Vegetable gardening is a great way to grow your own food and live a more sustainable life. Unfortunately, not all states have soils suitable for growing vegetables. If this is your landscape, try gardening in raised beds! This gardening technique increases yields and reduces maintenance in the vegetable garden. In this article, Savana will explain the benefits of garden beds and how to maintain them for you.
What are raised beds?
Raised beds are free-standing garden beds built above the ground. "Raised" means that the soil in the bed is higher than the surrounding soil. The word "bed" connotes a size small enough to work in without actually stepping into the planting area. Typically, raised beds are enclosed with box frames to provide structural support and prevent erosion.
The frame of the raised bed can be constructed using a variety of materials including brick, preserved wood, landscape timber or concrete blocks, and now very popular galvanized beds. For gardeners, the bed can also be raised as they wish to avoid bending over while working.
Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, raised vegetable beds offer gardeners many benefits. Here are some:
Improve soil conditions - Florida soils tend to be sandy and low in organic matter. By adding garden soil, compost, and soilless media to your beds, you can keep your soil filled with the nutrients your plants need. Soil compaction is also reduced since you're not walking on the raised bed. This allows water and air to flow more freely through the soil.
Higher Yields - Raised bed vegetables can be grown at higher densities, far enough apart to avoid crowding but close enough to keep out weeds. The result is more output per square foot. You'll also have fewer nematode problems if your beds are raised above the ground. These tiny worms wreak havoc on the roots of plants, reducing yields.
Enhanced Accessibility - Raised beds provide options for gardeners with limited mobility. Because of the higher soil level, you can bend over to weed, water and do other gardening chores less. Raise raised beds one to three feet high to make gardening accessible to people with limited mobility. Make sure there is a wide hard surface between beds to provide safe passage for walkers and wheelchairs.
Reduced Maintenance - Because vegetables are planted closer together than traditional planting beds, they shade most of the weed growth. Pest control is also easier with raised beds. If burrowing rodents like moles are a problem, line the bottom of the bed with poultry wire or metal cloth. You can even cover the bed with bird netting. The narrow size of the bed makes it easy to add an elevated frame. The frame can also be used to support the frost protection cover.
Water Conservation - Floating beds can be irrigated with canvas soaker hose, perforated plastic spray hose, or low volume drip irrigation. These irrigation methods do a good job of dispersing water over narrow riverbeds. They also reduce disease by directing water into the soil rather than wetting the foliage with overhead irrigation.
However, building a raised bed requires a little care. Products and building materials used for ornamental plants may not be suitable for consumption. Careful recycling of wood as building material. Also keep in mind that not all pesticides are safe for vegetable gardens. Many products commonly used in ornamental beds can be dangerous when used on edible crops. Always read and follow the directions on the label; it's the law.
What to Plant in Raised Beds
Most garden vegetables grow well in raised beds. Try growing lettuce, greens, radishes, and strawberries. Bush vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans, also do well in raised beds. You can install stands for vegetables that need support, such as some tomatoes and beans. Certain crops, such as squash, melons, and sweet corn, generally grow better in the ground because they require more space than other vegetables.
How to Maintain Your Raised Beds
One of the benefits of gardening in raised beds is easier maintenance. If you use quality materials and build well, a raised bed can last for decades with very little structural maintenance. Still, there are some standard maintenance practices that you will need to follow for the sake of your crop.
Two photographs show two women starting to plant seedlings in a nursery bed followed by a bed full of vegetable seedlings
The soil in the uplift heats up faster and dries out faster than the soil on the ground. Remember to water your beds frequently, especially during times of drought. The goal is to keep the soil under the surface slightly moist, even if the surface dries out in the sun.
If you plan to use, place a soaker hose or drip irrigation directly on the bed. Overhead sprinklers can also be used, but because they wet the plant's foliage, they spread disease more easily. Of course, watering cans is still an effective way for gardeners to get some regular exercise.
Mulch helps suppress weed growth and keeps the soil moist. Soil temperatures were also much cooler under organic cover. You can use organic mulch such as straw (hay) or wood chips placed on top of the landscape fabric. Be careful when using pine straw or bark, as they may acidify the soil.
Fertilization of plants grown in raised beds is similar to conventionally grown plants. In accordance with Florida law, we generally recommend that you choose foods with 2 percent phosphorus or less, except for edibles. You may not need the extra phosphorus in your vegetable garden, though; a soil test can help you determine what nutrient you really need. You can learn more about fertilizing vegetable gardens in our article.
Until the end of the season
At the end of the growing season, you can turn your veggies back into the bed. This adds organic matter to the soil. You can also add extra compost for more nutrients. Over time, the soil may become so good that you don't have to plow it as deeply.