Raised bed vegetable gardening for beginners

Published Date: April 29, 2021

What else will be better than a raised bed vegetable gardening when you are a beginner and want to make an outdoor vegetable garden? Many beginners select a big size land for their vegetable garden, as a result, they can’t handle their garden properly. They get frustrated at their failure and decide to give up. Don’t do this mistake!

Guess what? Now I am going to give you some amazing tips about making a raised bed vegetable garden. So let’s dive in deeper!

raised bed vegetable garden
Table of Contents

6 easy steps to make your raised bed vegetable garden

Many people think that making a garden is really hard work. But believe me, it’s not. Especially, it’s easier to make and handle a raised bed garden though you have to work a little bit.

Just follow the following steps to make your raised bed vegetable garden.

1. Choose a land

The first thing you have to do for making the garden is selecting suitable land. This not a tough task, right? All you have to make sure that your location should have enough sunlight, a proper drainage system, and nutrient-rich soil.

Sunlight for your bright veggies

Most of the vegetables need plenty of sunlight to grow. So it’s good to place your garden in a sunny place. But too much sunlight can be harmful too!

The fastest-growing vegetable plants need direct sunlight for 6 to 8 hours daily. On the other hand, some leafy veggies and root veggies can’t tolerate too much sunlight.

You can plant some leafy plants like salad leaves, lettuce in the shady part of your garden. Also, you can plant the root vegetables in the place where the sunlight stays for at least 4 hours. Besides, in the case of growing cool-season vegetables, you can give the plants a summer shade.

Keep the soil hydrated but don’t let the water stay

Good soil is well-drained as well as hold onto enough soil moisture for steady growth. Too much water can cause rotting roots while too little water can dry out the soil. Both situations are harmful to your plant.

So make sure your land has a better drainage system. Also, it will be convenient for watering the garden if there is a water source near your garden.

Besides, don’t water too frequently if they don’t need it. If you water them regularly they won’t be able to adjust to the environment and survival chances will get low without water.

Don’t forget to check whether the water is reaching the root properly or not. Otherwise, you will continue watering the plants, and still, they will die.

Good airflow but that doesn’t mean too windy

An open space is good but too much wind can harm your garden. If the location is too windy, it can uproot the young plants of the garden. Besides, wind can keep the pollinators away from the plants.

Also don’t plant the plants too close to the fence as the wind can make them fall on your plants. However, don’t think that air is not necessary.

Good airflow is needed not too much! Proper airflow will keep the disease and pests away from your garden. Also, it is needed for the sturdy growth of your garden.

Your plants need nutrient-rich soil

The plant collects all its basic nutrients from the soil through its roots. So, along with sunlight and water, you have ensured that the soil of your selected land has enough of this food. Well, I mean to say nutrients.

For providing nutrients make sure you know what your soil need. You can test the sample of the soil in a nearby lab to find out the nutrition lacking.

Also, check your soil texture. Based on the texture you can add fertilizer, compost, mulch, or soil amendments to your soil. Besides, the water drainage level and presence of nutrients sometimes depend on your soil texture.

2. Select the appropriate bed size

After choosing the location, it’s time to know the bed size of your garden. Here are the guidelines for the bed size for your garden –

Height: the ideal height for your garden beds is 12-18″. Most feeder roots are in the first 6″ so it will also work for your beds. But the higher the beds, the roots will go deeper.

However, a height of more than 18 inches is not preferable.  For root veggies, your beds need more height, and for herbs, you can allocate little space. 

Width: 4 feet is perfect, but 3 feet will also work. 4 feet allows more flexibility for spacing rows as you need some space to reach the beds for taking care of them. It is important that you don’t have to step into the bed to weed or for planting crops as this can affect the health of both soil and the plant.

Length: You can 4×4 square feet or 4×20 square feet. As long as you keep the width at least 4 feet, your length is only limited by your space and budget.

Shape: You can choose any shape of your choice like squares, rectangles, T’s, circles, ovals, etc. As long as you can ensure that there is enough space around your beds to reach them, it is okay with any type of shape.

3. Prepare the ground

It is very important for you to give your plant a perfect growing medium. The native soil may be sandy soil or clay soil. But it is rare to have a perfect type of soil texture where there are no weeds in it or the ground is beautifully level. 

So let’s know how you can prepare the ground for your beds.

Healthy soil is the most important thing for your garden. A raised bed is super beneficial to you as you can add a soil blend that’s more nutrient-rich than your native soil. Loose and nutritious soil will allow your plant roots to grow freely ensuring water and sufficient nutrients.

At first, remove the grass and perennial weeds from your garden soil. Use a fork or shovel to loosen the soil for about 6-10″ to improve the drainage and moisture retention of the bed soil. It will give your plant a feeling of growing in a 12-18″ deep bed while the real height can be 6″ only. It will give the root crops like carrots, potatoes, or full-size tomato plants enough space to grow.

In the case of filling more than one bed, you can buy your soil in bulk by the cubic foot. You can make your bed soil by combining 60% topsoil, 30% compost, and 10% potting soil (soilless mixture of peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite).

However, these proportions can be varied as per your soil volume. You can also use a soil calculator for measuring the portions. 

If you don’t get good quality topsoil, then go for a 50-50 blend of soil mix and compost. Also, you can add peat moss of about less than 20 percent of the total mix as its acidic nature isn’t that good for growing vegetables.

Some extra tips for amending your garden space

If your space is currently lawn:

You can use a sod cutter to remove the turf pretty quickly and easily. After that, you will get smooth ground. Use compost to remove the high-maintenance grass away and this compost will provide nutrients for your soil as well.

If your space is currently weed-infested:

Solarize the area to get rid of weeds. It will take some time but it is effective. You can do it during summer to get better results.

Besides this, if you have Bermuda grass in the soil, you can build some inches of soil or cardboard borders around the edge of your gardening beds. Bermuda grass needs a lot of sunlight but under the soil layer, it can’t receive that light. 

If your location is hardscape:

This type of land has drainage problems and the water can’t reach the bottom of your bed. So, make a better drainage system for this type of land.

If your space is currently full of shrubs:

You don’t need to remove the shrubs from the soil as this woody material will break down inside the garden beds over time.

Besides, for leveling the ground, you can till the ground. But be careful as tilling can harm the important elements of the soil structure.

Moreover, using topical lawn or weed-killing products can harm your garden beds in the long run though they may work instantly. 

4. What you will grow in your raised beds?

Now it’s time to select what you will grow in your garden. You can grow tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, melons, cucumbers, pole beans, peas, onions, eggplant, root crops like beets and carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in your deep beds.

Though you can choose anything you like to grow, there are certain veggies that may need some extra care or may need a specific time to grow. So, here I am talking about the type of vegetables you can grow and the time to grow. 

You have to take care of the fact that you are growing the vegetables you and your family like to eat. Otherwise, it will be both a waste of your time and energy as well as money.

If you’re big on salads, you can plant head lettuce, a lettuce cutting mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. If you love cooking, you can plant onions, peppers, leeks, potatoes, and herbs. Also, you can add some new variety to discover your taste in a new vegetable.

Raised bed gardening will maximize your productivity. It will enable you to grow the maximum amount of veggies at a small place but that doesn’t mean you can crowd the plants. Plants may have lacked in water, nutrition, and root space due to overcrowding.

It is also important to keep in mind the growing habit of the plants like some plants are bushy while some may be climbing or trailing. If you mix bushy veggies with climbing veggies, the companion plants will hurt each other. You can use a cage or ladder for climbing vegetables.

Besides this, take care of which plants need how many hours of sunlight, waters and based on that make your garden segment. Also, you can plant them based on the harvesting time. You can plant the quick harvest crops on the front side and the late harvest crops on the backside so that you can harvest the veggies easily.

You also need to know whether you want to grow vegetables from seeds or from young plants. Seeds of annual veggies (peas, beans, squash, lettuce beets) should be planted indoors first about at least 6 weeks before the last frost dates. Seeds of root crops like carrots, potatoes can be directly sown in the garden.

For slow-growing plants like broccoli, celery, kale, you can use seedlings and transplant them in the garden. This will give you an earlier harvest than seeds. Transplants also do a better job in case of resisting pests.

But don’t put your young plants in the beds when the frost is about to arrive. Put them in the garden after all the danger of frost has passed.

The final thing you can do is to know every detail of your vegetables so that you can easily choose what to put in your garden beds or what to not. Here I have given the details of 5 vegetables just to let you know how you can make the detailing list of the veggies. Just take a look!

Vegetable Name Harvest time Ideal temperature Planting time Spacing Germination time Light preferences
Lettuce 65 – 80 days) 45-75 F Spring, Fall 6 – 18 inches 2-15 days Sun or partial shade
Spinach 40 – 50 days 35 -75 F Spring, fall 8 inches 6 – 21 days Sun or partial shade
Green Beans 55 – 65 days 55 -85 F Early Summer 6, 18 inches (row) 8 – 16 days Sun or partial shade where hot
Cucumber 48 - 65 days 70 - 85 F Summer 12 inches, 3 feet (row) 4 – 13 days Sun or partial shade
Yellow Summer Squash 48 – 65 days 70 - 90 F Summer 12 inches, 3 feet (row) 6 – 12 days Sun or partial shade

5. Plan a garden layout

For planning your garden layout take paper and pencil. Start with your selected vegetable list. Then consult catalogs for varieties you are interested in.

Sometimes you can’t grow everything you want, and that’s okay. It’s better to have just a few crops that do well, rather than a bite or two of many different vegetables.

Then use these example plans for inspiration, look on the backs of your seed packets for recommended spacing, and start sketching. Expect to refine many, many times. That’s all part of the planning!

Take care of the few things while making the plan mentioned here as follows:

If you follow the intensive planting approach, you can plant 2 or 3 plants really close in a 4 feet wide row without worrying about overcrowding of your mature plants. This way you can use every square inch of your garden but it is difficult to reach the plants when needed. Moreover, you can’t use it for vining plants like cucumber.

There is another method called the square foot method that is derived from the intensive cropping method. Here you have to use a physical gridding system and divide a raised 4×4 garden bed into 1-foot squares per portion.

Besides this, you can use succession planting, which involves planting more than for getting more crops in a season from small garden space. 

Tall plants like tomato plants, vertical supported plants like peas, beans, and cucumbers can be planted on the north side of the garden. If you plant tall veggies on the north, they won’t shade the other vegetables.

Use the shady (unavoidable shades) parts of your garden for cold seasons and use the sunny part for summer and spring. Moreover, you can use your DIY frame trellis for growing veggies.

Try to plant vegetables seasonally. After harvesting, plant another vegetable for the next season. If you want to plant annual or perennial crops like asparagus, herbs, then give them the permanent location of your garden as per their requirements.

Sometimes it so happened that you don’t want to harvest all your spinach at the same time. So use stagger planting. Plant the seed with a couple of weeks gap or as you wish to harvest.

Finally, you can use some modern technologies too. There are many websites or software that will help you to make a foolproof layout for your garden.

Using a garden planner to plan the layout and contents of your garden is a great way to stay organized and get everything you want out of a garden like Better Homes and Gardens, GardenPuzzle, Gardeners.com, Vegetable Gardening Online, Marshalls, Small Blue Printer, and so on.

Besides this, there is also some free trial software like Home Designer, Garden Planner, Landscape Creator, Realtime Landscaping Architect, and Smartdraw.

6. Finally it’s time to make the garden

When you get every element ready for your garden, start planting the crops in your garden and make the garden. Fill the beds with selected growing medium. Use compost or other fertilizers as per the requirements. 

Remove the rocks or debris from the soil. Started planting the crops according to your garden layout planning.

Plant lettuce by making holes with fingers keeping a 6-inches difference between every hole. Sprinkle a few seeds in each hole and separate the seedlings after germinating.

You can also spread the seeds of some veggies over the surface. Plant climbing veggies at the edge of the beds using ladders. 

Water the garden immediately after planting as well as apply some organic mulch to keep the soil temperatures down and the weeds out.

Few last words for you

Your willpower can make this hard work easy for you. Besides, I have shared the easiest steps for you to make a raised bed vegetable garden. 

I hope following these steps you can make a healthy vegetable raised bed garden. Don’t forget to take care of your garden. Happy gardening!