Raised beds are a quick start for new gardeners

Making garden space with raised beds

This garden is reclaimed space. It was once a weedy, rocky center of a circle drive.
This garden is reclaimed space. It was once a weedy, rocky center of a circle drive. | Source

Cool season crops

Chard, rainbow carrots and lettuces
Chard, rainbow carrots and lettuces | Source

Turn fall foliage into a new raised bed

Before you begin

Pick a spot. The best place for a vegetable garden is in the full sun. Choose a well drained area with access to water.

Take advantage of autumn leaf fall by turning that leaf pile into next spring's raised bed. If you already have a raised bed, incorporate autumn's leaves into the soil. Digging leaves into the soil is one of the best - and cheapest ways to add organic matter and fertilizer to the soil.

Starters -

  • Buy good tools. Buy quality tools once in a lifetime or cheap tools once or twice every year. Start with a good hoe, and a CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator.
  • Consider collecting rain. Install a rain barrel to collect rain from the roof. Old wine barrels are great.
  • Start a compost pile. Add scraps from the juicer, all non meat food scraps, grass clippings, shredded leaves.
Budget and time will dictate when you can buy, build, or purchase these materials. For now, start with one 4" x 8' raised bed.

Add organic matter to soil

Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut. Coir is a substitute for sphagnum moss.
Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut. Coir is a substitute for sphagnum moss. | Source

Garden size and location

Quick Start: one 4' x 8' raised bed in full sun.

  • The first bed is a quick start set up to plant a productive garden this season.
  • Build a raised bed - Begin with one 4 x 8 raised beds. That will get you started and up and running for now.You will need: 2 eight foot long boards and 2 four foot long boards. Hardware for corners. So, buy three 2" x 8" x 8' pine or cedar boards. Add more beds later if you like.
  • Start by laying down five or six layers of overlapping newspaper. Wet down paper then add moistened peat or coir (coconut husks), sand, horse or cow manure, compost.
  • Fill with good soil - Mix in compost and organic matter (leaf mulch, grass clippings, shredded paper). Most gardeners cannot add too much organic matter.
  • Hauling a watering can will get old. Lay down leaky hoses - or establish an irrigation plan. Consider access to water - and how you will get it to the garden. Start simply with a good quality garden hose that you can connect with leaky hoses in the garden beds. Plan this now.

Do not build your raised bed on a deck. At first, it may seem like a good idea. But when the soil is added, plus the weight of heavy ripe vegetables the bed can cause structural damage.

Begin with the soil

→ Determine how big and what you want to get out of a garden. For example, adding an economical foods source for juicing and family meals.

Start with raised beds. Raised beds will get you into the garden sooner because the soil will warm faster and drain better. There will be less weeding and more produce grown in this intensive gardening method.

For this first bed, you may have to buy bagged soil or, at least suppliment to lighten and improve the garden bed. Until your soil comes to life, consider using a good organic fertilizer.

→ Begin by improving the garden soil. Start with a soil test, adding only what you need instead of using a general purpose fertilizer.

Start a compost pile. Compost all organic matter. Corn husks, straw, egg shells, shredded and graded homework, newspaper, tea bage, pine cones, any fruit or vegetable peels, cores and cobs, coffee grounds and paper filters. (No meat)

Adding organic matter back into the soil is like adding nutrients or getting free fertilizer.

Stake tomato plants early

This starter tomato plant is dwarfed by the plant support. Soon it will be hard to see the support when this huge heirloom tomato plant is loaded with bicolor one-pounders.
This starter tomato plant is dwarfed by the plant support. Soon it will be hard to see the support when this huge heirloom tomato plant is loaded with bicolor one-pounders. | Source

How many tomatoes?

Do you just want produce to eat fresh or do you want to preserve some of your bounty for later?

New gardeners should buy tomato plants. Make gardening as simple and easy as possible. This variety will allow you to decide what varieties of tomatoes are best for your needs.

Plant four tomatoes, one foot in from the edge and two feet apart, down the 8' length of the bed. Plant the other side in the same way.

The tomato plants look small now, but they will grow quickly when the the roots are established and the weather warms. Your garden plan allows for good air circulation and disease prevention with maximum productivity.

Stake all the indeterminate tomatoes when you plant them. The two early tomatoes are determinate and staking is optional.

Two cherry tomato plants. Try Sun Gold, Sunsugar or Supersweet 100 and you may find the kids out in the garden snacking on these little tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen and will continue to produce until frost.

Buy two paste tomato plants. Good choices are Amish Paste or Roma.

Buy two determinate, early tomatoes like Oregon Spring, Stupice, or Glacier.

Buy two large fruited tomatoes like Mortgage Lifter, Pineapple, Brandywine, Costoluto Genovese, Black Krim or, Delicious.

To learn more about planting tomatoes - Plant tomatoes the right way.

To learn more about preparing tomato plants for the garden - Hardening off tomatoes.

Succession planting

Planting a partial row of beans every two weeks produces fresh green beens and dill for weeks longer with no glut of produce to handle.
Planting a partial row of beans every two weeks produces fresh green beens and dill for weeks longer with no glut of produce to handle. | Source

It's tomato time

Beans and greens too

Keep an eye on the tomato plants, pruning and tying up on to the stake. As weather warms, lightly mulch the peppers and tomatoes. Remove the lowest leaves and vines on each tomato plant.

Removing the lowest leaves and mulching will prevent soil from splashing the plants, reducing the risk of soil born disease. Mulching helps control the soil moisture, reducing the risk blossom end rot and tomatoes cracking.

Replace the border plants with warm weather loving beets along one side. For each beet seed you plant, four little seedlings will germinate. Thin beets, spacing according to package dirctions.

Along the other side, plant a zig zag row of bush green beans like Mascotte AAS dwarf French green beans. See new container and small space vegetables.

As the weather cools, plant cool season crops again. You will have room and time to grow turnips in the late summer, early fall.

Stagger bean plants

zig zag seeds
maximizing space
 
 
 
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Plant bean seeds 3" apart in all directions or, as directed by the bean variety and mature size.

Raised beds

Soil in raised beds drains quickly and warms up faster in the spring. Gardeners are able to get into the garden days, sometimes weeks ahead of conventional gardeners..
Soil in raised beds drains quickly and warms up faster in the spring. Gardeners are able to get into the garden days, sometimes weeks ahead of conventional gardeners.. | Source

Building more no-till raised beds

Fit building more beds into your schedule and budget. Decide what size bed works for you. 4' x 4' makes a good size for an herb bed or, salad and greens garden. 4' x 8' is just right for an asparagus bed.

You may want to dedicate a bed to a perennial such as rhubard or asparagus. A specific site for fruits such as strawberries or raspberries will work best. If you can afford it, get these beds started as soon as possible because it may take a few years before you see a first harvest.

Vegetables and flowers are more successful using a crop rotation. Ideally, never plant the same vegetable in the same bed two years in a row.

Begin investing in the soil first thing. Build the bed frame. Spread out overlapping sheets of newspaper. Layer paper to a thickness of 5 or 6 sheets. Water to keep the papers from blowing away.

Since you have more time to build these beds, spread out each addition and water it in to speed the composting process.

Add grass clippings, shredded paper, leaf mulch, fireplace ashes, sand pine bark and needles.

Add decomposed horse or cow manure. In Kansas City, buy zoo doo - composted zoo animal manure (herbivores only.) If you live near a horse stables, you probably can get all the manure you can shovel.

A local coffee shop will give you free coffee grounds. The local arborist will give you a truckload of wood chips. When the bed is filled, continue adding these materials to the compost pile.

Save these items for the compost pile: crushed egg shells, non meat kitchen scraps, old Jack-o-lanterns, paper towels, corn cobs and husks, nut shells, and that little wrinklely green thing in the back of the crisper drawer.

See Build a raised bed garden, quick, easy, cheap. A 4' x 4' square concrete block bed. Caution little ones to be careful.

Invest in corners. Like the one at Gardener's Supply or Art of the Garden. I'm replacing some boards and raised beds this year but, reusing the last-for-ever corners.

Managing too many tomatoes

What to do with all those cherry tomatoes after the big ones start coming on? Invest in a food dehydrator. Sundried tomatoes are good for snacking or enriching juices and soups.

Once dried, you can process them in the blender or food processor in small batches. Pulse until they become tomato powder. Store in an airtight container.

No time for canning or making spaghetti sauce? Rinse, dry and put the paste tomatoes in a gallon zip lock bag adding more as they ripen.

Later, in the winter, empty the frozen paste tomatoes into a big stock pot or crockpot to simmer into rich spaghetti sauces.

From seed to supper

A pantry full of summer. Made in small batches of 4 to 8 jars, as time, budget, energy permits.
A pantry full of summer. Made in small batches of 4 to 8 jars, as time, budget, energy permits. | Source

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12 comments

Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

teaches12345, Always "plant" your banana peels and coffee grounds in the garden. I appreciate your comments. If I can help in any way, please ask. I love to encourage gardeners.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

When I finally get to plant my garden, I am going to remember your wonderful information. I am also going to save my coffee grinds as I plant my greens. Thanks for the advice.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Jackie, I think you are referring to Cool season greens: Swiss Chard. Last year I grew chard that just stayed sweet and tasty, never getting bitter. I love mixing greens, Like fresh chard in spinach salad, or collards and spinach cooked.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I have the Swiss Chard seed I plan to plant, think it was your hub I saw that made me pick that up and will come back and reread before I plant. I would like to plant collards because they are so good for the eyes to eat really often. I like about all greens though, with apple cider vinegar.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you, Jodah. I appreciate your kind words. I like to encourage others to try their hand at growing organicly. If you ever have a garden related question, please ask.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Very comprehensive hub packed with useful information about raised beds, what to grow in them and how, and compost Patsybell. Voted up.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

During the Dust Bowl days, my grandmother fed a family of 6 from a garden on red clay and rocks. Your southern soil just needs to lighten up! I would love to hear how your garden grows.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

This is exactly what I need to do as far as planting vegetable gardens, as I live in the deep South, and we have that hard red clay in our yard in spots, so it is so hard to dig into and plant. These are the perfect solution to that problem!

Thank you for sharing.

Up and more, pinning, tweeting

Blessings,

Faith Reaper


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

If you mean kale, chard, spinach and salad greens, I am working on it. Your friend may also be talking about collards, mustard greens which I rarely eat and never grow. Jackie, mostly I just want to say thank you for your comments and observations.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Tomatoes and onions for sure and I would love to plant some greens since a friend told me years ago she had them all year round in this area so that would be really great, I am so for plant once and eat forever! I will look see if you have how to grow greens first, lol, for sure!


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

That Southern red clay soil has fed a lot of families. It's rich, nutrient dense ground. All you have to do is keep adding organic matter to lighten it up a little and help retain water. Keep all the soil covered - with plants or mulch. What are you going to plant?


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I have one ready to go...well almost. lol Really always wanted to do this. Makes sense; especially when all you have is red clay. I have pretty good luck with tomatoes and love them cooked and froze!

Great hub as always. Sharing and up.

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