Raised garden beds, also called garden boxes, is a creative idea for your garden, and a new gardening trend this year.
We’ve asked gardening experts for ideas and tips about how to start building raised garden beds, what to plant, how to care for the garden bed and any extra tips they wanna share. Here are a few highlights of the responses:
- Start small if you don’t have a lot of experience.
- Place garden boxes in a place with plenty of sunlight.
- Remove grass and weeds before starting raised beds.
- Herbs such as thyme and mint are easy for beginners to grow.
Here’s a handy Table of Content so you could skip to the experts you like:
Tripp and Carmen Eldridge from Arden
1) How to start a raised garden beds
Garden beds are a great way to start your own garden because they can be deployed anywhere and allow the soil to warm up faster in cold climates. Start by defining your garden space and deciding on the size of your raised bed.
We always recommend starting small. It’s so easy to overestimate your abilities when you’re first starting out.
There’s a lot of work that goes into ensuring a thriving garden, and it only gets more intense as you scale up. So, it’s important that you keep it manageable and tend to your plants well.
Remember, growing a garden is more like a marathon than a sprint. But it’s totally worth it in the end.
2) What to plant
Your preferences should represent the plants you select. Your garden is meant to be a nice spot, and you still want to come here again and again.
We suggest slow growers, such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, and eggplants, if you’re trying to grow vegetables.
And then, through direct seeding fast growers like radishes, arugula and squash, you can save a lot of money.
3) Timing, tending, watering.
Make sure your plants have regular water available and remember most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of sun daily.
Good soil is also a key to the success of your garden. If you don’t have a living soil to support your plants, you’re just wasting your time and money.
Good quality, weed-free compost is an absolute must. If you want to stay organic, look for the OMRI label, which means that the soil adheres to the Organic Materials Review Institute standards.
4) For more information
Few people know about this, but most counties in the U.S. have a local extension office that provides gardeners with helpful information about gardening in their area.
Find out where your local extension agents are located and feel free to ask them questions about growing plants in your garden.
You can also ask them about different types of soil, choosing appropriate plants for your climate zone, pest control tips, and so on.
Jordan Collins from Two Lions 11
How to start a raised garden bed
It always begins with choosing the right raised bed.
There are so many different options to choose from, including aluminium, cedar, composite wood, recycled plastic, galvanized steel, and more.
There are also different heights yet the most preferable option is a 12” one. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need more soil if the bed is higher.
When choosing the location, consider the amount of sun your plants or vegetables need. For most veggies, this would be the part of the garden that receives the most sunlight.
Timing, tending, watering
When is it best to plant? The answer depends on the type of plant you’re looking to grow.
For example, lettuce and broccoli will do fine in cold weather while basil and tomatoes definitely need some sun and higher temperature.
Check the soil temperatures in your location according to months to establish a good time. Also, make sure you know what soil temperature the plant you’re planting requires.
When it comes to tending your raised garden bed, you can expect the weeds to be kept at a minimum and to only weed once a week or two. However, if you spot weeds growing, remove them as soon as possible to prevent them from taking away the moisture that your plants need.
Raised garden beds require minimum watering as the soil inside such a structure is able to maintain its moisture levels and rarely dries out. However, if the temperatures increase, make sure your plants stay hydrated.
Before creating your raised bed ensure that you’ve removed any grass or weeds from the place. The best tools to use are a garden fork or shovel.
Loose the soil to 10” depth to guarantee good drainage and ensure that the plants receive and contain enough moisture.
If you’re planning to have several raised beds, maybe it’ll be better to purchase your soil in bulk to save some money.
If this is your first time creating a raised garden bed, plant something simple to grow for starters, like herbs.
Do your research well and ensure you know exactly what your plants want to grow healthy and stable. It’s also essential to choose the right soil.
It’s always best to use the row method for planting as it makes weeding much less complicated and time-consuming.
Ideas for building raised garden beds
There are so many ways to be creative with creating raised garden beds.
You can make a sheet metal raised bed for a more industrial and authentic look, try a well-organized method of planting using square foot raised beds or even create a raised bed arbour.
It all depends on the type of plant that you are looking to grow, your preferences, and available space.
Pol Bishop from Fantastic Gardeners
How to start a raised garden bed
Since most plants you will sow in raised garden beds will require a minimum of 8 hours of full sunlight a day, the location in which you set your raised beds is extremely important.
The sunnier the spot, the better. But make sure to avoid wet areas where the soil is constantly soggy.
Also since watering is an important factor in looking after plants, place your raised garden beds in a spot that is within easy access to a hose.
A great benefit of planting in raised garden beds is that you can choose the type of soil you want in them. You’re not just limited to the soil you already have in your back garden. So make sure to choose a type of soil that is superior to your garden’s native one.
The best soil for raised garden beds is one that’s loose and rich in nutrients and organic matter. Such soil will help the roots of the plants you decide to sow in the beds grow freely and have access to both water and the needed nutrients.
When you’ve decided on a spot for the raised beds, remove all of the grass and perennial weeds growing in that area. You can then use a garden fork or a shovel to loosen your garden’s soil to 6-10 inches in depth.
This will greatly help with the raised beds’ drainage and moisture retention. Plus if you decide to grow plants with that need plenty of room for their roots, you will be able to.
As for the amount of soil you’ll need for your raised beds, it’s best to use an online soil calculator such as this one. In most cases the mix of potting soil, topsoil and compost should be in the following proportions:
60% topsoil, 30% compost, and 10% potting soil
What to plant in your raised garden beds – always start with herbs
Although most people want to jump straight into planting as many veggies as possible, it can be a bit hard. So, it’s best to start small.
Veggies require lots of care and attention in order to grow healthy and produce a good harvest. Not to mention the huge amount of water you’ll need especially if you’re growing them in a raised bed.
Therefore it’s good to start with something a bit simpler before you move on to veggies. And what better than perennial herbs.
Herbs such as thyme and mint are easy to grow once you get them established. They require little water and minimal care, making them the perfect plants for newcomers to raised gardening beds.
Timing – pay attention to the weather
When caring for raised beds it’s always important to pay attention to the weather, as it will dictate when and how often to water them.
Plants require more water when the weather is dry or windy. In some really hot areas, during summer you might even need to water your raised beds daily.
On the other hand, there might be seasons when the raised beds will need watering just once or twice a week. So if you’re using a sprinkler system with a timer, be sure to adjust the frequency of said timer to match the seasonal weather conditions.
Tending- mulch is your best friend
Mulching is the ultimate weed prevention method. Using mulch on your beds keeps weeds away and helps conserve moisture. Mulching is best performed once a year during fall.
You can use either wood chips, newspaper or straw for mulching. Simply spread a thin layer of one of these over your raised beds’ soil and cover them in composted amendments.
Mulch normally takes 4-6 months to completely decompose. And during that time it will keep on adding amendments to your bed’s soil while keeping the weeds away.
When spring comes around, it’s a good idea to till your raised beds’ soil using a hand-held tiller. This way you avoid compacting your soil.
Watering – water, less frequently but deeply
When watering plants inside raised garden beds, water them deep enough so that the moisture reaches the whole root system. Not watering deep enough will discourage the healthy growth of the roots.
You can easily check the watering depth using a long, slim metal object.
If this probe can be easily moved through the soil, then it’s thoroughly moist. However, if moving the probe is hard, then the soil is probably dry and needs additional watering.
Before you water the soil inside the raised bed again, wait for the top inch of soil to have dried out. Also, remember to occasionally water the beds twice as long in order to flush out all of the salts located in the plants’ root zones and soil.
Gina Harper from Harper’s Nurseries
Raised bed gardening involves planting in the soil above the ground and is ideal for colder climate areas.
Besides being able to tailor the soil to your exact requirements, you also have the freedom to place them in sunny or shady areas to suit the types of plants you wish to grow.
Typically, I prefer wood to construct the frames but metal or stone are other options. Raised gardening beds are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they also offer better draining than planting directly in the ground which will help reduce the risk of root rot due to overwatering.
In addition to herbs, vegetables that grow particularly well in raised beds include tomatoes, peppers beans, and broccoli.
This type of gardening requires more water than in-ground alternatives as the soil tends to dry out faster and will require extra attention in hotter summer months.
Spring is the preferred time to plant and thanks to the soil being warmer in raised beds, planting can be started slightly earlier with this method.
Jen Stark from Happy DIY Home
Location and Box Considerations:
The first thing you have to do for a raised garden bed is choosing the location and the box.
You can set the box on concrete or poor soil without a problem, but it should be level. The deeper the box is, the less watering you’ll have to do because more soil holds more moisture in. Have at least 10 to 12 inches of soil in the box.
You should put your box in an area that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. The more sun it gets, the better off your vegetables will be.
You should also mix the soil at a ratio of 60% topsoil, 30% compost and 10% potting soil to give your plants the nutrients they need to thrive.
What to Plant and Timing:
Plant your raised garden boxes with vegetables you like to eat.
For example, if you’re big into salads, plant a lettuce mix with carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. If you like to cook, plant a variety of herbs, potatoes, leeks, and peppers.
The timing depends on what you want to plant.
Things like lettuce can endure colder temperatures but tomatoes cannot. For most plants, the soil should stay consistent at at least 60°F before they go into the ground to prevent damage.
Dan Bailey from WikiLaw
You’ll want to make a plan first, starting with deciding what you want to grow.
Once you’ve got that, look into how much room it needs and find a spot in your yard that will accommodate that space. Make sure it’s clear of weeds and debris.
- Many different vegetables grow very well in a raised bed. I recommend tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a few herbs of your choice.
- When filling your garden beds, use a mix of about 30% compost (fruit and vegetable scraps work well), 10% peat moss, and 60% topsoil. You can water a little more liberally because raised beds drain far better.
Building a raised garden bed is really not as difficult as you think. You just need to carefully consider where to place your garden boxes, choosing the right soil, frame, the suitable plants and take care of them regularly.
Hope the ideas and tips from the gardening experts that we provide are useful for you.