Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Beginner gardeners interested in growing food at home should consider raised bed vegetable gardening. These contained growing areas promote the perfect conditions for ample yields. Are you ready to construct a raised garden bed for your favorite fruits and vegetables? This guide will help you get started.

raised vegetable garden

Why Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening?

In addition to creating aesthetic appeal in any outdoor landscape, raised bed vegetable gardening promotes healthier, multi-season harvests. Many gardeners have greater control over soil quality, irrigation and pest and disease control.

Likewise, plants can more easily root in healthy topsoil than in the ground, where the earth might be compacted, cooler and nutrient-deficient.

Setting Up Your Raised Bed For Vegetable Garden

filling raised beds for vegetable garden

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, you can reap the rewards of a raised-bed vegetable garden. Fortunately, setting up your raised bed is straightforward with these four simple steps.

1. Select Your Structure

Wood and steel raised beds are among the most popular in at-home gardens. Natural wood boards — preferably cedar — are relatively affordable to construct, highly durable and can withstand seasonal changes. If your budget allows it, steel will last forever while stone or brick structures are also suitable possibilities.

Of course, you can find manufactured raised beds for vegetable gardening at your local hardware store with built-in irrigation systems and liners. 

2. Choose Your Location

Like any growing area, location matters for a raised bed garden. You'll want to find a place with enough sunlight to boost yields. Most crops require six or more hours of sunlight daily to thrive. However, there is such a thing as too much sun. Depending on your climate, summer heat may bear down on your crops, creating problems. This is especially true if temperatures reach 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit or your raised bed is near light-colored walls. Highly reflective surfaces can damage crops even if outdoor temperatures aren't scorching. 

3. Fill With Soil

Healthy crops require healthy soil in raised beds. As such, you'll want to fill your raised bed garden with loose and crumbly organic matter to allow better rooting and drainage. Ideally, the pH should be 6.2-6.8 for most plants when testing for soil quality. Experts also recommend a 1:2 blend of compost and topsoil. Just be sure to purchase topsoil from a reputable nursery. 

4. Insert Crops

The Old Farmer's Almanac suggests finding the square footage of your raised bed to determine how many crops you can fit. Consider 1 square foot equals 144 inches. If the bed is 6 feet by 8 feet — 48 feet — multiplied by 144 inches, you end up with 6,912 square inches. Plant crops according to how much space they'll occupy when fully mature. For example, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower need 12 inches between them, while a 4-inch spacing is sufficient for green beans. 

Five Risks to a Vegetable Garden

Beginners with raised bed vegetable gardens may encounter several mishaps on the way to producing healthy harvests. Here are five dangers to be aware of. 

layout raised bed vegetable garden.jpg

1.Pests and Disease 

Raised bed vegetable gardening creates an ideal environment for pests and diseases to take hold of your plants. Aphids, leaf miners, thrips, mites, hornworms and snails are just a few insects you want to prevent. Conversely, attracting ladybugs, wasps and tachinid flies are beneficial for feeding on pests and parasites.

Avoid harmful insecticides and fungicides when caring for your plants, opting for more holistic, natural ways to control pests and bacteria. 

2.Invasive Species

Invasive tree species may hinder growth in your raised-bed vegetable gardens. For instance, those living in the Central U.S. must contend with Eastern red cedar, which blocks 25% to 60% of rainfall with its dense foliage. In the Southeast, if left unchecked, Kudzu tree vines overtake trees, gardens and structures. Therefore, always place your raised bed in an area clear of invasive tree species to protect your crops.

3.Nutrient Depletion

Soil quality may decline and demand replenishment over time. Adding compost, worm castings or organic fertilizers can help. Additionally, rotating crops seasonally prevents nutrient depletion and aids pest control.

4.Poor Drainage

Raised bed vegetable gardens can quickly dry out or become waterlogged without proper drainage — it’s especially true if you use the wrong soil. Create a consistent, even irrigation schedule to ensure the crops and soil are adequately moist without causing root rot and other issues.  

5.Erosion

Although less than ground soil, raised bed gardens experience some erosion, particularly after heavy winds or rainfall. Erosion poses problems for nutrient deficiencies as wind can blow away topsoil, leaving plants without proper nourishment. 

What Size Is Best for a Raised Bed?

A raised-bed vegetable garden can be as large or small as you want. However, experts recommend it measures 4 feet wide by 12 feet long or more. Likewise, plants grow best in at least 10 inches deep. For rows of raised garden beds, 18-24 inches should provide enough space to move comfortably between the containers.

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How to Water a Raised Bed Garden

Irrigating plants is often the bane of most gardeners' existence. However, these tips will help you determine the right amount of water for your raised bed:

  • Allow plants to develop some heat tolerance by allowing the top 2 inches of soil to dry before watering.
  • Check weather forecasts for rain before watering.
  • Monitor for leaf curling, dry leaf edges or discoloration.
  • Water early in the morning for greater absorption and to prevent evening-borne pests.
  • Opt for sprinklers, drip irrigation or hoses to irrigate crops properly.

Everyone Can Start a Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening

Raised bed vegetable gardening is a fun starting point for beginners to learn how to grow their own food. These structures are easy to construct and maintain, providing a surplus of fresh crops for seasons to come.

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