How Does Your Garden Grow – An Introduction To Raised Beds

The push towards a “green” lifestyle has inspired many people to consider growing their own food. The growing cost of groceries plays are part as well, and besides, it’s just healthier to eat fresh, organic food. Whatever your particular reason for wanting to grow your own food, there are some things to consider when it comes to building a raised bed.

Not all Beds Are Built Alike

I’ve seen some gorgeous garden arrangements, and I’ve seen some slapdash beds that look so unstable I worried about planting lettuce in them. Wood rot is going to happen, as is some settling, so plan for these when designing your bed. Wet soil with giant cabbages growing it in is considerably heavy, legs built from 2×4’s are going to need some bolstering.

Whether built a few feet off the ground for comfortable sitting, or built at waist height for less bending, the width of your bed should be no more than your arm’s can reach easily. Tending the garden becomes a tedious chore when it cannot be accomplished with comfort and serenity.

Raised Bed Gardening From the Ground Up

  • Use Recycled and Reclaimed Materials – Shopping local for materials which still have plenty of life in them is a cost-effective alternative to buying something which may be treated with toxic chemicals. From wood to marble, there are plenty of attractive options for the garden retreat of your dreams.
  • Use Your Resources – Building a raised bed out of discarded wooden pallets results in a bed that is solid, and attractive. Instructional videos for building different styles of raised beds out of wooden pallets are numerous on Youtube and people practically give pallets away on Craigslist.
  • Create Your Own Compost – Landfills are overfilled as it is, and your garden sure would love to devour the rest of that orange if you’re just going to toss it out. While you’re at it, toss in some coffee grounds, eggshells, lawn clippings, paper waste, and anything made of natural materials (think yellow pages and cotton t-shirts). No animal products like bones, and meat, please, this just invites flies and those are never fun.
  • Plant What You Love – Talk to the experienced growers at your local farmer’s market or community garden to find out what grows best in your region, as well as the ideal time to plant. Plant those things you love to eat, but also plant a variety of different regional favorites. Zucchini is known to be a prolific grower, for example, a few seeds go a long way.
  • Plant What’s Expensive – It’s okay to plant some exotic goodies too, especially if they cost a pretty penny at the market. You may need to put in a little extra effort in the form of shielding plants from the sun, or extreme temperature changes, but it will be well worth it when it comes time to harvest.
  • Keyhole gardens, Ultimate in Efficiency -Recently I’ve become enamored with keyhole gardens. This particular form of raised garden takes advantage of water-shortage situations by using a central composting pit for most of the hydration and nutrients for the plants growing within. The keyhole refers to the little notch in the circular garden that allows easy-access to the compost deposit. Three standard-size keyhole gardens (less than 6” in diameter) will feed a small family comfortably.
  • Or Start Small – Not quite ready for the commitment of a fully-fledged raised bed or keyhole garden? It’s okay, it takes time to develop a green thumb. Build up some confidence by planting some herbs in decorative containers. Not only do herbs smell fantastic, they also taste great in a variety of recipes and they are very forgiving plants.

Water Efficiently

It can be tempting to water your garden beds till the soil is like mud, and that’s okay for some, but it’s also a potential waste of water. In some Florida towns like Clearwater, gutters are important for collecting enough water to keep a garden. There’s nothing better than rain water for hydrating your garden. Growing your own food is not only essential for optimal health, it’s good for the environment too, since it saves from making frequent trips to the grocery store.  

Rachel Cook is a sustainable living enthusiast who loves to pitch in and volunteer her time at organic farms around Hawaii. When Rachel needs inspiration for low-cost maintenance projects that extend a home’s value while remaining eco-friendly, she browses sites like www.raincontrolaluminuminc.com.






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Sowing, Growing and Gathering Vegetables

Whatever vegetables you plan to grow, you are bound to choose some of those key crops that are to be found in most vegetable gardens. These include seasonal favourites such as runner beans for summer, leeks for winter and purple sprouting broccoli for spring. Most gardeners with a vegetable plot will grow a few potatoes and some salad crops also. The most important thing to remember is that there is always more than one way to achieve a successful crop, but it is useful to have some guidelines to get you started.

This article will give you some basic ground rules to follow in order to sow, grow and gather your favourite vegetables; and it helps you to decide which varieties to choose.

Beans, Broad

There are many different varieties of broad bean on offer but they are not nearly as widely grown as French and runner beans. Broad beans are highly nutritious and are packed with protein.

Sow

The seed of some varieties such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and ‘The Sutton’ can be sown in the open ground I autumn. Sow seeds 20cm apart and 5cm deep. The seeds will germinate and the plants should overwinter, although occasionally young plants can be wiped out by extremely severe weather, particularly if the soil is heavy and wet.

Sow in November and stand them in a protected spot outdoors in late January or February. Plant out when the soil starts to dry out and warm up in early March.

Grow

Broad beans success in most soils provided they are well drained and not too acidic. If necessary, add lime in autumn every couple of years as a precaution.

Gather

Early sowings usually produce a worthwhile crop of beans in early summer. Pick them when young. The beans should just be showing through the pods.

Carrots

Although readily available and cheap to buy, carrots are worth growing for the wonderful flavour of young roots pulled fresh from the garden. They are not difficult to grow, but they are quite choosy about soil. If you cannot grow carrots in the open ground, you can certainly achieve beautifully tender roots in a container, box or raised bed.

Sow

Carrots can be sown directly into the open ground at any time from early spring through to early summer, according to variety. If you are growing carrots in rows, the seed should be in 2cm deep and the rows 15-20cm apart. The seedlings need to be thinned about 5cm apart for the roots to develop fully.

Grow

Do not add manure or garden compost to the soil in the autumn before planting, as lumps of organic matter often cause the roots to fork or become distorted. Simply apply a general purpose fertiliser about a month before sowing the seed and fork thoroughly into the ground.

Gather

Carrots are usually ready to harvest between 12 and 16 weeks after sowing; however, on light soils they can often be left in the ground for much longer.

Potatoes

The potato is our most popular vegetable, a staple of our diet, despite its relatively recent introduction from South America, in the 16th century. It owes its success largely to its versatility: chips, roast, mashed, boiled or salad potatoes – something to suit every taste.

Sow

Seed potatoes are actually small tubers that have been certified as virus-free. They are normally produced in colder parts of the UK such as Scotland, where there are far fewer virus spreading aphids.


Seed potatoes are available from January; this is the best time to buy them because you have the widest choice and you can control their storage conditions until it is time to plant them. Buying early allows plenty of time to chit, or sprout, the potatoes before planting in mid to late march. They usually take around six weeks to sprout.

As soon as you have bought your seed potatoes unpack them, lay them out in trays and store them in a cool place. When you are ready to chit them in late winter, place the tubers in egg boxes, or trays filled with crumpled newspaper, with the ‘rose’ end facing upwards. This is the end with the most eyes or growth buds. Do not worry if both ends of the tuber look the same; varieties vary and some produce more shoots than others, stand the potatoes in a cool light place to allow the shoots to develop.

 Grow

Potatoes are heavy feeders and they need a good supply of nitrogen in the soil to produce a worthwhile crop, mainly because the tubers are actually swollen stems rather than roots.

Dig the ground it autumn and add plenty of well-rotted manure. Plant out in mid to late March and be prepared to protect the emerging shoots with fleece.

When the shoots are 10-15cm high they should be earthed up. This can be done with a draw hoe, the back of a rake or with a border spade.

Potatoes need lots of water as they grow. If the soil is too dry the tubers will fail to develop.

Gather

Potatoes are usually ready to harvest once the flowers have faded or the flower buds have developed and dropped.

This article was written by gardening lover Yasmin Holloway. For more great gardening advice visit http://www.gardenhealth.com/

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Short Sedum?

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For some reason my Sedum plants are really short this year. Usually by September or October they are well over a foot high and blooming beautifully, but this year they are only about 6 to 8 inches tall! Very strange, must be the rainy summer we had.

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Did any of your plants do worse than expected this year or grow shorter than they normally do? I had mixed results – my spring flowers were taller than normal and for the most part my roses did well, but most of them lost their leaves by mid- august probably due to the rain.

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