Category Archives: Raised Beds

What Do I Need to Know About Growing in Raised Beds?

As our country grows and the dynamics of the rural landscape continues to change more people find themselves with a much smaller piece of real estate to enjoy. For those who still want some of nature’s bounty to enjoy the calculus about how to accomplish a garden becomes more complicated. One alternative to this issue is to consider growing your vegetables or even flowers in raised beds. These handy creations have loads of benefits and really aren’t that hard to erect.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

I think the first question to ask is if a raised bed is right for you. The reasons for a raised bed could be many, including some of these: 1)I have a lot of issues with rodents (possums, groundhogs, rabbits, raccoons), 2) I would like to have the crops I grow higher from ground level to ease the picking burden 3) I would like to have more order to my garden.

In our experience 1 & 2 are true. For a few years at the beginning of our stay where we live now we had a great “critter dog” that kept the animals at bay, allowing us to reap great benefits from our traditional “in ground” gardens. But unfortunately this dog, Louie, had no respect for machines with heavy wheels and his tenure was cut short after 7-8 years.

I want to say that we have always enjoyed beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peppers, watermelons and more. So having everything at risk was just not a good plan. We tried electric fences, traditional woven wire fences and other devices, but our results were just nothing short of disappointing until we made the choice to “GO RAISED”!

WHAT SHOULD I USE TO MAKE THE BED?

There is a varied list of items you could use to create your raised bed and Pinterest is one of my favorite places to “shop” for ideas. I have used landscape timbers in the past when we build a smaller bed for strawberries. I would caution against treated lumber now because of the knowledge that the chemicals used to treat the wood can leech into your soil.

You could use the landscape stones that are intended for retaining walls. They will last forever, but the cost can be significant depending on the size of your bed. For our beds we chose to use regular untreated lumber, which is less expensive and foregoes the concern of chemicals.

HOW BIG DO I NEED?

This decision will come when you determine what you want to grow. When we started last year we were only intending to grow tomatoes. But we like tomatoes, so we wanted enough room for several. Many tomatoes recommend 18″ between when planting, so when we thought about planting twelve tomatoes we knew we needed to be 12-16 feet long and four feet wide. Using four 16′ 2 x 10’s cut at twelve feet allows us to make the 4′ x 12′ bed. The 2x10s made the bed 20″ off the ground. Think that is no big change, wait until your are fifty-something and your back screams every time you stoop to work on anything!

Our results were so good with our first tomato season we determined we wanted to expand our “raised gardens” area. We have them right beside an area where we grow dahlias and calla lilies, so we just planned for another 4′ x 12′ bed in which we could grow lettuce, onions, peppers and squash. Because the lettuce is so much earlier it was out of the way before the cucumbers sprawled across the space.

Our biggest question was how big could we make a bed? If we wanted to grow a large quantity of green beans could we use a long raised bed? I can’t say I ever saw such, so doing it was something of a try it and see proposition. Trying to be economical, I went back to the 2″ x 10″ x 16′ idea, but doubled the length so the bed is 4′ wide x 32′ long!

WHAT CAN I USE TO FILL THE BED?

If you think about the inner dimensions of your raised bed you can make a rough calculation of how much fill it will take. So for a 4′ x 12′ x 15″ deep bed you are considering 60 cubit feet of fill. But then we thought about our 4′ x 32′ x 15″ deep bed and you are talking about nearly 3 cubic yards of fill.

You could go to your local home improvement warehouse and by garden soil in the bag, but that can quickly get expensive and burdensome. We chose to move away from garden soil because of the way it will pack as it receives rain and sun. For best results you want your roots to be able to penetrate the soil as far down as possible to retrieve from the water table when the skies are dry.

In our town and a neighboring city we have local government facilities that create compost. For the money this was our best alternative and after the success of our tomato bed last season we knew it would work for our beans and second bed. One thing in my favor for this was a pick-up truck, trailer and Kubota sub compact trailer with a bucket on the front to aid in unloading!

ENJOY MY PICTURES OF RAISED BED SUCCESS

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Can I Grow Green Beans in a Raised Bed?

Fifteen years ago I would have bristled at the mere thought of growing anything anywhere but in the soil I work ever spring in anticipation of harvesting the vegetables we love. But that was when the conditions were much different. My body was much younger and more fit, I was working to get my greenhouse business off the ground and working from day light to dark, so spending time outside was my thing.

Also, we had an outside dog that loved to hunt the critters that feast on garden plants. Seeing your hard work go to pot because the groundhogs and rabbits like your potential food source as much as you just rubs you the wrong way. So what can you do? Some people string up an electric fence. Maybe I did it wrong, but that barely slowed the assault.

So what is a better way? Last year (2016) we gave a raised bed a shot with our tomato crop. Four sixteen foot 2×8 boards allowed us to craft a 4 ft x 12 ft bed for our tomatoes. We wound up with too many plants in the space, but had the best tomato crop in many years, with fruit still present on November 1st. Following that success we began to imagine a longer bed for our beans.

When you create such a large bed you will need a fair amount of soil. In a garden you can just plow up the depth you require, working the ground to your desire with a roto-tiller. We chose to use compost from our local facility, which was a little bit of work and expense, but since it is loose it does not compact when wet like regular garden dirt.

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I probably should explain we eat a lot of green beans in one year. At our peak we have canned up to 150+ quarts of Tenderettes, which is a bush bean.  Obviously a 12 foot bed wasn;t going to provide much in the way of a crop. Instead we chose to work in the multiples of the 16 foot lumber from our local big box hardware store. Nine boards made the 4 ft x 32 foot bed we now are loving.

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To make the most of our space we planted our rows as close to the side as we could, thinking the rows would fill in the space. Boy have they! It is difficult to see where one row begins and the other ends, but they will be higher than in the garden, so hopefully the picking will be easier.

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I am sure many who read this will say ‘What’s the big deal? It is only beans!’ Well that is true, but for the last few years we have planted only to have our vines chewed off by every animal that loves green stuff. Luckily we haven’t had to battle the deer yet, so this solution seems to be our best bet. Seeing actual beans hanging is like a victory for our garden efforts.

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My answer to the question ‘Can I grow green beans in a raised bed?’ is a resounding yes! I will soon be harvesting the first picking off ours and hope to get two or three more before the vines are spent. Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.

fbgrnbeanThis is the Facebook post I made about the success of the raised bed. Yes, the groundhogs are officially booted from the roll!

AUGUST 21st of 2017 EDIT

Due to our love of green beans and two other factors: our daughter being away at school and our son potentially being married within the next year we are making special efforts to turn another crop during this growing season. With that purpose in mind I pulled the vines for our first crop the 24th of July and replanted on the 25th. Four days later God blessed us with a good all day soaker of a rainy day and two days later I had the second crop poking up through the soil.

With 60 quarts coming off the first crop we are in good shape, but if we can turn that again with this current crop I will be beyond tickled. So far the second crop has gotten just the right rain at the right time and looks well ahead of the frost deadline of mid to late October.

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You will notice our “picking” chairs to the left of the far end of the raised beds. Let me assure you it makes the task much more enjoyable. Rest assured this is not just another view of the first crop, it is indeed our second one which should begin to be picked by mid-September.