Nuts and Bolts of Raised Gardening

The unique nature of raised garden beds can provide a wealth of benefits for years. In addition to choosing the nutritional source of the plants, raised beds allow them to avoid poor quality or waterlogged native soil. Because the sun warms the beds quicker, crops can be planted earlier. Their close proximity stunts weed growth and maximizes the

available space for planting because no extra soil must be allotted for the gardener to walk.

The arrangement is also less strenuous on the back without all the bending traditionally required. Some people prefer to have raised beds installed, while others are willing to do the work themselves. Either way, here are a few tips to remember about planning a new garden.

~ Don’t use pressure-treated lumber when planting veggies. Naturally weather-and-rot-resistant woods like cedar or redwood are a better choice.

~ Leave a space of at least three feet between the raised beds to allow plenty of room to maneuver wheelbarrows and lawn mowers around them.

~ Position the raised garden bed with the long side facing west, so the plants get the maximum amount of light. Highgrowing plants like tomatoes should be planted at the back, so they don’t cast their shade upon the shorter plants.

~ If there is a problem with burrowing rodents, dig down six to eight inches into the soil and line the bottom of the excavation with galvanized mesh screen before installing the raised bed.

~ To hold the frame in place and keep the long sides of the bed from bowing, drive wooden two-by-four stakes into the soil along the inside. Drive the stakes deep enough so they don’t move, and attach them to the inside of the bed wall with galvanized screws.

~ Be sure to use a quality garden soil or mix a custom blend. A general rule of thumb is to mix one-third peat with one-third compost and one-third quality loamy soil. Some may prefer a richer mix of half compost and half quality soil. Other recommended amendments might include greensand, molasses, alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal and worm castings. If in doubt, consult a local county extension service for advice.

~ To efficiently water the new plants, purchase a soaker hose or install a small irrigation system. An old hose can be repurposed by plugging up the end of it with a dowel or round stick, and then perforating the hose with a nail. This provides an inexpensive watering tool and recycling project all in one.

Greg Holdsworth is owner of Your Own Victory Garden, which installs organic vegetable gardens and builds custom garden structures. For more information, call 214-517-9890 or visit YourOwnVictoryGarden.com.

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