Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds would have to be one of the easiest and most successful ways to grow edible plants in the garden. They solve the problem of poor drainage, can be placed almost anywhere and always seem to produce massive amounts of food for the family table. Setting up a raised garden bed takes a little bit of planning and a few hours of work and will result in a bountiful crop that will taste better than anything found in the supermarket.
Installing a raised garden bed couldn’t be simpler with the huge range of garden tanks now available in colours to suit any home. They allow gardeners with clay soil or granite outcrops to plant in to perfect soil and can be fitted in to the smallest of backyards. Since they are raised, they are a much easier height to work at, adding to the true pleasure of growing herbs and vegetables at home.
SELECTING AND PREPARING A SITE
Choosing the site carefully is important as once the raised garden bed is filled, it will be a massive task to move it. All edible plants need full sun to produce the oils and flavour that we expect. When grown in too much shade, herbs and vegetables will become soft, inundated by pests and will not thrive. Choose an open, sunny site that gets plenty of morning sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. Shelter from winds may also be necessary with lattice or shade cloth walls as plants raised off the ground are affected more by gusts then those in a garden bed.
Raised garden beds can be placed on almost any surface, even on concrete and heavy clay soils. If putting directly on to lawn, mark out the area and spray that patch of grass first with glyphosate. Wait a few days to allow the grass to begin to die before placing the new bed in position.
Before adding soil to the raised garden bed, install reticulation pipes from underneath. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way of watering as it provides even coverage and reduces waste. Overhead sprinklers will tend to water over the edge of the bed instead of the plants themselves.
Line the base of the bed with thick layers of newspaper to stop any couch from finding its’ way up through the base and help to retain a bit of extra moisture. If working on a windy day, dampen the newspaper so that it doesn’t blow away. Avoid lining with plastic as this will prevent the water draining correctly and will cause water logging.
SETTING UP THE GARDEN BED
Fill the bottom half of very large beds with ordinary soil. The roots of the vegetables will not reach that far anyway so this will make the project a bit more economical. Good quality soil such as a veggie and flower mix which contains compost and fertiliser should be used for the top 30 or 40 centimetres.
Soil taken directly from the garden will result in poor growth and long term issues including weed seeds, water logging and poor growth in plants.
Remember that plants grown in containerized situations like these will only get the nutrients that you give them so preparing the soil well is essential to good results.
Sprinkling a small amount of controlled release fertiliser over the surface is the simplest way to ensure the nutrient level is correct. Add an additional application of a soil wetter as although the mix will be new, it will still benefit from holding moisture more effectively. Water storing crystals may be useful in very hot areas of WA.
Before planting, add a good layer of pea straw or lupin mulch to help the soil retain water and to provide some protection for seeds and tiny seedlings as they grow. The mulch will break down and add extra nitrogen to the soil.
PLANTING THE RAISED GARDEN BED
Choosing what to plant very much depends on what’s in season and what the family enjoys eating. Some plants are best grown from seed such as peas and beans but others do well from seedlings also.
Use climbing or tall edible plants to provide some shelter for shorter plants next door. Put any climbing frames in at the same time as planting seeds or seedlings to minimize the damage to roots and to make it easier to train the plants in the right direction.
It could be interesting to consider plant combinations that suit. Capsicum, basil, parsley, oregano, eggplant and zucchini could provide real inspiration at dinner time. Where a raised garden bed is near the barbecue area, consider a combination of rosemary, lemon grass and thyme with salad vegies such as cherry tomatoes and snow peas.
Consider smaller successive plantings of fast growing vegetables such as spinach and lettuce to reduce wastage and ensure a continual supply.
In the case of smaller raised garden beds or where the bed is being watered on the same reticulation station, it is very important to choose plants that all require similar conditions. For example, planting drought tolerant rosemary right next to lettuce which needs large amounts of water will result in poor growth of at least one of them since it would be impossible to provide conditions to suit both. It would be better to plant the rosemary somewhere else in the garden or even in its’ own tub and then plant something more suitable in with the lettuce.
HARVESTING AND MAINTENANCE
Watering the garden bed efficiently is the key to success. Testing whether the bed needs watering is simply a case of scraping back the top two centimetres of soil to ascertain whether it is moist underneath. It should never be soggy but the grains of soil should be just damp enough for them to stick to a finger.
Where possible, water in the early hours of the morning so that the water stays in the soil but the early morning sun dries the leaves to prevent diseases such as mildew. There will be very little need for weeding initially but it is always important to stay vigilant. Simply digging between the rows with a hand hoe will help to prevent weed seeds from germinating.
Fortnightly applications of a seaweed extract will thicken the cell walls of the plants and encourage massive root growth resulting in a far better harvest. More regular applications in the heat of summer and over the frosts of winter would help the plants deal with the extreme weather.
Controlled release fertilisers for vegetables can be applied between 6 and 8 weeks after planting as the previous application would have been depleted. As the plants are harvested or the beds replanted, compost and other organic soil conditioners can be mixed through also.
Although an occasional application of liquid fertiliser can be applied, it should not be necessary unless there is a need to give a boost where plant growth seems slow. However, if this is the case it would be a sign that the soil is depleted and needs more compost and fertiliser added.
It is always better to feed edible plants through the roots via the soil as this will produce better flavour.
Pick up any dropped or damaged fruit and harvest the herbs and vegetables often. By harvesting leaves and fruit regularly, the plant is encouraged to produce even more and so the resulting crops will be far better.
SEASONAL PLANTING IDEAS
SPRING (Sept – Nov)
AUTUMN (Mar – May)
SUMMER (Dec – Feb)
WINTER (June – Aug)
- Edible Gardens
- Garden Care & Maintenance
- Garden Visitors
- Pests & Diseases
- Plants & Flowers
- Rose Pruning in Winter
- Wine Barrel Gardens
- Gardening in a New House
- Caring for Indoor Plants
- Making a Garden in Lawn
- Growing Annuals for Colour
- Cacti and Succulents
- Australian Native Plants
- Growing Wisteria
- Raised Garden Beds
- Hanging Baskets
- Planting Hedges
- Maintaining Bonsaii
- Transplanting Shrubs
- Flanders Poppies – How to Grow
- Propagating Seeds & Cuttings
- Seasonal Gardening Jobs
- Soil, Compost & Mulches
- Waterwise & Sustainable Gardening