Create a user-friendly organic victory garden and save money at the grocery store. Raised bed vegetable gardens are great for small areas and are easy to maintain.
Why take the leap into vegetable gardening this year? Several things. First, with the tough economic times, it’s important to cut corners on high food prices whenever possible while still keeping high nutritional standards.
Try to grow expensive food items that you enjoy to make the best use of the space. Why not plant asparagus crowns? An asparagus garden will produce faithfully for 15 years!
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Secondly, organic vegetables are increasing in popularity. The jury is still out as to whether the nutritional value is any higher, but one thing is certain; pesticides won’t do the body any good. This is an opportunity to ensure first hand that organic farming principles are embraced, one household at a time.
Even Michelle Obama, the first lady, is getting in on the action with her White House kitchen garden located on the South Lawn.
But Why Raised Bed Gardening?
First, it doesn’t take up much space. Raised beds are generally narrow enough to be worked on both sides. They can be configured according to available space. Secondly, maintenance is minimal. Since the gardening area is effectively separated from the surrounding yard, weeds are less of a problem.
Finally, since by definition the garden bed is raised, it’s easier for those with physical disabilities to take care of. The actual height is completely up to the urban or suburban farmer.
Garden Bed Container Materials
- The bed must be built so as to hold the soil in. The range of materials that can be used is wide indeed. Cedar boards are a good choice since they hold up well to the elements. Cedar also is reputed to be an insect repellent.
- Concrete blocks are popular. They’re affordable, durable, and heavy enough so that they don’t need to be secured down, making for an easy vegetable garden to construct. Downside? Concrete will raise the Ph of the soil over time and will need soil monitoring and adjustment periodically.
- Pine boards may be used. They are inexpensive and non-toxic, but will have to be replaced every two to three growing seasons.
- Any Internet search will find sites that suggest that landscape timbers may be used. The chemicals pressured into this type of lumber used to be highly toxic. Supposedly, the newer chemicals are non-toxic. But the bottom line is, why take a chance when there are so many other safer alternatives available?
- Old tires? Yes, a quick Google will find a few of these advocates, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid them for the same reasons as pressure treated wood.
Designing the Raised Bed
This really depends on the real estate available. It will need to be placed in a spot where the vegetable plants get enough light for the crops being grown. Then the configuration of the garden should be considered.
One option is a straight run, long and narrow. Since it will be worked from both sides, anywhere from 20” to 3′ wide is optimal.
Another option is a single or multiple square beds, which works well in an open area. This will allow the grower to walk between the individual beds while working them.
Construct the Raised Bed Garden
This is fairly straightforward. For wooden boxes, assemble them in place and stake the sides to strengthen against the pressure of the soil.
If using concrete blocks, simply place them in position. In areas with gopher problems, it’s beneficial to add wire mesh at the ground level.
Next line the bottom with 2 to 10 layers of newspaper. This will discourage any weeds from trying to germinate from below. Next fill within two inches of the top with the appropriate garden soil and amendments. The soil and soil amendments used is dependent upon location, crop type, weather, and many other factors.
Finally, use a quality, organic mulch on top to hold moisture in the soil. Raised beds tend to dry out faster than in-ground gardens.
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