When you are planning a new garden, there are several design configurations to choose from. The best choice depends on your gardening space and the plants you wish to grow.
Are you interested in creating a raised vegetable garden? If so, continue reading to learn more about the benefits, basics, and a few drawbacks of this garden bed style.
Are Raised Vegetable Gardens Right for You?
When starting a new garden, you must consider a few crucial factors regarding design and implementation.
Raised garden beds are an excellent way to control the composition of the soil in which you are planting. If you have thick clay or rocky soil, you will likely struggle to get crops to thrive. In this case, you should consider implementing a raised vegetable garden.
You can purchase and mix the perfect soil for each plant you cultivate, leading to a more bountiful harvest.
Consider using raised garden beds if you’re working with a fairly small growing space. Raised beds can be configured to make the most of the space you have.
Vining plants can cascade over the sides to get plenty of sunlight, while tall, bushy plants can be trellised to make the most of vertical space.
There are limitations inherent in raised garden beds. It is important to provide plenty of space for roots to extend into the soil, which can impact which types of vegetables will grow best in your raised garden bed.
Some crops have especially deep and wide root systems that may be too large for containerized raised beds. Such plants could be hindered by root rot, bound roots, and nutritional deficiencies.
Regardless of your particular growing space and gardening needs, you could likely benefit from implementing a few raised beds.
As you will learn later on in this article, there are different types of raised vegetable beds better suited to individual plant types. Choosing the correct raised garden will enable you to grow any vegetable you desire.
Raised Garden Bed Benefits
The primary benefits of utilizing a raised vegetable garden center around controlling your growing environment. Instead of relying solely on your local soil, you can mix ideal soil solutions for each type of crop you grow. This enables precise nutrient blends and optimal drainage for your vegetable garden.
Raised vegetable beds may also help minimize threats to your crops. Containerized beds are especially helpful in preventing weed and pest infestations.
Critters like rabbits and slugs have a more difficult time invading your garden bed when it’s a few feet off the ground. Pesky weeds are also unable to emerge and steal nutrients from your budding plants.
Elevating a garden space off the ground also allows for improved air circulation, which can cut down on bacterial and fungal infections.
The improved airflow provides raised garden beds with a few surprising benefits you might not be aware of. When using a raised garden bed, you can often sow your seeds earlier in the spring.
Sunlight can reach more of the surface area of your planting soil, which keeps seeds warm when it’s chilly out.
There is another side to this coin, however, as roots may get too hot in the middle of summer. You can prevent overheating by insulating your raised vegetable garden if you live in a hot climate.
There are a few drawbacks to using a raised vegetable garden, besides excessive heat. Installing a raised garden can be expensive, depending on the design layout you choose.
Additionally, tilling a raised bed can be cumbersome as you will not be able to use larger equipment like to-tillers to make this process a breeze. Instead, consider purchasing a narrow single-wheel hoe for your raised beds.
Different Types of Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
There is no one-size-fits-all garden, especially when it comes to raised beds. Luckily, you can choose the perfect raised bed design for your local soil, the crops you’re growing, and your objectives.
Whether you want an easy no-till bed or large containers that are impervious to pests, you are sure to find the perfect raised vegetable garden for your backyard.
Raised Ground Beds
Raised ground beds are the easiest and cheapest form of raised vegetable garden. They consist of a few extra layers of soil on top of a traditional tilled bed.
Raised ground beds typically sit about eight to ten inches higher than a flat garden bed. These beds lack any supporting structure along the sides so there’s no additional investment aside from the soil.
Raised ground beds are the best option for growing crops with deep and extensive root systems. Your plants can take advantage of improved soil composition and drainage without the restriction to root growth.
These beds come with the additional advantage of less tilling year over year due to the looser soil. This means you are unlikely to encounter soil compaction which can be an issue in traditional garden beds.
Weeds and pests can still be problematic in raised ground beds. This is because there are no structures preventing weeds from cropping up or keeping pests from crawling in. Still, diseases will be less of a threat since even a slight elevation significantly improves aiflow.
Supported Raised Beds
Supported raised beds are a step above basic raised ground beds. These supported garden plots include walls on all four corners of the bed to keep soil contained. Your plants will benefit from the same freedom to stretch their roots since there is no bottom to restrict them.
Supported beds offer additional protection against fests. Depending on how tall you build your walls you can keep out many of the most pesky critters like rabbits, slugs, and aphids.
These garden beds don’t provide additional support from invasive plants growing up from underneath your plot. Still, the high walls can prevent encroachment from nearby weeds which may compete with your vegetables.
Containerized Raised Beds
Containerized beds are the most extreme form of raised vegetable gardens. These function the same as a large planter placed in a sunny spot in your yard.
Containers raised beds almost fully eliminate the threat of weeds and pests due to their high elevation and solid bottoms.
You must carefully design your garden patch when utilizing a containerized raised bed. You should build your planter box deep enough to accommodate the roots of any crops you plan to grow.
If you try to grow deep-rooted vegetables in a shallow planter box you will likely experience a pitiful harvest and battle root rot and other critical issues.
A fully containerized raised bed is the most expensive way to incorporate a raised vegetable garden. These boxes require lots of material soil and extra irrigation to get the best results.
Lasagna Garden Beds
The final type of raised vegetable garden we will explore is the lasagna garden bed. This is not a structure but instead a method for creating a long-lasting and nutrient-rich raised garden.
Creating a lasagna garden bed requires more planning than other traditional methods. You’ll want to start prepping at least one year before you plan to sow your seeds.
To begin, you must smother any existing grass or weeds growing in your future plot. You can easily accomplish this by laying out untreated cardboard to cover the planting area and weighing it down with sticks and stones.
Next, consistently add pre-compost in alternating layers of nitrogen- and carbon-rich matter. Repeat this pattern often and be sure to water your lasagna garden thoroughly to encourage decomposition.
Once you are ready to plant add a thin layer of balanced soil atop the bed. After you sow your seeds continue watering and caring for your garden as usual.
This planting method creates a rich loamy compost with no mess or tilling required. As your vegetables grow and spread roots the lasagna-like layers of plant matter continue to break down and fuel healthy growth.
You should be aware that extra precautions must be taken to prevent mold growth and disease in a lasagna garden bed. Make sure you turn these layers regularly to add oxygen and spread moisture throughout the bed evenly.
After harvest, you can simply rake down old vegetation to serve as your first green layer for the next season. Utilize the principles of crop rotation to prevent diseases from overwintering in the soil which could threaten your plants the following year.
Creating a Raised Garden Bed the Easy Way
Which type of raised bed you choose to construct will greatly determine the effort and investment necessary. Simple raised ground beds are inexpensive, as quality soil is all you need. Supported and containerized raised beds require building materials like wood, metal, or UV-resistant plastic.
Still, building a raised vegetable garden doesn’t have to be expensive or challenging. Many gardeners on a budget opt to reclaim old material like troughs, tires, and even pick-up beds. Just ensure that whatever you use is durable and won’t leach toxic substances into the soil.
Special Care for Raised Vegetable Gardens
Are there unique considerations for growing your crops in a raised garden? Depending on your climate the answer could be yes.
In especially arid environments, your raised vegetable garden will require additional irrigation. The increased surface area and circulation allow water to evaporate more quickly. Pay attention to soil moisture every morning and be sure to water whenever it gets dry.
Raised garden beds may also be susceptible to excessive heat. In the middle of summer, planter boxes can get pretty hot due to convection. This can be remedied by adding insulation to your planter box in your raised vegetable garden to reduce heat that might damage roots.
How do you space plants in a raised vegetable garden?
There is no one hard rule for spacing your plants in a raised garden bed. Many backyard gardeners choose to sow their seeds in rows just like a normal garden.
You may have heard of square-foot gardening. This is a strategic permaculture method that maximizes growing space.
Square foot gardening relies heavily on the principles of companion planting and crop rotation. Crops that benefit each other are sown together in the same bed while competing plants get separate beds.
Whichever way you choose to space your seeds just ensure you regularly weed and fertilize raised garden beds for the best results.
Is mulch necessary for a raised garden bed?
Adding mulch to a raised bed is a great way to cut down on loss of moisture. Simply add a thick layer of mulch to your bed once seedlings emerge and grow about four inches tall.
Grow the Best Raised Vegetable Garden at Home
After reading this article you know the ins and outs of raised garden beds. Are you ready to get started building and planting your own? If so, check out more of our in-depth articles on the basics of gardening.
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