The raised bed gardening method is an intensive way to garden in the city with more work required at the start resulting in a higher yield.
Urban gardening is a movement quickly gaining momentum as more city dwellers are turning to their own yards as a place to grow food. One way to produce a large harvest from a small amount of space is to use the raised bed method.
The raised bed method in urban gardening produces more food per square foot than the traditional gardening method. For example, 144 bush bean plants can be grown in a four-foot by four-foot raised bed, whereas only 32 can be grown in a traditional garden. More plants grown results in a bigger harvest with less work for the gardener to do throughout the growing season.
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How to Make a Raised Bed in an Urban Garden
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Materials for creating a raised bed in an urban garden include untreated wood and screws. The wood used should be four feet by six inches by one inch.
Untreated wood is to be used because chemicals used in treated lumber can leach into the soil. Railroad ties should be avoided, as chemicals used to treat them has been known to leach into the soil and can kill plants.
Wood should be situated such that the tip of one board touches the inside tip of another board, creating a spiral-like pattern. Two screws should be used to attach each board to the one adjoining it so that the frame of the raised bed is stable.
Growing medium for the raised bed in the urban garden should include one-third peat moss, one-third compost and one-third perlite or vermiculite. Perlite and vermiculite both are used for the same purpose: to aerate the growing mix.
Perlite is usually cheaper than vermiculite. Some garden soil or top soil can be used in the growing mix, but should not exceed more than one quarter of the mix.
Adding compost to the mix at the start of the process eliminates the need for further fertilization of the soil during the growing season. Peat moss is the commonly accepted material, however, more eco-friendly materials, such as coconut fiber, are perfectly acceptable.
Growing Plants in the Raised Bed in the Urban Garden
Using a raised bed in an urban garden has many benefits, including allowing the gardener to use less water to achieve the same results as within a traditional garden.
Most fruiting vegetable plants require one inch of water per week in a traditional setting. By intensive cultivation in the raised bed method, planting seeds closer together than in traditional gardening, plant leaves create a canopy over the soil, allowing the planting mix to retain more water and lose less due to evaporation.
Less water is used by the gardener- in some climates, about half the amount of water is required.
The location of the raised bed within the urban garden setting is crucial to success. The bed should be placed in areas of optimal sunlight. Areas which receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight are ideal for most fruiting vegetable plants.
If the area of the yard which receives optimal sunlight is less than four feet by four feet, it is permissible to create the raised bed frame to be less than four feet by four feet. It is more important that the plants receive ideal sunlight conditions than the raised bed to be four feet by four feet.
Annual fruiting vegetables are ideal for raised bed culture within the urban garden, as the growing medium should be raked over at the end, and later at the beginning, of consecutive growing seasons.
Raking of the growing mix could cause harm to roots of perennial plants, so perennials, plants that come back year after year, should be avoided in the raised bed method.
It is important that proper spacing be utilized for all annuals grown in a raised bed. Broccoli and indeterminate (those which produce vines) tomatoes should be spaced nine plants to a four foot by four foot raised bed, whereas other plants, such as carrots or peas, should be placed close together. Carrots should be spaced 16 per square foot. Peas should be spaced at nine per square foot.
Whether planting peas, carrots, tomatoes, flowers or annual herbs in a raised bed, proper preparation before implementing the raised bed method is important for maximum production.
Proper distribution of ingredients in the growing material, spacing and sunlight considerations, are essential to success in the raised bed within the urban garden.