces. Traditional gardening devotes more space to paths than to plants. With raised beds, you get to choose between creating enclosed beds or wide rows. Both options cut about a third to a half of the space that is used for paths. This results in more space that can be used for growing more vegetables instead of using the space to walk around the gardens.
easier weed and pest control
Because of the dense planting in raised beds, weeding can be an arduous task to do. However, it can also crowd the weeds out. Blowing seeds and most rhizomous plants are partially blocked, thanks to the walls of a raised garden bed.
If you have an area with a weed problem, you can put the raised gardens there and place a layer of weed cloth. This will block the roots completely. Just make sure that no bare dirt is present when using cover crops and sequential planting to prevent weeds from colonizing.
Most pests can also be controlled easily in raised gardens. Rodents can be blocked below by using metal screens while birds can be blocked by using row covers or netting. Though any garden can be covered, a raised bed garden is generally small and planted intensively, which makes it easier to cover areas from pests. Slugs and snails cannot easily access a raised bed garden and are easier to locate and remove in case they make it.
easier access when tending to your garden
A raised bed provides those who have and do not have back problems the ease of accessing the garden. It makes vegetable gardening easier even for those with physical limitations. The permanently enclosed beds are built according to a certain height and width, which is usually two feet tall and three feet wide. This height is enough for a person in a wheelchair to access the garden and continue vegetable gardening.
If large timbers were used, they can provide enough room for you to sit down and tend to plant easily. This saves you from squatting or kneeling and prevents wear and tear on knees as well as other joints.
potential problems with raised bed vegetable gardening for beginners
There are a couple of disadvantages that you may encounter with raised beds. Fortunately, you can offset these problems with careful planning.
it can be hard to work deeply with raised bed soil because of the sides.
Using a shovel can be a tight-rope walker especially when the bed is more than a foot high. However, the use of a good garden soil blend can avoid the need for digging.
You can put a layer of compost on top of the raised bed garden in fall and spring to add nutrients. Worms will be the ones doing the mixing. You can add slow-release fertilizers to the compost during fall and dug it into the top few inches of the garden soil in between crops or in spring. You can use liquid fertilizers as foliar sprays. This means you will not have to keep digging deeper in the garden.
more water might be needed in a raised bed
Among the problems that many think they will encounter with raised bed gardening is the need for more water. Because evaporation may occur on water-tight sides, this means that more water is needed. Also, as the soil gets warmer, the evaporation rates rise. Finally, dense planting also means that there will be an increase in water use and loss through transpiration.
Though these are true, it does not mean that a raised vegetable garden will need more water than that of a ground level. Large row-gardens watered with sprinkler systems will use more water and even waste more water than a raised bed installed with a drip hose. The sprinkler system not only waters the garden rows but also the paths. Regardless of the rows having individual drip hoses, they are still vulnerable to a higher evaporation rate since more soil is exposed than densely planted raised vegetable gardens.
The real question should be whether the raised vegetable garden needs more water per plant, or it requires per square foot of soil. If the crops in a raised bed garden are separated into individual ground-level beds, they will need more water to irrigate than the water needed for a single raised vegetable garden bed that several crops share.
This does not imply that water is not the issue. It is an issue, but unlike ground-level gardens, the water needed for raised beds is reduced since you can build a tight and solid structure that is lined with impermeable plastic.
Also, you can use a soaker hose or other similar system instead of sprinklers. The use of drip systems allows water to be distributed to where it is needed, which is near the roots and helps reduce water loss through evaporation.
For deep roots to develop, the raised bed soil should hold water well. The soil mix that you should use must have high organic matter content that will retain water for days to about a week. This will allow plants to draw nutrients and moisture from deep in the raised bed vegetable garden. It will also help reduce water used and wasted.
you need to build them
As a beginner, it may seem troublesome that you need to build a raised garden bed. But one thing that you should keep in mind is that it is worth it. It will not also require a huge amount of money and time.
Below are articles that can help you build the type of raised beds that you want and garden plans that you can try:
- waist high raised garden bed plans
- 4 x 4 garden plan: easy and lasting 4×4 garden plans for any space
- the ultimate guide to DIY raised garden bed plans
- free garden planning template options for beginners
how to start raised bed vegetable gardening for beginners
If you want to get started in raised bed vegetable gardening, then you should know where and how to start. Below are essential things that you should do to make a productive vegetable garden:
choose a suitable location
Choosing a good site for your garden is important. Plant in a subpar location and you will get subpar vegetables too. To avoid this problem, follow these tips when choosing a garden location.
If the soil is thin and lacks nutrients, your plants will not grow properly. That is why you should mix in organic matter to keep the soil healthy.
The location should not be windy because intense winds could deter pollinators or knock over young plants. Moreover, the place should not flood easily or get a lot of foot traffic. Take time to choose the right area for planting.
Most veggies require six to eight hours of sunlight every day. Some vegetables, especially the leafy ones, can tolerate some shade.
The location should not stay wet for a long time. Remember, wet soil causes rotted roots. If the area has poor drainage, you can plant vegetables in a raised row or raised bed. And if there are a lot of rocks, you must break up the soil and get rid of the rocks because they will hinder root growth.
how to choose a plot size
Beginners usually plant too much. But when you are just starting, it is best to start small and only plant what you will eat. So how do you choose a plot size?
A 100 sq ft or 10’ x 10’ garden is a decent size for those who want to start an in-ground garden. Choose three to five vegetables and get three to five plants/seeds of each one. For those who want to plant in garden beds, a 4’x8’ or 4’x4’ is a manageable option.
But if you want to plant more vegetables, you could go for a 12’ x 24’ in-ground garden. For instance, a four-member family could plant one mound of zucchini, three yellow squash hills, six tomato plants, ten assorted peppers, two eggplants, one rosemary, six basil, twelve okra plants, bush beans, two cucumbers, and some low-growing herbs like thyme, marjoram, and oregano.
Regardless of your garden’s size, you should have a path that allows you to access the plants to harvest and weed every 4′ or so. You should be able to access the center of the bed or row without crushing the plants or treading on the soil.
what vegetables to plant
Choose vegetables that are productive and easy to plant. You can also get in touch with the Cooperative Extension Service of your state to know the plants that are easy to grow in your area. For instance, if you reside in an area with a cold climate, it will not be easy to grow plants that prefer hot weather. But if you do not have any idea where to begin, here are ten easy vegetables that you can consider.
- Green beans
- Kale, chard, or spinach
You can also plant flowers like marigolds to add some color, discourage pests, and attract pollinators. If you want to plant tomatoes, the cherry and bush varieties are the easiest to grow. Here are other tips on how to choose vegetables for your garden.
plant high-quality seeds
Always choose premium seeds. You can save more if you buy seed packets than individual plants. However, if the seeds do not grow or germinate, you will lose a lot of time and money. Spending a few cents on high-quality seeds will result in higher yields and healthier plants.
choose readily available vegetables
Some vegetables are hard to find, so choose ones that are readily available at the grocery store. Certain vegetables like tomatoes and garden lettuce are also superior when grown in a home garden. Furthermore, home-grown herbs are more affordable than herbs found at grocery stores.
consider what you like or want to eat
If you love lettuce, consider growing several rows of lettuce in your garden. Avoid planting vegetables that you do not like to eat. Moreover, you must be realistic regarding the number of vegetables you will consume. Avoid overplanting as you will only be frustrated taking care of tons of veggies you will not even eat. But if you have excess veggies, you can give them away to your neighbors, relatives, or friends.
take care of the garden during the growing season
You must be prepared to look after your crops during the growing season. So, if you are going on a summer trip with your family or friends, you need to find someone to take care of the plants for you. Another option is to plant cool-season veggies like peas, root vegetables, and lettuce during early fall and late spring. If you are not going anywhere, you could plant zucchinis and tomatoes throughout summer.
when and where to grow veggies
If you are growing a plant or two, you will be fine. But if it is a full home garden, you must consider when and where to grow your crops. Here are some tips on how to arrange your veggies.
Avoid planting your crops at the same time or you will need to harvest them at once. Stagger plantings by a couple of weeks so that you can get more yields from your garden.
place tall veggies on the north side
By planting tall crops like sweet corn and pole beans on the north side, you can prevent them from shading your shorter veggies. If there is a shaded area in the garden, reserve it for small veggies that prefer cool temperatures.
avoid planting veggies simultaneously
You do not have to plant all vegetables simultaneously. Avoid planting cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and other warm-season crops until the soil in your garden warms up in summer and late spring. Peas, lettuce, and other cool-season crops prefer the cooler weather of fall and early spring.
Learn more about companion plants and know how many plants would grow perfectly together in a raised garden bed.
provide a permanent location for perennial plants
If you want to grow rhubarb, asparagus, and other perennial plants, you should provide a permanent raised bed or location for them. Some plants like bush beans and radishes have a short harvest period because they mature quickly. Other plants like tomatoes have a longer harvest period, but they also produce for a long time. Check the seed packet to know the plant’s maturity period.
best time to plant what crops
The planting time for each region varies depending on the weather. Remember, each vegetable has different temperature preferences. You can also refer to grow guides for popular fruits, veggies, and herbs. These guides provide information on how to plant, harvest, or grow each crop, including pest control, watering, and fertilizing.
common mistakes beginners may encounter in raised bed vegetable gardening
Mistakes are common in any venture, especially if you are just starting. When it comes to raised bed vegetable gardening is that some mistakes are not easily corrected.
Most beginners in this type of gardening need to correct their mistakes from their experience. But do not fret as we will give you pointers on how you can prevent each mistake or how to correct them in case you encounter them.
the raised garden bed is too wide
Among the biggest advantage of raised bed vegetable gardening is that soil compaction can be avoided. It allows you to work around your garden beds without the need to step on them.
What most beginners do not realize is that it needs healthy soil needs both air and water. Stepping on the soil or using machines on the soil pushes the air out.
You want to make sure that you do not step on the garden beds to promote better soil structure as well as healthier fresh produce. However, if the raised beds are too wide, this will prevent you from working on all sides. In the long run, you will eventually find yourself stepping on the bed and defeating the major benefit of having a raised bed.
The width of your raised vegetable garden bed should not exceed four feet. Most people can reach the center of their raised vegetable garden beds with this width comfortably. You can also experiment with the width of the beds, but a 3×4 foot wide can also be a comfortable option.
When deciding on the width of the raised beds, you should also think about the placement of the garden beds. Try not to put it near the fence as it will encourage the growth of grass and weeds between the fence and the beds. It will also be impossible for you to reach the area near the fence for planting, weeding, or harvesting.
not planning for irrigation
Though you might consider hand-watering your garden beds, you may eventually get tired of this. So, you need to plan on how to irrigate your raised bed vegetable gardens. As much as possible, place the raised beds near the water source. Regardless of your choice to hand-water or use drip lines or soaker hoses, placing them near the beds will save you time and headache.
For raised beds, it is recommended that you use drip irrigation or soaker hoses. Soaker hoses will work just fine if you plan to put a few raised beds. On the other hand, a drip irrigation system will work effectively if you have a lot of raised beds or a combination of ground beds and raised beds.
materials used for the bed are unsafe
Pressure-treated wood is a controversial material to be used in raised beds because of safety considerations. This type of wood especially those manufactured before 2003 contains chromated copper arsenate that should not be anywhere near your garden.
There are several types of wood that you can use for your raised bed. Three of the most common choices are:
untreated pine or any similar wood
A budget-friendly material you can use for your raised vegetable garden beds is untreated pine or any similar wood. The life of untreated pine can last for a few seasons. If it often rains in your area, it may contribute to the fast breakdown of the wood. This makes untreated wood a good option if you want to install temporary beds and do not want to spend on expensive materials.
Keep in mind that modern methods used for pressure-treated wood are safer than those used before 2003. The main substance in modern pressure-treated is copper and it is a nutrient needed by plants in lesser amounts. Thus, the risk of using this material is minimal.
If ever enough copper leaches into the soil which can result in a health hazard, you will first see the effects on the plants. You will notice a difference in the health of the plants.
Also, if you use modern pressure-treated wood, the copper will most probably leach only near the area of the wood. So, you should plant your crops a few inches from the sides of the garden beds.
rot-resistant wood such as cedar
Another wood option is the use of chemical-free hardwood such as redwood or cedar which are also known to be rot-resistant. These kinds of woo can last for many years.
These all come at a price. This would cost around three times the materials mentioned above. Also, you should take note that you may want to consider the availability of these woods as this may also depend on your location. So, you need to search for these woods nearby and get to know the pricing yourself.
Another cheap option is the use of repurposed wood. Maybe you have taken down your fence and the wood is still in your garage or backyard; you can reuse that to make your raised vegetable garden bed. Just make sure that the wood was manufactured before 2003 if you know that it is pressure-treated.
There are more innovative ways to create your raised beds. There are various inexpensive ways to build raised vegetable garden beds below are some ideas you can consider using:
- Metal raised beds
- Stone or rock raised beds
- Steel panel raised beds
- Pre-built or store-bought raised beds
the raised garden bed soil has no sufficient nutrients
the most common mistake for beginners is that the raised bed soil has insufficient nutrients. When you get the right soil blend, your vegetables are sure to thrive.
There are many soil combinations that you can use. However, you still need to be careful as not all combinations can be used. Say, for example, potting soil. This is not recommended as it drains too quickly. You can use this if your raised bed is sitting on rocks or concrete and acting as a container, but if not, you need to skip this. Your raised bed needs more substance than what potting soil provides.
Raised beds do not need constant fertilization. What you should do is fill it with organic and nutrient-rich soil from the start.
raised garden beds are too close together
You want to make sure that you can make a comfortable working area around your raised beds. This is only possible if you will put enough room between beds so you can work comfortably around them.
Give at least two to three feet of distance between the beds to have enough space for weeding, planting, and harvesting.
Also, remember that there are plants that will not stay in their lines. Some plants may spill over the edges of your raised beds like pumpkins, beans, and squash. Some also grow so wide that they can even spread over your walkways.
When placing your raised beds, make sure that you can get your wheelbarrow or garden cart in between. The space will be enough for you to work around each bed and even sit on a stool beside the raised beds when working on them.
pathways are growing with grass and weeds
You should not let grass and weeds grow around your raised beds. Overgrowth may harbor snakes and overgrown grass may also cause exposed skin to itch. If you have a large space with lots of raised beds, you might encounter a problem with controlling weeds and grass.
One thing that you can do to avoid weed eating or mowing the weeds and grass is by placing a barrier down even before the grass and weeds start growing for the season.
things to do on the pathways around your raised bed vegetable gardens
You can use the following to keep the areas around the raised easily to work and keep the areas tidy:
If you have pine trees nearby, you can use pine needles to cover the pathways as they break down more slowly than other materials. Like other organic mulches, put a thick layer of pine needles on your pathways. Make sure to add a layer of kraft paper or cardboard to help keep the grass and weeds from growing.
You can use broken-down cardboard boxes along with a thin layer of mulch on top. Just lay them beside the beds and cover them with mulch.
Though this is an expensive option that you can use on your pathways, many gardeners still choose this especially when they are only using one area for their raised beds. It is highly recommended that you still put a layer of barrier underneath to prevent weeds from growing. The last thing that you would want to experience is plucking weeds out of the gravel.
if you can access sawdust, you can use this between the beds. However, it is not recommended to be used as mulch because it tends to retard plant growth. This is also the reason why it is a great barrier to be used for weeds and grass growing around your bed. Just lay a thick layer of about four to six inches to keep these unwanted plants from growing.
can you use landscape fabric?
It may be tempting to use landscape fabric to line your pathways, but it is not highly recommended as weeds may still get through it. If you want to use a more permanent barrier that is almost like a landscape fabric, you can use greenhouse-grade plastic sheeting as it is less permeable than landscape fabric.
neglecting to add mulch to raised bed gardens
if mulching is important in ground-level gardening, it is also as important when it comes to raised beds. Even more.
Weed pressure may be less in a raised garden bed, but you cannot consider that it is non-existent. Weed seeds can still be found in native soil and may easily find light and eventually sprout. Seeds deposited from birds or floating in the wind love the soil in raised beds. Because of all these factors, adding mulch will reduce the weeding time in your raised bed vegetable garden.
Aside from this, the more significant role of mulch is regulating the soil temperature and retaining moisture. These are critical needs in raised beds, especially during summer.
Among the huge advantages of building a raised garden bed is that the soil heats up faster during spring and allows faster planting. However, it continuously heats up throughout the season. This is where mulch helps your raised bed, it will regulate the temperature more than what bare soil could.
Mulch is also known for regulating moisture. During wet seasons, it will act like a spring and absorb excess rainfall. During dry times, mulch helps retain moisture and prevents it from evaporating during the hot season. Eventually, you will notice that all mulched raised beds are much healthier than when you did not add them.
avoid mistakes while you are beginning your raised bed vegetable garden
Learning some of the common mistakes that beginners experience in raised bed gardening will help you avoid committing them as well. This will guide you in picking the right location in your area and growing healthy vegetables just within your reach.
It will give you the convenience of just continuously discovering and making a routine in your garden. You will eventually learn what to do to prepare your raised beds for different seasons and when to plant the right crops in every season.