Table of Contents
- What are Raised Vegetable Gardens?
- Benefits of Raised Beds
- Choosing a Raised Bed
- Selecting the Right Location
- What about Soil?
- How to Create a Raised Bed Garden
- What Vegetables to Plant in a Raised Bed
- Watering a Raised Bed
- Common Mistakes
- Raised Bed FAQs
HiddenFromTOCHow to grow vegetables in a raised bed
- A raised bed vegetable garden offers a number of advantages over traditional in-ground beds.
- Raised beds can be installed in a variety of sizes and made from a range of different materials, including wood, stone, brick and metal.
- The best vegetables for raised beds include radishes, kale, onions, tomatoes, carrots, spinach and rocket.
If you’ve always dreamed of having your own vegetable garden but you’ve not got a huge amount of planting space, you may want to consider a raised bed garden.
Raised beds offer a number of advantages over traditional in-ground beds. They are much more space efficient, and allow you to introduce the best soil to your garden.
The beauty of raised beds is that they can be designed to fit any size of garden. In fact, raised beds can actually increase your planting space, allowing you to plant more in a small space.
Not sure where to start? Here’s everything you need to know about raised bed vegetable gardens!
What are Raised Vegetable Gardens?
Raised beds vary in height, usually starting at about 6”. They can be made from a variety of materials; including wood, concrete, metal, brick and even plastic.
While some raised beds have bases (so are more like large planters), most do not have bases. This allows plants with deep roots to get down into the soil below.
Large planter boxes on the other hand, are usually smaller and can be moved around if needed. If you’ve got a smaller growing space and you want the flexibility to move your plants around, you may prefer planter boxes with a base. They are less permanent, as the roots remain within the box.
You can grow almost anything in both types of raised beds, from fruits and vegetables to small trees and shrubs.
Benefits of Raised Beds
There’s a number of reasons gardeners incorporate raised beds into their garden.
Raised planters can be placed anywhere! Use to cover eyesores, make the most of unused space, or create a gorgeous garden entranceway.
If you opt for raised planter boxes, you’ll be able to place them anywhere in your garden. You’ll be able to choose the sunniest spot and move them to a sheltered area in cool weather.
Better Space Efficiency
The main reason so many gardeners are opting for raised beds is because they allow you to grow more produce in a smaller area.
This is perfect for those with smaller gardens to work with, and help you to make the most of every square foot of space.
For even more space efficiency, you could plant vertically or in tiers.
Improved Growing Conditions
There’s no need to settle for poor soil in your garden. Instead, you can fill your raised bed with the ideal soil blend that’s compatible with whatever vegetables you are growing.
By filling beds with a good quality topsoil, you’ll improve the root health of your produce too. This can result in a better yield and increased resistance to fungal diseases.
It’s much easier to keep track of weeds when you’ve got a raised bed. This is because vegetables in raised beds can be planted much closer together, meaning weeds have far less space to spread and grow. As the soil is richer, weeds will be easier to remove.
Not only that, but raised bed gardens can be covered with fabric to protect your plants from insects. As the planting area is a lot smaller, pests and insects are much easier to both spot and manage.
Raised vegetable gardens will be ready to harvest earlier than those at ground level.
Soil in raised beds has better drainage, so it warms up a lot faster in the spring. This means you can start planting earlier, leading to a better and earlier yield.
As the soil is lighter in raised beds, roots are able to get down into the ground a lot faster to pick up nutrients.
Improved soil conditions means you can pack more plants into the raised beds, as they won’t need to compete for nutrients and water.
Better for your Back
Gardeners with a sore back or limited mobility often find a raised bed is the solution.
There’s a lot less bending required when tending to your plants. Kneeling and squatting over your plants is physically hard work and can rapidly lead to aches and pains, which makes gardening less enjoyable.
If you’ve got taller raised beds, you can sit down while removing weeds or harvesting your produce.
Even if you haven’t been gardening long enough to experience those aches and pains, watering and tending to your plants will be far easier.
Choosing a Raised Bed
Raised beds can vary in design, size and material, so it really depends on what works for your garden.
The first step is to decide how big your raised bed needs to be. You need to make sure you can access the entire bed from the side, including the very centre.
You’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to material.
Timber is the least expensive, but may not last as long as other options. It can be easily cut to size and doesn’t require a lot of building skills. Timber can be cut to any size, height and shape to fit your garden.
Raw wood is another good choice. Wooden logs, branches and sticks can be used as a more rustic alternative to timber. This can be picked up for next to nothing and is a sustainable way to build a raised bed.
It’s worth noting that a lot of pressure treated wood is toxic and should not be used to build a garden bed. While modern pressure treated wood is safe, it shouldn’t be used if you are growing edible produce.
Some gardeners opt to use bricks to build their raised beds. These will last for a very long time and look good in most gardens. Bricks are also virtually maintenance-free. Another benefit of brick is that it allows you to incorporate curves into the design.
If you’re after a more industrial look, why not opt for corrugated metal? The contrast of corrugated metal and colourful plants is instantly eye-catching, and corrugated metal beds are very easy to maintain.
Metal beds can last up to 30 years or more, and as they help contain heat, can even extend your growing season. Opt for galvanised metal which won’t rust.
Natural stone like granite, sandstone, limestone or slate are other good options. Stone can be cut into blocks for stacking or purchased in their irregular form for a more natural look.
Selecting the Right Location
The right location depends on what it is you are planting. Most vegetables need around eight hours of full sun a day, so for best results you should place your raised planters in a sunny spot. In most cases, this will be on the south side of any large structures such as sheds or garden walls.
If you’ve got a North-facing garden that doesn’t receive a lot of sunlight, you can still enjoy raised beds. However, you may need to prioritise herbs and salad greens, which tend to do better in shadier areas.
It’s recommended that the beds are placed North-South and opposed to East-West, as this will maximise sunlight exposure. Ensure they are not shaded by any trees.
If you’ve got a slope in your garden, you should avoid putting a raised bed at the bottom of the slope, as these areas are less likely to drain well.
Another thing to consider is convenience. Raised beds can be more convenient than traditional beds, but not if they’re at the far end of your garden! If your beds are hidden away, you may forget to tend to them. If your raised beds are too far away from a water source, it’ll take you more time and effort to water them.
Finally, ensure you’ve got enough space between the raised beds. You should be able to easily move between them, ideally with a wheelbarrow so you can bring in more compost and mulch.
Before installing your raised beds, remove any weeds by hand. Using a weed killer can damage your soil for years at a time.
What about Soil?
Raised beds give you a chance to start afresh with your soil, and mixing in some good quality organic matter will certainly be appreciated by your vegetables! Get hold of a blend that has compost and nutrients mixed into it, then continue to add organic material.
The best all-round mix for raised bed soil is 1 part topsoil, 1 part compost and 1 part sand.
How to Create a Raised Bed Garden
Once you’ve decided on the size, material and location of your raised beds, it’s time to get building.
Building your Raised Beds
Secure the corners of your beds together. Wooden beds can be secured with galvanised screws, while stone or block beds can be built either with or without mortar.
Lining your Beds
To prevent weeds from growing up into the beds, you should line the bottom of the bed. Corrugated cardboard or newspaper are the least expensive options, but you can also purchase plastic liners which can be easily cut to size.
Filling with Soil
Fill your bed with soil you’ve either purchased or mixed yourself. The optimum depth for your beds is between 12 and 24 inches, but this will depend on what vegetables you are planting, as some require more space than others.
Many gardeners choose to mix compost or organic matter with their soil.
It’s time to plant! Sow according to the instructions given, and remember to rotate the crops each year.
What Vegetables to Plant in a Raised Bed
Here’s a few of the best vegetables for raised-bed gardening.
Radishes grow exceptionally quickly, in around three to four weeks after sowing. Seeds can be sown regularly from March to August, and they require very little maintenance.
As the base for a huge number of meals, growing onions in your garden can save you a fortune at the supermarket! These grow happily in raised beds but will need plenty of space above and below them. They are best grown in beds with an open base.
One of the easiest vegetables to grow, spinach is a popular choice for many gardeners. Plant every month to guarantee a year-round harvest. Spinach is best sown in lightly shaded areas.
Sweet and flavoursome, carrots are a great choice for raised beds. Purple, yellow and white varieties can add some colour to your mealtimes! Sow from April to July.
Adding a peppery taste to your salads, rocket is loved by many! It needs rich soil and a lot of water, but it’s very quick to grow.
Beginner gardeners should consider growing tomatoes, as they are very easy and don’t require deep soil. They need to be kept well watered and prefer rich soil, which is easier to achieve in a raised bed. Seeds can be sown indoors from February. Bear in mind that tomatoes do require plenty of room.
Green beans are easy to grow in a raised bed, and can be planted on trellises to save space. Green beans require full sun and good soil. The best time to plant them is after the last frost in the Spring.
Delicious either raw or cooked, kale is a great choice for raised beds in shadier spots. It prefers cooler weather, so ensure it has some respite from the sun on hot days.
A good option is to plant kale next to tomato plants, as taller tomato plants will shade kale from the afternoon sun.
Watering a Raised Bed
There’s a few ways to water your raised beds.
Some gardeners opt to water by hand. This is a good option for smaller plots, but it can be time consuming if you’ve got a lot of beds. Watering cans can be very heavy, so it’s recommended you only water by hand if your beds are close to a water source, or you’re prepared to make the journey back and forth.
If you don’t have time to water by hand, it’s a good idea to set up an automatic irrigation system. Drip irrigation systems can be expensive, but for gardeners with a lot of watering to do, they are usually worth it.
Most vegetables prefer moist soil, neither too dry nor too wet. Raised beds tend to need watering more often than beds in the ground, as the drainage is a lot better and the plants grow faster.
While maintaining a raised bed is fairly easy, there’s a few key mistakes that can lead to problems later down the line.
Here’s the top 3 mistakes we see gardeners making when it comes to raised beds.
Making Beds too Wide
Although it’s very tempting to create a large raised bed, having a bed that’s too wide will make accessing it much more difficult. You need to be able to reach the middle of the bed, so you can plant, weed, water and harvest without having to kneel on any of the bed itself.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for a bed that’s no more than 4 ft wide.
Selecting Plants that are too Big
If your raised bed has a closed base, you’ll need to be careful about the size of veggies you choose. If you’ve got very little space, prioritise smaller plants or dwarf varieties.
Soil Lacking Nutrients
A raised bed gives you the opportunity to customise the soil to what you’re growing. When you get the soil right, your vegetables will thrive.
Don’t make the mistake of using your existing garden soil in your raised bed. Instead, you’ll need to improve the soil quality with organic material. Fill your bed with good quality, nutrient-rich soil, and you should find your produce grows a lot faster.
Raised Bed FAQs
What vegetables should not be grown in a raised bed?
There’s a few veggies that shouldn’t be grown in a raised bed, as they take up too much space or take too long to grow.
What are the disadvantages of raised garden beds?
Raised garden beds provide a huge number of advantages, but there’s a few things to consider before you make a decision.
- Raised beds cost money to build. While materials can be picked up very cheaply to build your raised bed, you’ll also need to consider the cost of soil.
- They need more frequent watering, especially in the summer. The soil dries out a lot faster in the summer, so you’ll need to water your beds more often. If you’ve got a lot of raised beds and no automatic irrigation system, you’ll spend a lot of time watering.
- They get colder in the winter. Perennials need to be hardier, as raised beds become a lot colder in the winter.
All in all, the benefits of raised beds outweigh the disadvantages, but these are still a couple of things to bear in mind.
What should not be planted next to tomatoes?
Tomatoes are very easy to grow, but there’s a number of vegetables that shouldn’t be planted next to them. This is because these vegetables can rob tomatoes of nutrients, block their sun or attract diseases.
You should avoid growing corn, fennel, dill, potatoes and aubergine next to tomatoes.
Plants that thrive when grown near or next to tomatoes are asparagus, chives and lettuce.
How deep should raised vegetable beds be?
This does depend on what you are planting, but it’s recommended that your soil is at least 12” deep.
If you are planting tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes or kale, your soil should be at least 24” deep.
Veggies that require 12” or less of space include lettuce, carrots, radishes and peppers.
Herbs only require 6”, as these have much shallower root structures.