Raised Bed Gardening: Plan Your Vegetables and Herbs in Fall
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Advantages of Raised-Bed Gardens
There are many advantages to a raised bed over the traditional single-row garden:
• A true raised-bed garden never needs tilling soil because it does not become compacted—you don’t walk on a raised bed. 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 the gardener’s boots.
• Planting can take place earlier in the spring since there is no need to wait for perfect weather or for the soil to dry out. A raised-bed garden simply thaws and dries out quicker.
• A raised-bed garden takes up less space, yet the same amount of produce can be grown in that reduced area.
• A raised bed can be an attractive focal point in a landscape and can be as simple or elaborate as desired.
• A raised-bed garden has fewer weeds and therefore takes less time out of a busy schedule.
Characteristics of Raised Beds
Whether you choose to corral your raised beds with a structure, or simply mound your soil, you should follow the same simple guidelines.
• A bed should be no wider than 4 feet to be easily reached from both sides, but the length can be as desired.
• If the bed is up against a fence or a wall where you can only reach from one side, keep the bed two feet wide.
• Aisles between beds may be left in sod, mulched, or even paved with stone, gravel, or brick.
• Dig out any grass or weeds in the area where the bed itself will be located.
• Raised beds require excellent organic soil. If using existing soil, mix in at least 3–4 inches of good organic matter. Or, if you want, use the organic mix solely in place of the existing soil.
• Carefully consider the orientation of the beds. Tall crops should be planted on the north side of a bed to prevent shading any low-growing, sun-loving plants. A north-south orientation is best for lowgrowing crops, allowing direct sunlight to both sides of the bed. Beds that will contain taller crops such as corn, pole beans, or trellised tomatoes might do better in an east-west layout. Lower-growing crops could be planted on the south side of the bed and still get full sun. Conversely, shade-loving plants such as lettuce should be planted where they will be shaded by taller crops.
Unstructured Raised Beds
To create a raised bed, mix in organic matter at the same time the garden is first tilled. Dig walkways down with the soil thrown up creating the planting area. The beds should be four feet wide at the base, tapered slightly to top. Why? So the soil won’t slide into the path. You can cover the entire bed with organic mulch like dry grass clippings to further prevent soil erosion. The mulch will also reduce compaction from rain and sprinkler irrigation. All care of the bed is done from the paths. You can keep your feet on the path and still work all areas of the garden.