For years I grew all my vegetables and flowers for bouquets in earth beds. Stooping, leaning, working on my knees, sometimes using those cute little knee-pads was fine when I was in my twenties, thirties and even into my forties. But these days, raised beds are more my style.
WHY A RAISED BED
Raised beds have come a long way in the past few years but before I get to that, let’s talk about exactly why you might want a raised bed. There are real advantages to growing plants in a raised bed. For starters, you get better control of the quality of the soil and can adjust it to suit whatever you’re growing. That soil warms up more quickly in the spring so you can start your season earlier. It’s easier to work in a raised bed because you can make it as high as you need to eliminate the stooping and bending I mentioned earlier. I garden on hilly property so some of my beds are as tall as 3 feet on one side to accommodate that slope. I can even sit on the edges to garden and rest at the same time. Weed seeds are less likely to get into raised beds as are rabbits, pets and youngsters. Dedicated irrigation systems are easier to set up in raised beds as are row covers, cold frames, trellises, staking systems, and bird netting. There’s no foot traffic in raised beds so you avoid soil compaction.
WHICH KIND IS THE RIGHT ONE
There are lots of choices on the market for raised beds. A simple internet search will yield dozens of hits from the very elaborate to a simple 4 foot by 2 foot DIY model. You can make the most basic raised bed with 4 boards, and some rebars using a hammer as shown in the two photos. The size and type of wood you use will depend on what you’re growing and what you need to accomplish for strength and height. Your internet search and some local shopping in garden centers will give you lots of other ideas and options. Concrete blocks, logs, even hilled earth are other options you’ll come across.
In our Fairfield County Master Gardener Vegetable Demonstration Garden (FCMGDG), we built our raised beds in different heights. We designed our tallest beds to show the gardening public how to grow vegetables for people who are physically challenged and may need to use wheelchairs and other devices in their gardening activities.
WHAT ABOUT FILLING THE BED
What you put into that bed depends on what you plan to grow. Minimally, this uncompacted soil will be a fabulous seed bed that will drain exceptionally well. With the proper nutrients, soil fertility and microbial activity should be more than sufficient to get your plants up and running. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s worth putting in the time, money, and effort at the outset to give this bed the best basic layer you can. That way, all you have to do after this initial start up is top dress the bed as necessary going forward.
There are many Coast of Maine products you can use in your raised bed. Castine Blend™ Raised Bed Mix is specifically designed for raised beds. It has been formulated to provide the ideal balance for growing in raised beds and other container gardens. It has everything your garden bed needs right in the bag: no recipe, no mixing of components and no tilling needed. The ready to use formula is an enriched blend of cured manure compost, worm castings, lobster and kelp meals, mycorrhizae, greensand, and biochar. There are no bio-solids, municipal or home waste products in the formula.
For a short video on how to build the world’s most fertile raised bed, go here. You’ll meet Felicia Newman and watch her fill her newly created raised bed. After you have used this mix, you can then add other amendments as necessary to further supplement your unique garden needs. There are several choices, among them Alfalfa Meal, Kelp Meal, and Wiscasset Blend™ Organic Earthworm Castings. All will contribute special nutrients for your growing success.
I am a big fan of the Quoddy Blend™ Organic Lobster Compost which we have been using in our FCMGDG.We believe it has been the single most significant contributing factor to the success of the garden and how we manage to harvest over 750 pounds of produce each season for donation to food banks and homeless shelters. This year we are switching over to the organic Castine Blend™ Raised Bed Mix
since the lobster compost is just one of its many ingredients. We plan to use the handy calculator to figure out how much of the Castine we need.
No time to waste. Think now about where you’ll put that raised bed. Before you know it, the weather will break and you’ll need that raised bed to be built and filled.
Written by Lorraine Ballato, author of Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide