There's little in life that's more satisfying than the crunch of fresh veggies grown right outside your door. Whether you're a gardening newbie or have a seasoned green thumb, raised beds are a great way to make that happen.
These simple structures offer some serious advantages: for starters, the soil can be catered to your needs, as you'll be filling your beds rather than using what's already available. This dirt is also protected by walls, meaning it's never stepped on and compacted, and therefore drains excess water easily. Lastly, the soil in these beds warms more quickly in the spring, giving you a longer growing season.
On board? Now you just have to decide what to grow — while raised beds are great for growing almost anything, these are the real stars that rise above the rest.
1. Root Vegetables
When you’re growing plants for their roots, it’s important to have complete control over the soil. Raised beds can be filled with the perfect soil that's free of rocks, clay and debris that could hinder the growth of roots or cause misshapen veggies. Carrots, beets, radishes and parsnips flourish in the loose, rock-free soil where they have space to spread out.
2. Leafy Greens
Greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale perform marvelously in raised beds, and these cool-weather crops need to be planted just as soon as you can get a trowel into your soil. The fact that soil in raised beds warms more quickly than the ground means you can get started earlier and get several great harvests before summer hits. Leafy greens also despise soggy roots, so your bed's fast-draining soil means your lovely lettuces will never have to stand in the water for too long.
There are three reasons onions are the perfect vegetable to grow in raised beds: they love quick-draining soil, need plenty of organic matter and require a long growing season. By nature, the soil in raised beds can be catered to your needs, so if you know you’ll be planting onions in the bed, you can be sure to incorporate plenty of compost.
Also of note: onions grown from seeds can take over 100 days to reach maturity. So if you live anywhere with four seasons, you'll want to give these babies the longest time in the garden you can manage. The warmer soil in a raised bed gives your onions a head start!
Tomatoes are heavy feeders that need nutrient-dense soil to thrive. So as with onions, you'll want to customize this soil to have extra compost. The only downside to growing tomatoes in raised beds is it's harder for tomato cages and stakes to stand up in the loose soil.
Potatoes not only grow well in a raised bed, they're also much easier to harvest this way. These plants benefit from hilling soil around the shoots as they grow; in a raised bed you can easily contain your hills. You can even create a bed that you can add to as your plants grow.
Potatoes also need loose, loamy soil that drains well. They grow best when they're able to easily spread out in the soil, and this loose soil will keep them from rotting. Potato crops grown in raised beds tend to have higher yields with bigger tubers.
These are just some of the crops that will grow well in a raised bed. While these are the crops that grow most easily, with careful planning you can also have success growing vining crops vertically on trellises. And now that you know what your raised bed is capable of, it's time to get out there and get your hands dirty!
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