Raised beds are a great way to create arable land just about anywhere. If you’re looking to add a few extra square feet to your garden this summer, here are some great tips on how to get the most out of your raised beds.
Choosing the Right Spot
To get the most out of your raised beds, you need to choose the best spot. Look for a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun each day. Before building the beds, mark out your chosen spot with some stakes and string and then take a look throughout the day to ensure that all corners of the bed are getting regular and even sunlight. You also want to consider drainage. While not as important as sunlight, you will want to avoid putting you beds down in an area where water pools when it rains. For the best results, find a spot that sits on slightly higher ground than the rest of your yard.
Setting the Right Depth
A raised bed garden can be a great investment over time, but for those just starting out, the startup costs can be a little steep. To limit the amount of money that you spend on soil and lumber, you’ll want to carefully consider how high to build the beds. For a basic vegetable garden, a bed depth of 6 to 12 inches will work well. However, your planting depth is also going to depend on what you plan to grow. For deep-rooted vegetables, such as carrots, you’ll need beds that are around 16 to 24 inches high. You might also consider building higher beds if you suffer from mobility issues. If you have a bad back or bad knees, a bed with a height of 36 inches, or using an elevated planter will eliminate the need to bend down while gardening.
Improving Your Soil
One of the biggest advantages of raised bed gardening is that you have total control over your gardening medium. You’re no longer at the mercy of the hard and compacted soil in your yard. Instead, you can fill the beds with the perfect mix of gardening soil, compost, fertilizer and other amendments. As an added bonus, raised beds don’t get stepped on the way a traditional garden does, which will prevent compaction and promote good drainage.
Preventing Weeds and Pests
Another great advantage of raised beds is that they make pest control a lot easier. The wooden planks of a raised bed provide a natural barrier to pests like slugs and snails. If you have problems with birds or rodents, you can also mount chicken wire or netting around the raised beds to help keep those pests out. To prevent weeds from popping up, you can put down a layer of cardboard or newspaper beneath the soil.
Once you have your raised beds up and running, there are still some things you can do to improve your yields. You can better maximize your space by installing trellises and growing vertical vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas. When winter comes, you can cover the beds with some hoops and plastic sheeting, creating a small greenhouse that will extend your growing season by several weeks, or even allow you to garden year-round in some parts of the country. Because vegetables can really sap the soil of nutrients, it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop at the end of the growing season or in between harvests. Species like ryegrass and clover make excellent cover crops, which help repair nutrient-depleted soil and prevent erosion.