We have been enjoying raised bed gardening for years and have had great success growing a wide variety of healthy, delicious and cost effective fresh vegetables. We use artificial soil as described below. This works great, so great that everything wants to be in the soil, including roots from other nearby trees, shrubs, etc. Our solution was to build a raised square foot garden so that nearby roots are not aware of our rich soil. Other advantages include not stooping to tend the plants and those with disabilities can sit in a wheelchair to continue the pleasures of gardening. Also when building the raised portion of your growing bed you can adjust the length of the legs to accommodate the slope of your property. We can build a few beds at our lake house and not have our veggies tumbling into the lake.
Our raised garden bed table was made from pressure treated lumber and placed on cement blocks. To keep the chemicals used to preserve the wood frame isolated from our soil we installed a plastic barrier, plastic composite decking and ground cloth before placing our plastic composite garden kit (4’x8’) on top. We secured the garden kit to the table with metal braces and 3 ½ inch #10 stainless steel screws. The finishing touch was to place strips of ground cloth at right angles inside the garden bed to prevent soil from washing through the cracks as the unit ages.
For The Growing Medium:
We buy our growing medium from the local farm store and get a better price.
1/3 – (4 cu foot bail) – Peat Moss
1/3 – (4 cu foot bag) – Vermiculite
1/3 blend of the following:
– Composted cow manure
– Composted chicken manure
– Composted mushroom
Start by opening the peat moss and break it up into small pieces in the bed. Add vermiculite and mix well. Open other bags and mix well working out lumps. Mix all growing medium dry. When finished mixing, water in the growing medium well (about one hour), test bed by checking bottom for dampness. If the bottom is dry, water until damp. This soil mixture has its good & bad issues. Good: Very rich mixture & great 1st year yields with no weed seeds. Bad: Very rich mixture so that every root in the area wants to invade the rich soil.
This rich bed is so delicious that garden worms will come to live. If you see worms in the yard pick them up and place into your new raised bed garden to speed up the worming process. We buy garden worms every 5 years or so. This year we ordered 1000 worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They come with homecoming instructions. Go to http://unclejimswormfarm.com
NEVER step into your raised bed, as this will compact the soil and impede the great things to come. Reach in from either side to do your gardening work.
You are now ready to plant. Remember that this method of growing will yield bigger plants than you are used to seeing, so be careful to not plant your new seedlings too close together. More information is found at http://www.squarefootgardening.com
When using heirloom or non GMO seeds, the gardener must know how to reserve a portion of the years crop for seeds used in planting next season. Some vegetables do not produce seed in the first season and you will have to wait till the second year for them to go to seed. In most cases it is not a difficult task. We have successfully saved seeds from year to year this way. A seed exchange is another way to accomplish this. You can find several good exchanges on line. Go to http://www.seedsavers.org Some areas of the country have local seed savers clubs. Also by exchanging seeds with other gardeners you spread the gene pool and have a better, healthier garden. Another wide ranging source of seeds is http://www.seedrack.com
We obtain some of our growing stock from the offerings at the grocery store. We buy Butternut Squash, eat the squash and dry the seeds for planting. We also have planted garlic and potatoes from this source. Just be sure that your store bought veggies are NOT GMO.
All photo illustrations are by the authors.
Billie and Robert Nicholson, authors, historians and master photographers, welcome your questions or comments. They can be reached at BillieandRobert@gmail.com.