How to Plan a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

, Gardening

You can learn how to plan a raised bed vegetable garden with my series on the topic.

Planting a raised bed vegetable garden offers many benefits. For gardeners with poor soils, such as the soil I deal with here at Seven Oaks, a raised bed garden makes it easier to improve the soil and grow vegetables.Another advantage is that it tends to keep the weeds down; the beds are above grass level, and weed seeds don’t seem to “take” as well in the soil of my raised beds as they do among the flower beds.  I can add irrigation via soaker hoses to my raised beds too, saving water by directing the flow to the plant’s roots rather than spraying the whole yard, grass and all.

Raised bed vegetable gardens are one of the best ways I know of to grow organic vegetables.

In the next several weeks, I will share tips and how-to instructions with you to help you learn how to plant a raised bed vegetable garden. As always, my emphasis is on organic vegetable gardening, but you don’t have to grow your garden using entirely organic methods; you can pick and choose what you want in your garden. There’s a lot to learn, so let’s roll up our sleeves and dig right in, okay?
 

How to Plan a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
The First Consideration: Vegetable Garden Location
Whenever you’re planning a construction project, location is always the first decision you’ll have to make, and a vegetable garden is no different. Where should you locate your raised bed vegetable garden?

Take into consideration the following factors:

  • Light: All vegetable gardens need six or more hours of bright, direct, unobstructed sunshine each. That means that if you have a shed, a garage or a tall tree nearby and it blocks the light for a good part of the day, it’s probably not a good area for a vegetable garden. You can grow a few vegetables in partial shade (and I’ve done it before, back in Huntington, Long Island, when I had mature trees in the neighbor’s yard shading my garden) but you won’t be able to grow the wide variety of vegetables most gardeners crave.  So your first priority should be light.

  • Water:  Next, your new garden will need water, and plenty of it. Yes, rainwater will supply moisture, but during the summer months of periods of drought, you’ll need to supplement natural rainwater with additional water. Your vegetable garden needs to be near enough to a water source so that it’s not hard for you to turn on the hose or sprinkler and water your plants during the hot summer months. Don’t count on dragging a watering can around to your garden; trust me, that gets old, fast.  A watering can is fine for a pot of tomatoes on the deck or a window box full of herbs, but for a large-scale vegetable garden, you will need water close by.

 

  • Area:  How big will your garden be? It needs to be large enough so that you can plant a variety of vegetables, yet not so big that you’ll feel overwhelmed with tending it. I’ve found that a few raised beds go a long way for a small family. Leave enough space to add more if you feel so inclined later.

 

One thing I left out of my list is soil. With a raised bed, you’ll build your garden beds and then add soil to the raised vegetable garden boxes later. You won’t need the best soil for your vegetable garden area if you plan on building raised bed gardens since you will use garden soil purchased from a garden center, homemade compost, and other amendments. If you plant to use the soil in your yard for your vegetable garden, get a professional soil test done by your local County Cooperative Extension office. It costs a few dollars, but they will recommend the precise amount of nutrients to add to your soil so that you can grow healthy, vigorous vegetable plants.
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