I, Mark Roemer Oakland, believe planning the construction of a raised garden bed is essential since it requires a lot of planning and investment. With proper planning, it is possible to save unnecessary costs and effort and the opposite is true otherwise. So, before you choose the plants to grow in your raised garden bed, ensure you give the project some thought.
Let’s look at a few things to consider before choosing the right plant variant for your raised garden bed:
1. Consider the location of the raised garden beds – The location of the raised bed is an important consideration since it will practically determine the overall look of the landscape. Generally, most vegetables and leafy plants such as lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach tend to require at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. However, certain plants will thrive in shady areas.
Thus, you need to select a location based on the plants you aim to grow and ensure the location receives the appropriate hours of sunlight. You can use sunlight calculator apps such as Lumos or Sunseeker to determine the sunlight hour requirement for the plants you want to grow.
2. Determine the size of the raised garden beds – The standard size of raised beds is about 60 cm x 90 cm. This is a suitable size for almost every caregiver since it provides easy accessibility for digging, weeding, pest control, watering, and maintenance without unnecessary soil compaction.
However, you can prefer to build your raised beds in a smaller or larger size if it feels more accessible to you. For instance, long beds with minimal paths make it easier to navigate and irrigate. You want something between 6 to 10 feet.
3. Figure out how deep the raised garden beds should be – The depth of the raised bed will depend on the type of surface underneath. For instance, a depth of twelve inches is enough if the raised bed has fertile soil underneath since the roots of the plants will have access to a foot or so of nutrients below the bed level.
However, if you install the raised bed on concrete, the depth of the bed should be between 1 to 3 feet. Deep-rooting plants such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, squash, and watermelons will require about 24 to 36 inches of depth.
4. Plan for the soil type required – It is preferable to use an absorbent soil mix that helps to retain water and nutrients in raised beds. For instance, coconut coir and finished compost are excellent absorbent materials.
You just have to ensure you choose a blend that includes a healthy amount of organic matter. Topsoil mixed with compost and peat moss is a popular option. And, you can amend the soil with specific nutrients and minerals depending on the plants you want to grow.
5. Choose the best way to fasten the corners – It is crucial to fasten the corners of raised garden beds to ensure they have a long lifespan since these are the weak points of the structure. This is because when the soil freezes and expands during the winter, the corners take the brunt of the pressure.
You can nail horizontal boards in a DIY wooden bed after driving stakes in the ground at four corners. Alternatively, you can use corner brackets to quickly reinforce and fasten the beds simultaneously. Certain corner brackets include anchors with stakes that can be hammered into the ground. Others offer multiple tiers of stability since they can be stacked on top of one another. You can add a finished look to your garden by adding an external trim to the raised beds.
6. Consider the material required for the raised garden bed – The most common materials used in the construction of raised beds include wood, aluminum, plastic, and materials. Wooden frames are the easiest to build on sloping ground, but they are susceptible to changing shape in freezing and thawing cycles.
You can choose the best quality wood such as cypress, cedar, white oak, and redwood, and use corner reinforcements to strengthen the structure. Avoid using old, repurposed, and treated lumber since they can include harmful chemicals.
Galvanized aluminum metal beds are a popular choice since they can last up to 25 years or more. When selecting composite raised beds, it is recommended you select 100% recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic which can withstand a wide range of temperatures. In fact, these can last up to 50 years.
7. Inspect the need for irrigation – If you have too many raised beds to water by hand, drip irrigation can be your best long-term option since it is cost-effective and eco-friendly as well. It is also a suitable choice if you want to use the same location for the garden for the foreseeable future.
However, if you are unsure or on a low budget, you can opt for soaker hoses or a double-walled variety. Just ensure you select a material that is durable and toxin-free like FDA-grade polyurethane soaker hoses. Additionally, ensure you use a water timer on both drip irrigation and soaker hoses to make your life easier and save water.
8. Learn about the fertilizers you should use and when – Finished compost includes all the necessary nutrients and minerals required by many plants and is also rich in organic matter that helps to improve soil structure. Thus, it is considered the best soil amendment.
Ensure you use a soil pH tester to test the pH level of your soil. You need to add lime to your soil before growing kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and other such plants in the brassica family.
I, Mark Roemer Oakland, suggest you do proper research when selecting the plants to grow in your raised garden bed. It is possible to grow almost any type of plant in a raised garden bed with at least 6 hours of full sunlight. Peas, beans attached to trellis, leafy crops, and root vegetables grow well in such an environment. Still, you should consider the climate preferences, sunlight and watering needs, plant type and size, plant growth requirements, raised bed size, location, depth, etc. before choosing any plant.