Raised bed gardening involves growing plants in planting beds that are raised up higher than the surrounding ground. They can be as humble or creative as you like – anything from enclosures or frames made of wood, stone, bales of hay, or even repurposed material like old dressers. Just beware of using treated wood, like railway sleepers, as harmful chemicals like creosote can leak toxins into the soil. Whatever your choice, raised beds offer a lot of benefits, provided that you’ve given the matter some careful thought and planning. Here are some tips to take into consideration when planning raised garden beds:
- ENSURE YOUR RAISED BEDS ARE NOT TOO WIDE
One of the benefits of raised bed gardening is avoiding soil compaction. It’s great being able to work in your garden beds without stepping on them and if you’re growing root vegetables, the looser soil allows them to grow unimpeded. For this reason, you want to ensure that you can comfortably reach to the centre of the bed from all sides. This is achieved by making your beds no more than about 1 metre wide. If you are planning more than one raised garden bed, give some thought to how wide apart they should be. It’s handy being able to run a wheelbarrow between the beds.
- PLAN FOR IRRIGATION
Hand watering your raised garden bed with a watering can prove to become tiresome – so planning ahead in terms of watering your raised beds is useful. Having water easily accessible will save you much time and headache. A note to remember here is that an overhead sprinkler system is not always ideal. With some plants, being watered from above can exacerbate many of the fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew.
Give some thought to the sun requirements of your raised garden beds and ensure that you place them in an area that receives sufficient sunlight for the plants you intend growing. Most vegetables and herbs will require at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
- SOIL QUALITY
Using raised garden beds allows you to control the soil quality. They give you better control over the soil conditions and if used for vegetables and herbs, allow for quick and easy harvesting of your crops. A great soil recipe for raised beds is 1 part top soil, 1 part composted manure and 1 part sand. If you need any assistance with this, please remember that we have a team ready to assist at your nearest Blackwood’s.
- MAINTENANCE OF THE AREA AROUND YOUR RAISED BED
Give some thought to the area of ground around or between your raised beds. If you don’t want to keep mowing or weed eating the grass and weeds around your raised beds, place a barrier down before the weeds and grass emerge for the season. Broken down cardboard boxes with a light layer of mulch on top works well.
- LINING THE BOTTOM OF YOUR RAISED BEDS
Lining your raised garden bed is handy for a few reasons; the lining can insulate the soil against extreme temperatures, some linings can help to keep moles out and it lining also helps to prevent weeds from growing. Here again, there are a number of options to choose from, depending on your budget. Landscape fabric, plastic sheeting or even corrugated cardboard or newspaper can be used.
- MULCH, MULCH, MULCH
Mulching your raised beds is so important. Although weeds are usually less in raised beds, they won’t be non-existent. Weed seeds from native soil find light and sprout. Seeds floating in the wind and deposited from birds love the rich soil of raised beds. For these reasons, mulch will dramatically reduce your weeding time. But more importantly, mulch regulates the soil temperature and retains moisture — both critical needs of raised beds in the hot summer. Give some thought to mulching the area between your raised beds to help prevent weeding these areas too.