Garden Raised to a New Level

Nan Sterman

Fri April 25, 2014 12:37pm

This spring, make the most of your San Diego garden by building and growing your own edibles in raised beds. Raised bed planters are like concentrated mini-gardens where you can focus your time, resources and gardening energy. In addition, raised beds that are 24 inches tall or taller are easy to reach when it comes to weeding and tending.
Fill your raised bed with a rich soil mix, perfect for vegetable production. Beds can be organized in straight rows, staggered for interest or dotted throughout the garden.
For best results:
Think long-term when deciding on building materials for your beds; use rot-resistant lumber like cedar or redwood, timbers recycled from soda bottles and sawdust or other surplus materials, old brick, pieces of broken concrete or rock.
For the easy access, make the beds 28 to 30 inches high — less stress on your back.
The length of a raised bed doesn’t matter but the width does. Adults can easily reach the center of a bed no more than 4 feet wide. For children, beds are best 3 or 3½ feet wide.
If you are plagued with rabbits in your garden, build a fence at least 3 feet tall around the garden. Line it with narrow mesh wire fencing buried a foot or so below the soil surface since rabbits like to dig.
Line the bottom of each bed with quarter-inch hardware cloth to keep out pests like gophers.
Space the beds at least 3 feet apart to allow a wheelbarrow or wheel chair to pass between them easily.
Install irrigation before filling the beds. The best irrigation is quarter-inch-diameter in-line drip lines. Add a shut-off valve to each box.
Fill the bed with topsoil, preferably a 40/60 mix (40 percent organic matter, 60 percent dirt). Add some worm castings, to jump start beneficial soil microbes, and organic vegetable fertilizer. Water well before planting.
Plant your raised beds with summer edibles such as tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and basil.
There’s no reason to set plants in rows in a raised bed. Instead, plant in blocks and set plants about 20 percent closer than you would if you were planting rows.
After you plant, mulch beds with straw (not hay) to reduce weeds and hold in moisture.
Provide strong supports for beans, cucumbers and other vining plants. Trellises work well.
Be sure to add organic fertilizer regularly and water enough to keep the soil damp. Finally, have fun decorating your raised beds with corner posts or lights for an even more beautiful garden.  If a child gardens with you, give him or her their own bed with their name painted on a colorful sign. Enjoy growing, cooking and eating your own backyard edibles!
For more garden inspiration and tips catch “A Growing Passion” on KPBS. Visit www.agrowingpassion.com for videos on how to build and plant raised beds, previous gardening clips, upcoming events and our gardening blog.