Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Preparing Raised Beds for Planting

Photo by: PermaCultured

Yesterday’s blog post listed the many various things you can use to construct a raised bed.  I hope your imagination is running and your pencil is busy drawing out plans. Once you have the sides of the raised bed standing and strong, it is time to get it ready for planting. 

Raised beds work in almost any landscape area even hilly areas. You can build up the soil in the raised bed so it is level on top. If your soil is clay or does not drain well, use tiles to exit at the lowest point of the bed. This allows the excess water to drain away so the soil does not stay soggy wet. Construct the raised bed in the right area for your plants. If you are growing vegetables, choose a site that offers the full sun. If you are growing flowers that require some shade, put the raised bed there. It is hard to move the raised bed once you have it filled with soil. By knowing the location and the plant requirements, you will have it in the right place.

Once you have the raised bed constructed and put where you want it, you'll be tempted to fill it with soil right away. However, before you do that, you should remove the weeds at the bottom. Sometimes I think that the weeds can grow through almost anything. So eliminating any chances of them growing up through your new raised bed will make you happier. You can also amend the ground inside the bed with 2 to 4 inches of compost. Dig or till this into the soil. If your soil is poor draining, this helps to improve water drainage.

If you don’t want to do all that work, you can cover the ground with pieces of cardboard or newspapers that are eight to ten pages thick. This prevents the weeds from growing through. As they decompose into the soil, they will add nutrients to the soil.

Fill the inside of the raised bed with potting soil. You can used the bagged potting soil sold in many garden supply stores or make your own. A simple recipe for potting soil is combining equal amounts of compost, perlite, and peatmoss.

Plant Care
Raised beds are easier to care for, but they do require more care in two areas. The soil tends to dry out at a faster rate, so you'll need to check the soil several times a day and water more often. But this can also work in your favor. If you live in an area that receives a lot of rain, then the soil has a better chance at drying out so the plants don't rot.

They also need a more frequent application of fertilizer than plants growing in the ground. This is because the plants grow in a small amount of soil and they use up the essential nutrients rather quickly. What the plants don't absorb washes down and out of the soil every time you water.

Perfect for People with Disabilities
If you have problems with mobility, or your joints don't work as well as they used to, raised beds is the way to garden. You can construct a raised bed to any height and width, but they shouldn’t be wider than 5 feet. If the beds are wider than this, weeding in the middle section becomes difficult. It is a good idea to leave adequate room between each raised bed to accommodate people in wheelchairs or using walkers.
Raised beds are a wonderful way to garden and they work on so many levels. You can construct them to look nice in any kind of landscape, and you don't need to break the bank to do it.

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