Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening For Beginners

Once you understand what most commercial agricultural companies are spraying on their plants and putting in the soil you will probably want to grow your own vegetables. Even though most vegetables are very healthy for you, by loading them up with pesticides and other chemical products they simply are not safe to eat anymore!  

Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening For BeginnersFirst things First-Put it on Paper! 

One of the very first mistakes I made, and lessons learned was to put my plan of a garden down on paper, even if just in the form of a rough sketch.  I learned this from my father who every March (in  Virginia) would lay out his plan for the upcoming years garden.

However I didn’t put it into practice until much later realizing only then, after much trial and effort why it was such a good idea. Putting you garden plan down on paper will not only save you time and labor in your gardening efforts it will also be a  great record for the following year. It will be a guide to what you planted this season and help with rotation and placement of plants for the following year. 

 Choosing the Right Site

Starting your organic vegetable garden in the right place, will save you time and effort right from the beginning. Keep this in mind when choosing your location.

  • SunIdeally you will want to pick a site that offers full direct sun, at least 6 hours, and preferably 8, during your main growing season. If  this is not available to you  there are still crops you can grow with less sunlight that will do quite well.garden
  • TerrainWhat would be ideal is a site that is fairly level, and once you have decided on your site the area for your garden should be free of large rocks and roots, if not pick another site, or remove them. 

Garden Size-How much to grow

First ask yourself this- what do you like to eat, and then how many mouths will you be feeding, and lastly who will be doing the work. If you are like me when it comes to vegetable gardening, well I like most of them and want to grow them all! Don’t make this simple mistake.

One year I took an organic sweet potato which I had purchased at the market and cut it in quarters. Now I have two raised beds about twenty feet long and three feet wide. I planted the quarters in the end of one of the beds and low and behold they eventually covered most of that bed and the walkway between the other.Raised_vegetable_beds

I was able to harvest several bushels of sweet potatoes and although they will store for awhile in a cool location I had to give most away, as I could not possibly consume two bushels myself.

The moral of this story is to grow only what you and your family can eat that season or save, unless you want to feed the neighborhood or throw the rest out!

Soil Considerations

How is the soil in your potential  garden area and how would you know?  You may want to consider as a beginner to start with building a raised bed vegetable garden. By doing this you can use your own soil and will not have to get initially involved with soil testing or amendments to the existing soil.COMPOST

If not, then you could go ahead and double-dig the existing soil and try to grow there. If this is the case then you will need to assess your existing soil to see what you need to do to make it amenable for growing organic vegetables as well as possibly adding topsoil.

Note- If you are not going to use raised beds and want to use the soil that is already there then get your soil tested. By sending samples to your local cooperative extension service, garden center or nursery.

This will let you know which nutrients are deficient in your soil and what type of soil you have, as well as provide suggestions for how to improve your soil. There are also kits available at your garden center or online to test the soil yourself. RapiTest Soil Test Kit

Gardner’s note There is no perfect garden, free of pests or ideal location, know and accept this from the start and you will be the better for it!

Building your raised bed garden

Depending upon how many vegetables you want to grow, will determine the size of your raised beds. For one person I made two raised beds 20’x 3′ with a 2’walkway between them. They were made by attaching 2×12’s with screws in the shape of a rectangle set directly on the ground. So my beds were only about a foot high and manageable.Raised bed VEGETABLE GARDEN

Note- I did not use treated lumber!

I then filled them with a bottom layer of horse manure and a top layer of organic garden soil. You can use just organic garden soil if you do not have access to horse manure. 

Note-Remember if your beds are orientated horizontal to the southern exposure make sure to plant your taller vegetables in the rear bed, this way you will not block the sun to them.

So let’s recap-

    • We have sketched our garden design
    • Chosen our site
    • Built our raised beds
    • Added manure and organic garden soil
    • Decided which vegetable plants/seeds and purchased them from the garden center

 Time to plant!

Gardner’s note This article was written for the mid-atlantic states area- if you live in other areas planting times will vary and you will need to check. I also purchase my organic plants early and keep them indoors until the proper time to move them outside. Some I started in a cold frame, its natural warmth lets you foster seedlings in early spring and keep veggies going through fall and even into winter. (more on these later)

The Plants

I always use organically-grown plants and seeds. There are several good online companies to choose from and purchase. Organic Heirloom Seeds Non-gmo Non-hybrid

 Planting

I believe one of the single most important aspects of your garden experience is paying close attention to your plants. This will go a long way toward catching pest and disease problems as well as having success in maintaining a healthy thriving garden. 

According to my layout for each raised bed I ran two string lines to help me to keep the rows straight. I divided the first bed in half and just used my finger to make a hole and added seed.ORGANIC GARDENING

For plants such as lettuce, broccoli and others (usually in peat or plastic pots) hold the pot sideways and with a teaspoon if necessary gently remove the plant root ball and plant intact and plant in the bed. Some rows did not go all the way across as I had some tomato plants.

 Gardner’s noteThere is  information available online on how to provide the right amount of  water and nutrients for the types of vegetables you want to grow. We will cover that as well in a later article. Also consider companion planting for a healthier garden.Trowel and Error: Over 700 Tips, Remedies and Shortcuts for the Gardener

Protecting your Garden

I have always found it prudent to construct a fence around my vegetable gardens especially if I wish to eat what I grow! In the case of rabbit, deer and other animals, good fences offer the best solution. I installed a 4′ high plastic coated wire metal fence and have never had any issues with the abundant wildlife in the area. (For groundhogs and raccoon’s you will have to get a bit more aggressive).fenced vegetable garden

Notesee instructional video on how to construct your raised bed, just click on the video tab above.

PS: I hope you enjoyed this article- If you have any questions  or want to leave your own personal comments, join the conversation below, I want to hear your thoughts on Organic Gardening!

 

To your gardening success,

Tom

 – photos courtesy of wiki commons and pixabay

 

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 8 comments
John

Hi Tom-I am looking to start a garden this year and I will be bookmarking this page. I will be taking your advice and putting together a garden sketch before I get started planting. Thanks for the informative article.

Reply
    Tom

    Hi John-Putting a sketch together for your garden is a great idea for many reasons. It will not only help you figure placement, but allow you to make changes before you actually plant. It will also be a great resource for the next season because some plants may have to be rotated. Come back soon as we will be discussing crop rotation,cold frames and composting in later articles.

    All the best-Tom

    Reply
Robert Buchanan

Very informative article Tom. I particularly liked choosing the right place section. My first garden I started had a tree on one end, which really wasn’t that much of a problem. The garden still had enough sunlight on that side, but not all day. I had to plant stuff like onions on that end of the garden.

Reply
    Tom

    Hi Robert and thanks for your comment- Having a level area that provides enough sunlight throughout the day is crucial for a successful garden. This will allow you a diverse choice in crop as well as proper drainage and growing time for the plants. I hope to see you soon as we are constantly adding articles on organic gardening. Also let me know if you have a specific request or interest and I will be happy to respond.

    All the best-Tom

    Reply
Stu

Great article! I’m sending this to my mom as she has always wanted to start a garden!
-Stu

Reply
    Tom

    Thanks Stu-Tell you mom to come visit our site for more updates and information on organic gardening. She can post any questions she may have and I will respond.

    All the best-Tom

    Reply
Enid @BeginPreppingNow.com

I totally agree about planning. I am laying out my garden now. It is way early for planting in Montana, but I am prepping beds and getting my dirt ready. I am actually going to put plastic covers on a couple of boxes and try to plant some cool stuff soon. Its an adventure. I love growing healthy food for my family.

Reply
    Tom

    Hi Enid- Yes, it is prudent to have a plan on paper first before planting, for many obvious reasons. Glad you are taking that to heart!
    I found out the hard way that early spring does have its challenges, so putting your young sprouts in a cold box can give you an edge as well as possibly preventing damage from a cold snap or frost.

    Reply

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