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!
First 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.
- Sun– Ideally 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.
- Terrain– What 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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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 note–There 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).
Note–see 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,
– photos courtesy of wiki commons and pixabay