Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grow a Vegetable Garden in Raised Beds

Benefit: Save Your Back with a Raised Garden Bed

Raised-bed vegetable gardening can reduce back strain because you won’t have to bend over as far to reach the plants. With easier access and less pain potential, you're better able to enjoy the labor involved in planting, tending, and harvesting your raised vegetable garden.

Raised garden bed tip: Build your raised garden beds so they're at least 12 inches tall. If the walls are slightly below waist level, you can sit on edges to work the soil and harvest your bounty without having to bend over at all.

Benefit: Grow Longer in Raised Garden Beds

The soil in raised vegetable garden beds typically warms earlier in spring than the surrounding earth. It also tends to dry faster, so you can get cool-season crops planted sooner, extending the growing season and your vegetable crop choices just by using raised gardens.

Test Garden Tip: To extend the gardening season for your raised garden beds, fashion hoops like these and then drape plastic over them. The makeshift cold frame will help you gain a few extra growing weeks in spring and autumn.

Benefit: Keep Clean with Raised Vegetable Gardens

Spread mulch over the paths between your raised vegetable garden beds and your feet will stay clean, no matter how wet the weather. Because you won't walk on the raised garden beds, you'll be able to run out to grab a handful of fresh basil for dinner without worrying about compacting the soil.

Benefit: Overcome Bad Soil with a Raised Vegetable Garden

Raised vegetable gardens are the answer if you have sandy or clay soil. Instead of struggling with poor topsoil, all you need to do is fill your raised garden beds with high-quality topsoil and start gardening. Nutrient-rich soil means fewer struggles for plants and less frustration for the gardener. To keep the soil in raised vegetable gardens healthy, continue to feed it with compost and other organic matter.

Benefit: Reduce Weeds with Raised Bed Gardening

Once your raised raised vegetable garden beds are filled with fresh soil, cover the surface with an inch or two of mulch. This reduces weed competition and preserves soil moisture in your raised garden beds.

Benefit: Stop Pests with Raised Vegetable Gardens

Even with raised bed vegetable gardening, critters such as rabbits or moles can make a mess of your vegetables. One way to thwart them is with tall raised garden beds. Design and build raised garden beds that are at least 4 feet tall to discourage these invaders.

Benefit: Make Your Garden More Attractive with Raised Gardens

Set up a series of small raised vegetable garden beds in tidy rows or a pattern and you'll end up with the most visually appealing vegetable garden on your block.

Benefit: Never Till Again with Raised Garden Beds

Raised vegetable garden beds provide a healthier environment for beneficial microorganisms and earthworms because there's no foot traffic to compact the soil. And you avoid the time and expense of tilling with raised gardening beds.

Design Tip: Use Long-Lasting Materials for a Raised Vegetable Garden

When selecting materials for your DIY raised garden beds, choose rot-resistant lumber such as cedar or redwood. Or look for other materials, such as brick, stone, or concrete, to create build raised beds you won't need to rebuild. Get the wood look when making a raised garden bed with composite materials.

Design Tip: Add Decorative Elements to Raised Gardens

Raised vegetable gardening bed designs can be attractive landscape features. Dress them up with details that add style to their utilitarian form. For example, give corner posts in a raised garden a cap or paint the wood frames to match your house.

Test Garden Tip: A wide variety of premade post caps is available at your local hardware store or home improvement center. Post caps for raised garden beds come in materials including wood, copper, and glass. Some even have solar lights incorporated, adding highlights to your raised garden bed.

Design Tip: Come Up with a Pattern for Your Raised Garden Beds

Raised vegetable garden beds are often set up as squares or rectangles that run parallel to one another. But you can add some fun to your raised-bed gardening landscape by arranging the raised garden beds in different geometric shapes or patterns. For example, mimic the lines of an architectural feature on your home. Whatever shape you design, remember to allow yourself room to reach into the raised garden beds and to move between them.

Design Tip: Grow Up with Vines in Raised Garden Beds

Include trellises, obelisks, or tuteurs in your raised-bed vegetable gardening plans. Buy or build one or two to grow vining crops such as peas, beans, cucumbers, and even tomatoes. The extra height of these raised vegetable gardens brings visual drama to your plantings, especially if most of what you grow is relatively short.

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