Raised Bed Preparation Tips for Optimum Success

Raised Bed Preparation Tips for Optimum Success
Are you thinking of implementing raised beds in your garden? We have, for several years. I'm somewhat physically limited. Those raised beds make it possible for me to enjoy my favorite pastime without injury. Along the way, I've learned a few things about raised bed gardening that have made the process more productive and more enjoyable.

Location is vital
Planning a raised bed garden is no different than planning a conventional one in some respects. One big difference is that it's a lot harder to move a raised bed garden. You have to remove all the dirt, move the bed and prepare the ground underneath it every time. Therefore, placement is important.

If you're planting vegetables, your beds should receive at least 6 hours of sun per day. You'll also want your beds placed on high ground, for proper drainage. Knowing what you're planting helps too. Some vegetables require more shade than others. So, consider all factors before placing your beds. You don't want to move them.

Bed building
There are several ways to build garden beds. I've actually written a guide with some pictures to demonstrate the easiest method. As for the size, you'll want to be sure you can reach your plants while gardening. I've found the ideal width to be 4 feet. The length, is not as important. However, I do suggest you use a length that comes ready cut to save time, lumber and labor. You can usually find 12 inch wide boards in 8, 10 and 12 foot lengths. The 12 inch height is perfect for raised beds. If you'd like them taller, simply make them two boards high.

Preparing the ground
The first time we used raised beds, we made the mistake of putting plastic under them, to block weeds. We had a yard full of them. The beds did OK, but not spectacularly. Then, at the end of the season, all the tomatoes came down with a fungus. Plastic does not allow water to drain. So, what is the best method?

The best thing to do, when placing raised beds, is to remove a layer of sod where the bed will be placed. Then, dig and loosen the soil to a depth of about a foot. This allows for drainage. It also allows deep rooted plants to spread their roots naturally.

Enhancing raised beds
Once your raised beds are in place, you may want to enhance them. For instance, if you plan to plant lettuce, there will be times when you'll need a shade cover. You might want to add posts to the corners of the bed to secure a cover to. If your raised beds will contain vining plants, you could add some permanent trellis.

Soil tips
We've found that the best fertilizer by far is our own compost. However, when filling garden beds, we use a planter's mix from our local garden supply/greenhouse. A perfect raised bed planter's mix contains half soil, half compost. The soil quality will vary, depending on the greenhouse. When shopping for garden bed soil, look for loose, dark dirt that balls slightly, then crumbles. If it holds a ball permanently, it likely contains too much clay. If it doesn't ball at all, it doesn't have enough.