Things to Consider When Building a Raised Vegetable Garden
There’s something to say about raised garden beds. Not only are they perfect if the original soil composition is poor, but they mean no bending over to harvest the vegetables or tend to the weeds. Plus, they take up very little space, can be built anywhere, even on concrete and you can grow your own produce, saving you money.
So how should you go about creating a raised veggie garden?
Choosing a location
While you can place your raised garden bed on top of pretty much every surface – including pavers, grass or pebbles – there are still a number of factors to be considered when choosing a location. Most herbs and vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight, some need eight, so a spot where the sun shines liberally is going to be best. Preferably, plants love the morning sun so if you have a choice between morning sun and afternoon sun, go for the former. Generally, this means they’ll get the afternoon shade, which in hotter climates can actually help the plants grow best by giving them a bit of a break from the harsh UV rays.
However, if you can’t find a place that enjoys day-long sunshine, never fear. You can still create a wonderful veggie patch. Vegetables and herbs that don’t need so much sun include beetroot, carrots, chives, coriander, leek, mint, spinach and spring onion.
It’s also wise to find a spot that is easy to get to and where you can get water to without any trouble. Your vegetables will need regular watering; they do their best growing in soil that is consistently damp – neither completely soaking nor completely dry. So choose a position with easy access to a hose or close to a tap where you can fill up a large watering can.
On top of this, the location needs to allow for movement between and around the beds. There’s no point building a raised bed if you can’t maneuver around to pick your vegetables and maintain them properly. This means leaving at least a 2-foot walking lane between and around your beds. If you think you’re going to need bigger tools, for example a wheelbarrow or cart, definitely increase this 2-foot parametre. Consider designing a path between the beds with stone or porcelain pavers.
Dirt, drainage and watering
One of the best things about raised garden beds is that the soil is customised, meaning there’s no such thing as bad dirt, which can be common in the ground. Preferably, the best thing to use is a mix of compost and soil. Importantly, don’t layer these – mix them thoroughly before planting. The great thing is, you can create your compost yourself giving the soil excellent nutrients. Also, remember that if you plant your vegetables too low in the bed, the rim of the bed will shade them, blocking their much-needed sunlight. It’s best to fill the bed up to 10 centimetres from the rim.
Of course, with any garden situation, there needs to be adequate drainage to support the amount of watering that needs to take place. Generally, drainage is built into the bed walls so the soil is kept in place.
In terms of watering, some vegetables will need more watering than others so keep this in mind when placing them. If you can have multiple beds, group the plants according to how often they need watering. That way, there’s no risk of over or under watering certain vegetables.
Choosing your material
Your raised vegetable garden is going to be protruding from the ground, this means it’s a structure and the right materials need to be used. Many beds are made of timber, for example redwood or cedar. The timber looks great and it’s easy to work with. But remember, it must be a rot-resistant type of timber and because the timber is in constant contact with soil and water, don’t expect it to last longer than about 10 years.
Alternatively, you can choose stone. This will last much longer as it’s a much more durable material. It will also help extend your season as it helps soil warm faster and stay warm for longer, fostering a better environment for your vegetables. However, while attractive looking, it can be harder to work with and is generally more expensive.
Doing the planting
When it comes to planting your vegetables, there is a certain art to it. It’s wise to plant small amounts of each vegetable while leaving some space bare. This means you won’t be overcome with a whole heap of vegetables in one go. It also gives your plants some room to spread out if they need.
Another tip is to plant the taller vegetables at the back. There’s nothing worse than a tall edible, such as silverbeet, being at the front of the planter box and casting shadow over the other vegetables.
And remember, there are certain vegetables that grow better according to the season. For example, capsicum grows best in summer whereas peas grow best in winter. So always check what you should be planting and when.
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