Raised bed gardening is a great way to grow your own food & all those aesthetically pleasing flowers. We are going to go over beginner tips and basics advice to raised gardening beds.

Green bell peppers picked from the garden

Raised bed gardening is a great way to get started with gardening. Whether you’re trying to grow your own food or you want to be the next Joanna Gaines and have an abundance of flowers, raised beds is your best choice.

I am personally on my 3rd year of growing vegetables in our raised beds, and each year we have added more and more to our garden. All the raised bed gardening tips I am going to share is from my own personal experience. I have done a lot of trial and error experiments and I can confidently tell you what works and what doesn’t.

If your feeling overwhelmed you can relax this article is not going to get to technical. When starting out with gardening it can be a bit much. There is so much to learn, just take it one year at a time, go slow and don’t over do it.

Handy tip: Prepare Ahead!

Grab a brand new notebook from Amazon or Target and make it your designated gardening book. Draw out your garden plans for the year, take notes and document anything that happens in the garden. You will think yourself the next year when it comes time to plant! I have started writing everything down and it has made all my overwhelming feelings go away.

Tips to Growing Food In Raised Garden Beds

Raised bed gardening is a great option if you are thinking about starting a garden, It is a low-maintenance way to grow your own food, and it can be a rewarding experience.

1.Choosing The Right Location For Your Garden

Raised garden beds have several factors you need to be aware of when choosing the right location. Make sure you are picking a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid placing raised beds in areas that are prone to flooding, have high winds and that get a ton of shade.

Another factor is you want to be close to a water source. Last thing you want to do is lug buckets of water out to your garden. Make sure your hose is close by and can reach the garden beds.

2.Filling A Raised Garden Bed With Healthy Soil

Garden Soil is by far the single most important factor to having a successful garden. The soil conditions in your raised bed should be loose and well-draining. You can add compost or other organic matter to the soil to improve its quality. I do this at least once a year.

You will find so much conflicting advice on what type of soil you need for raised bed gardens online. From my research and personal experience I suggest finding a local nursery or farm near by and buying soil in bulk from them. Where we live we get our topsoil from a local farm that sells organic food to our small town. They make and use their topsoil right there on site and I love that I know I’m getting a good quality topsoil with no fillers.

Real soil has dozens of micronutrients that plants need to thrive. Most soil that comes in bags feel fluffy and soft, but they don’t always have nutrient-rich soil that plants need to be healthy. Real topsoil is heavier and might not drain as quickly. But, that’s not necessarily bad.

If you don’t have this option don’t worry it’s not the end! There are still some good quality bagged bed soil out there. Whitney Farms Organic Raised Bed Mix with Fertilizer is a good one. I would suggest finding an organic raised bed mixture if you go the bagged route. Check out Home Depot or even your Walmart garden center for bagged options.

3.Choose The Correct Material For A Raised Bed

When choosing the material for a raised bed garden, there are several things to consider, such as cost, durability, and aesthetic. Here are some common materials to choose from:

  1. Wooden Beds: Wood is a popular material for raised garden beds because it is affordable, easy to work with, and has a natural look that blends in well with outdoor environments. However, untreated wood can rot over time and release chemicals into the soil, so it’s important to choose a naturally rot-resistant wood, such as cedar or redwood.
  2. Galvanized steel Beds: Galvanized steel is a strong and durable material that can withstand harsh weather conditions. It is also relatively easy to assemble and can be made into different shapes and sizes. This is my favorite material because it will out live most wood garden beds.

What’s nice about these two options is you can either choose to DIY your raised beds or buy them pre-made. I personally chose to buy them pre-made which is funny because we DIY everything!

I have two different types of galvanized steel beds in our garden. Our original beds that we started off with are these stock tanks from Tractor Supply. To cut back on cost, because the stock tanks aren’t cheap, this year we added 3 Vego Raised Beds. 2 of their 10-1 beds and 1 round bed.

The nice thing about the Vego raised garden bed is the longer ones actually can be built in a ton of different sizes. For example my 10-1 bed actually can be configured in 10 different shapes.

Trough garden beds

4.Setting Your Expectations Low

This step is not to discourage you in anyway. I say this to be realistic and set you up for success. If you’re a beginner gardener keep in mind that statistically there is a 20% failure rate. Which is fine, sometimes you can’t change that. Nature is a powerful thing.

Some things you can do to set yourself up for success while gardening are:

  • If growing from seed always start more seeds than you need. I do this because sometimes not all seeds will germinate. There are many variables to why they don’t but we will go further into that in another post.
  • Most gardeners will fail due to over or under watering. My tip here is to always water in the evening. Do it as close to the same time everyday and water at the base of the plant. When choosing the same time everyday you will help get yourself in the routine of not sporadically watering and forgetting when you last did it. We will go over this more in depth further down the list.
  • Research! Follow a few gardening influencers on Instagram or Pinterest. Or Listen to gardening podcast like Epic Gardening, Backyard Gardens and The Beginner’s Garden. Those 3 podcast have the best advice and I have personally learned so much from them.

5.Keep The Weeds Out Of Your Vegetable Gardens

Weeds will naturally find their way into your garden. To keep them at bay I suggest pulling them when you see them, don’t wait till they start to spread. I found covering the top of your soil with straw or wood chips help to prevent a lot of weeds from growing. 

6.Don’t Get Raised Beds That Are Wider Than 4 Feet

How wide should a garden bed be? A raised garden bed should be no more than 4 feet wide. This allows you to reach in about 2 feet from each side.

When your beds get to be too wide it makes it harder to reach all your plants. The goal is not to step on the dirt and create soil compaction. Compacting the dirt down increases the soil’s density by removing pores and damaging soil structure. This makes it hard for roots to grow and limits the roots access to air, water and nutrients.

Raised bed gardening tips

7.Choose The Right Crops To Grow

When picking what you will be growing in your garden you need to be aware of plant companions. Yes, it’s a thing, some plants don’t get along with others.

Some examples of good plant companions are:

  • Peppers tend to get along with carrots, tomatoes and onions.
  • Pumpkins tend to get along with corn, melon and squash.
  • Strawberries tend to like thyme, spinach and onions.

Another thing to keep in mind is to plan ahead on what you want to grow. Pick vegetables or fruits that are known for higher yields and will most likely succeed.

Don’t pick vegetables that you don’t like or won’t eat either. Some people get so excited and plant all the things and then come to realize they don’t even like spinach or onions!

DIY raised garden planter
Vertical Planter

8.Have A Watering Schedule

Watering might be the hardest thing to learn. What I suggest is going to Google or Pinterest and look up what thirsty garden plants look like. Good rule of thumb is if they are droopy and wilting it’s safe to say that they need water.

If they are turning yellow and droopy it very well could mean you are watering to much.

Like I stated earlier get yourself in a routine with the time that you water. Start there and that should hopefully help you to not at least overwater. I always suggest watering in the evening when the sun is less harsh.

You will want to try and avoid getting water on the foliage. When the leafs get wet it invites diseases into your garden. The best way to water is at the base of your plants because, when watering you are likely to lose some moisture to evaporation. Watering at the base assures the plant roots get direct water.

There are so many variables when it comes to watering. The type of soil or the weather conditions all play a part. If your soil feels dry to the touch then that’s a good indication to water your garden.

9.Use A Cold Frame To Protect Your Garden

One thing that is awesome about having a raised bed garden is you have the option to add a cold frame. Cold frames and greenhouses sometimes get mistaken to be the same thing, but that’s actually not true.

A cold frame is a structure that is meant to protect your plants from animals, pests and harsh weather. You can DIY a cold frame or buy pre-made ones. They are particularly great to have when harsh weather like hail, unexpected cold weather and even really hot sunny days happen. 

I haven’t yet adventured into building or buying one but it’s definitely on my long to-do list.

10.Use Mulch Or Straw To Retain Moisture

When planting in your raised beds you should think about putting a layer of mulch, wood chips or straw down to retain moisture. Having a barrier down will help keep your plants moist and provide protection from flooding or in times of drought.

Things like straw will help slow the process of evaporation down. Last year I used straw and it was cheap and worked great. This season I plan to do the same!

Raised bed gardening tips

11.Use A Variety Of Plants To Attract Pollinators

Every year in our garden I have planted flowers alongside our garden space. Each year it brings in pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Having beneficial plants in your garden can bring in those nice bugs that help your vegetables thrive. The deep root systems from your flowers will also reduce erosion and build the soil by adding organic matter to the ecosystem.

Raised bed gardening tips

12.Use Trellises For Climbing Crops

When gardening in raised garden beds take advantage of vertical gardening. Vertical gardening is utilizing vertical space to grow your plants. It’s also a good option for people with limited space and mobility issues, as it does not require bending or kneeling.

For example cherry tomatoes, squash, and green beans like to grow large and upwards. So by using a trellis you can train that plant to grow up and around, making it easy to grow more in a small space. Because the plants are grown vertically, they have more access to sunlight and air, which can lead to larger yields.

13.Plant An Annual Cover Crop

Planting annual cover crops like rye, soybeans or alfalfa has its many benefits. Some of the most common benefits include:

  • Improve soil health: Cover crops help to improve soil health by adding organic matter and increasing water infiltration.
  • Suppress weeds: Cover crops can help to suppress weeds by competing for sunlight, water, and nutrients.
  • Increase yields: Cover crops can help to increase yields by improving soil health and suppressing weeds.

They are a relatively low-cost and low-maintenance way to improve the soil quality and crop production.

14.Use Succession Planting In The Garden

Succession planting is a method of gardening where you plant different crops in the same space at different times. This allows you to have a continuous harvest throughout the growing season.

I have yet dipped my toes into succession planting but, I hope this season I can time my bush beans just right so I can get a summer and fall harvest. Succession planting can see overwhelming and requires a ton of planning.

For less overwhelm start by just planning one plant and see how it goes. Once you get better at gardening then try winter sowing some plants like garlic, and some leafy greens that prefer cooler weather.

15.Save Money When Filling Your Raised Garden Bed

When filling your garden bed you can cut back on soil cost by filling up the bottom of the bed with organic material. Things like grass clippings, branches, logs, and cardboard will help to fill the bottom of you bed.

Over time they will decompose and you will have to add more dirt but for your first time initial purchase it will be cheaper. If you’re worried about weeds you can also lay landscape fabric under your beds. Some say that the cardboard is enough to prevent weeds, so either or should work. 

I hope with these great tips on raised bed gardening that you get the best results and enjoy the process.

Remember have fun and happy gardening!

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