Starting a raised bed vegetable garden takes a little bit of effort to set up, but the benefits are enormous season after season.
A raised garden bed (also called a “garden box,”) is a frame set directly on the open ground and then filled with organic matter and soil. The bed allows you to grow vegetables or flowers in a small space. The sides of the bed keep weeds out of the garden, prevent erosion, deter pests, prevent soil from compacting, offer good drainage, and more.
Can you tell that I’m a fan?
Plenty of gardeners have found the raised bed option to be convenient and productive. Here are some of questions you and gardeners like you may have about starting a vegetable garden in raised beds.
A. It’s a great option if you have only a small space or if you don’t have lots of free time. Managing a raised bed garden is easier and takes less time than maintaining an entire garden plot. And raised beds are a good choice if you have a space that is an eyesore or has poor soil. Still other gardeners give this reason: “They keep my growing space looking neat and tidy – and they produce more veggies.”
A. Anytime, although early spring is the most convenient time since growing season is just around the corner.
A. Whatever size you choose. Build raised beds to fit your space. A good rule of thumb to follow is that they should be no wider than 4 feet on one side. This allows you to reach in from both sides to weed, cultivate, and harvest plants. The ideal height is up to you. Some gardeners, particularly the elderly or disabled, prefer raised beds that are waist high.
A. Of course! Many gardeners purchase raised beds that are ready-made or easy to put together from kits … with step-by-step instructions included. Plus, all raised beds are not built from wood, metal, or plastic – some gardeners even use cinder blocks. (Here’s a quick tutorial about how to choose raised bed building materials.)
A. Yes, it’s a good idea. You’ll remove rocks and debris and loosen the soil, which will help your vegetables grow deeper roots and access nutrients below the surface. Fortunately, this is a job that needs to be done only once – when you set up the bed! Work 12-24 inches below the soil surface and then add compost, humus, top soil, and other organic matter, just as you would when preparing a garden plot.
A. A 4 x 4-foot raised bed can accommodate 5 or 6 low growing plants like cucumbers, squash, herbs, and zucchini. You can plant a couple of taller crops (like tomatoes) in the center. Set up a trellis in a longer raised bed (8 feet or longer) to grow vining crops like beans.
A. Follow the same rule of thumb that you’d use when planting vegetables in a garden plot. Some crops do best when sown directly into your raised bed vegetable garden – lettuce, radishes, beans, basil, cucumbers, squash. You’ll be more successful with other crops when you plant seedlings – tomatoes, for instance, and perennial herbs and peppers.
A. Situate your raised bed near a water source or set up a drip irrigation system.
More about Gardening in Raised Beds