Raised beds are prized for their ease of use, allowing gardeners to grow a variety of plants, fruits and vegetables in spaces of all sizes. However, despite their versatility (and ability to adapt to a variety of greenery), it's easy to make a few mistakes when practicing the proposed garden ideas.
As master gardener Scott (and other experts explain), a raised garden bed is often thought of as having "magic properties," meaning you don't need to maintain it. That's far from the truth, he says in this video(opens in a new tab). "You still need to garden on your raised bed, just like anywhere else in the landscape."
So what do you need to pay attention to so you don't spoil your vegetable garden ideas?
High-bed gardening mistakes, experts say
Whether you're new to the concept or have mastered the idea of a kitchen garden, these common mistakes can happen in any garden. Here's what you need to avoid -- and what the experts do.
1. Using the wrong size bed
Whether you're learning how to grow potatoes or other crops, the size of your bed can make a big difference in your yields -- as well as the ease of gardening in a raised bed.
"Make it wide enough so you can reach the entire bed," explains gardener Scott. If you want to get the most out of a freestanding bed, set it four feet wide so you can walk around it and use the sides.
On the other hand, if your bed is against a garden wall, "don't make it four feet wide" -- you won't be able to reach the back, wasting half the bed.
Height also matters, especially if you have mobility issues (or even a bad back): "If you have mobility issues or don't like working on your knees, you are free to adjust your height to what works best for you.
2. Skip the planning stage
"When you're skipping the planning stage, you're probably putting your raised bed in the shade or facing a suboptimal direction, reducing sun exposure for your plants." (Opens in a new tab). Instead, learn how to properly build a raised bed The garden begins with a careful planning stage.
Experts recommend facing your loft bed north-south rather than east-west to optimize sun exposure. "Before construction, make sure your raised bed location is not shaded by shrubs or trees," she added.
3. Choosing the wrong bed
This one seems simple enough, but Gardener Scott says many gardeners make this mistake. He reiterated that garden beds "are not magical": they cannot "overcome the wrong places". If you put your raised bed in the shade and your plants aren't doing well, it's probably not because they're on the raised bed, but because they're in the wrong place.
All vegetables need sunlight to thrive, so always choose a sunny, shaded location for your raised garden bed. And don't forget to place them where your irrigation system or garden hose can work.
4. Not enough space between garden beds
It may be tempting to keep your garden beds neat and close to each other, but it can make moving between them difficult. Scott recommends leaving "enough room to move your wheelbarrow," or space for compost and mulch.
That doesn't mean you need 6 feet between the beds -- it's just that the path to the edge of the bed is wide enough that you need 2 feet between the beds so you can easily walk between them. Gardener Scott warns that even watering can become "difficult" if you "put them too close together". However, with the right planning, you can still bring a raised bed into your small garden idea.
5. Use herbicides
While it may be tempting to use herbicides on (or near) your raised bed, Emma warns that these chemicals can harm your soil for years. Instead, she recommends removing weeds by hand or using stainless steel hand weeding tools that won't cause long-term damage.
6. Choosing the wrong soil type
This goes back to Gardener Scott's main point about raised garden beds - they're not magic, so "taking poor soil" from anywhere in the garden and filling the raised bed with it will give you bad results.
"As a minimum, you need to add some sort of organic material to your soil, like compost," Scott said, "and if you can, get a mix that already has compost and nutrients in it."
You will then need to continue adding organic material "regularly" to maintain soil nutrients.
7. Choose the wrong material for your bed
Scott admits that he likes wood the most, but he does realize that "wood breaks down and rots over time, so my raised bed needs to be replaced. Especially if you live in a humid and humid climate," you might think Bypass the wooden bed completely", maybe consider galvanized steel instead.
Brick and stone are also great solutions—"I don't have to worry about decomposing materials." Build your raised bed and enjoy homegrown vegetables every year.
How deep should a raised vegetable bed be?
Raised vegetable beds should be at least 8 to 12 inches deep, but they can be deeper if you have mobility issues or poor soil drainage. In the latter case, you can backfill the raised bed with porous growth material.
Should loft beds open at the bottom?
Experts are divided on whether filling the bottom of the bed is a good idea. The answer usually varies on a case-by-case basis.
"I'm in favor of raised beds that open to the ground in most situations. This way earthworms and other beneficial microbes can more easily get into your garden bed, and the ground beneath an open raised bed has ideal natural drainage," Says Erinn Witz, co-founder of SeedsandSpades(opens in a new tab).
However, in some cases it is better to close the bottom of the bed. For example, if you know the ground under your bed has been heavily treated with chemicals. "You want to keep as much of this material out of your garden as possible, and a closed bottom helps to do that," Erinn said.
What should I put on the bottom of my raised garden bed?
You can fill the bottom of a raised garden bed with many organic materials, including straw, grass clippings, wood chips, and leaves. Place cardboard - or any suitable weed barrier material - on this organic layer and press it down with a few bricks or nails. This will turn organic material into rich compost where you can mix soil for a rich growing environment. Typically, your goal is to mix 30 percent compost, 60 percent topsoil, and 10 percent potting soil—the latter will help with drainage.
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