Raised Bed Gardening

Run a search on the internet for Raised Bed Gardening and you will get over 17000 sites. So why is this system of gardening getting so much attention these days? It is one way to get maximum crop yields with minimum input. In raised-bed gardening vegetables are grown close together. Raised beds are not hard to build and allow more food to grow in intensively planted areas as well as succession planting. Succession planting means using the same area to grow successive crops. For example, spinach is planted in early spring. When the weather and soil are warm enough for beans, squash or peppers, the spinach will be about to seed, so the warm crop can take over the plot. There are many advantages to raised beds. Raised beds warm up earlier in the spring and dry out quicker. This allows the soil to be worked and planted earlier, extending the season a week or more. They provide better drainage especially heavy soil such as clay can take many weeks to dry out in the spring. The garden is easier to weed, irrigate, mulch, and harvest. Only the garden area under production, not the paths, is watered, fertilized, and mulched, which saves both time and money. No costly machinery, better drainage, fewer weeds, elimination of soil problems, and better root crops. Anyone who has tried raised beds discovers that the soil is loose allowing air, moisture, warmth, nutrients and roots to penetrate more easily, and that this method of gardening helps correct the problems of poor, rocky or compacted soil and extends the shorter growing seasons. Since thebeds are never walked on, the soil doesn't compact and this eliminates the need to rototill. If you don't rototill, you aren't constantly bringing new weed seeds to the surface so the time spent weeding is cut by 80%. Soil compaction can reduce crop yields up to 50 percent. Water, air and roots all have difficulty moving through soil compressed by tractors, tillers or human feet. Pest control becomes easier in raised beds, too. If burrowing rodents abound, line the bottom of the bed with poultry wire or hardware cloth. Discourage rabbits and groundhogs by placing their favorite foods in a framed bed with a low fence. Beds' narrow dimensions even make it practical to suspend bird netting on flexible conduit frames. Use bendable pipe to create supports for floating row covers or clear plastic. Crops are easy to rotate from bed to bed - preventing a buildup of pests. Plants are healthier and more resistant to insect and disease attack. You can control weeds with plastic mulch economically, since the width of the bed can be spanned by one roll. The narrow beds help save water, too. Several watering systems ensure the water gets only where it is needed. Canvas soaker hoses, perforated plastic sprinkle hoses and drip-type irrigation disperse water in a long, narrow pattern well-suited to beds. These systems reduce diseases, too, by directing water to the soil instead of wetting leaf surfaces as overhead irrigation does. Gardeners with limited mobility use raised beds very effectively by building them to a level that is easily accessible. My 72 year old Mother-in-law is able to sit in a lawn chair and weed, thin seedlings and place mulch around the plants. For the first time in many years she was able to garden without pain.

To build raised beds;

1.Work soil with a plow or tiller, down 6 or 8 inches until loose.Or use a double digging method to soften the soil. In planning the layout, locate the

beds for maximum sun exposure and good drainage

2.Measure each bed with string and stakes,or use a garden hose to mark off a planting surface of 24" to 36", and as long as you want depending on garden size. Plan bed width so you can reach the center of the bed from the paths on either side I recommend keeping at least an 18" walkway on each side of a row.

3.Stand on one side of the walkway and pull up soil from the next walkway to build up your bed. Do this the full length of your bed. Try to build up 8" to 10" of soil on each side.

4.Stay in the path and keep moving soil the length of the bed or row and repeat the process from the other side to complete the bed.

5.Once you push all the soil in, add compost, manure and any other soil additives you chose to use in building your soil. Make sure you get a soil sample analyzed, giving you a foundation to work from. After that is determined, mix in soil amendments.

6.Shape the surface by smoothing the top of the bed with a rake until it is level. Do this by keeping tines up when raking.

7. Smooth out the top and you are ready to plant. Or, you can box the mounds with landscape timbers. There are kits you can buy to build frames around your raised beds if you are so inclined. The wide edges of landscape timbers are handy to sit on while weeding or harvesting.You can also use planks of insect- and decay-resistant woods such as cypress, redwood, cedar. Cement blocks held in place by steel rods or pipes may also be used. Steer clear of chemically treated wood since toxic chemicals such as arsenic and creosote will leach in to the soil and be taken up by your plants.

8. You can plant grass or use pea-sized gravel, used carpeting, boards, grass clippings or straw in your paths. I have wood chips on top of landcape fabric. No weeds and no muddy feet.

9. Install some frames or trellis and grow vertically. Pole beans, snap peas, cucumbers, and small varieties of squash can climb a chain link fence or an A-frame from which fruits hang for easy picking.

The wonderful thing about this method is how much you can grow in a small area. Beds three or four feet wide have space enough for two rows of large plants such as corn, bush beans or peppers. Tomatoes can be spaced two and one-half to three feet apart with the rows staggered. Snap peas can be planted every four inches. High-plant population in the bed keeps weeds crowded out.


To harvest rhubarb stalks, always pull and twist to remove them, never use a knife or pruners. The stub that is left when you cut off a stalk often rots and is not good for the plant. Also, while you cannot eat rhubarb leaves (they are toxic), you should add them to your compost pile or shred them for mulch.


An old but under used herb in the garden and landscape. Rosemary adds both fragrance and texture to any perennial bed or border and the lovely soft blue, pollen rich flowers attract bees to your vegetable or herb garden. Use rosemary in the kitchen to flavor seafood and pork dishes. As a companion plant, rosemary will help to repel against cabbage moths,bean beetles and carrot flies. Bring rosemary inside as a pot herb and transform into a living herb topiary.


Two natural botanical insecticides will take care of many of the common pests you will find in your landscape. The bacteria Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) targets leaf- and flower-feeding caterpillars. Insecticidal soap (a fatty liquid soap) takes on sucking insects, such as aphids, spider mites and mealybugs.


Family Gardening  - A Child's Garden Ideas and Lessons

Gardening can be more fun if you garden with your children. Plan your vegetable garden in advance and teach them the importance of preparation. You can scan the Internet with them and go to the library and bookstores together in the winter months. Include visits to gardening centers where you can purchase seeds or plants that are easy and quick to grow like, Radishes, lettuce, and squash.  Don`t forget to buy tools and gloves that are smaller and easy to handle for your child. Use natural pest control to protect your child. Gardening teaches children patience, work ethics, responsibility and the rewards of all these qualities.



"A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever."




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