If you’ve long dreamed of having a kitchen garden but your soil is rocky, sandy or filled with clay, don’t fret. You can build a raised garden bed and start growing your own fruit and vegetables! These gardens enjoy several advantages over their grounded cousins—a longer growing season, better drainage, less-compacted soil, less maintenance, and fewer back and knee troubles for the gardener because they aren’t as low. With spring growing season just around the corner, now’s the time to build raised beds for your kitchen garden and get started planting veggies.
SIZE IT UP
Keep the bed’s width to less than four feet to permit easy access to the center from each side. The depth depends on what you plan to grow. A raised bed can be just six inches deep for greens like lettuce and spinach. Twelve inches is advised for root vegetables (beets, carrots, turnips) and other veggies with deep roots (cabbage, brussels sprouts). Go at least 20 inches deep for fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, beans).
PREP A SPOT
Pick a spot that gets at least eight hours of sun a day. The simplest prep is to place some newspaper, landscape fabric or cardboard there; with a little more effort, you can maximize the room your veggies have to root and clean up the existing soil by removing any sod and loosening the soil.
MAKE YOUR BED(S)
For a wooden frame, use a rot-resistant lumber, such as cedar—2x6 is great—and build a rectangle. (Alternatively, you could use hay as an easier, temporary frame that’ll last a year; or, using more effort and money, you can substitute stone, concrete blocks or brick.) To build a deeper box, use stakes to hold two or three levels of boards in place. Be sure to level the frame (remove soil beneath it if an edge is too high). Now just mix up a nice batch of good topsoil, compost and rotted manure, pour it in, level it with a rake, and plant away. If you are making more than one bed, space them three to four feet apart. You can keep weeds from growing in the pathways by putting down newspaper covered by sand or shredded bark.
WHAT TO GROW NOW
As you start planning your spring vegetable garden, you’ll want to know the average date of the last frost in your region so you can decide which crops can be planted when. As early as four weeks before the last frost, you can sow broccoli and garlic for a spring harvest, but most other spring crops (carrots, potatoes, beets, lettuce, radishes, broccoli, celery and kale) can safely be planted outdoors two weeks before the last frost. Remember that these dates are merely predictions; keep an eye on your local weather forecast before sowing seeds outdoors. After the average last-frost date, it’s usually safe to plant all the other spring veggies (beans, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, corn, peppers, melons, tomatoes and eggplant).
What are you most excited to grow in your kitchen garden this spring?
EARLY SPRING RECIPES:
Spring Onion Soup With Garlic Croutons