Growing veggies is a dream for many aspiring gardeners seeking a more self-sustainable and healthy lifestyle. If you’re not sure how to get started, a raised vegetable garden is a fantastic (and easy) way to kick off your gardening journey.
Whether you have a small space or a large backyard, garden beds come in all different sizes and variations, so you won’t have any trouble finding a solution that fits your needs.
If you feel you lack a green thumb or it’s your first time venturing into the plant world, keeping reading. This guide will give you the know-how to successfully grow your very own raised vegetable garden.
You’ll learn all about raised garden beds and their advantages, the different types available, and great tips on how to pick the best soil, location, and irrigation system for your delicious and bountiful veggie garden.
What Are Raised Vegetable Gardens?
Raised vegetable gardens are nothing more than garden boxes — usually made with wood, galvanized metal, brick, concrete blocks, stone, cinder blocks, or plastic — where you can plant your favorite veggies.
The two main different types of raised garden beds include:
- Raised garden beds: These structures don’t have bottoms. They’re open to the ground, allowing your plant roots to dig deeper into the garden soil to source any available nutrients. This option is fantastic for those with a backyard or garden who wish to increase their planting area and take their landscaping skills to the next level.
- Raised planter boxes: Also called elevated planter boxes work, these larger pots or outdoor planters are elevated a few feet from the ground. They’re a smart solution for people who have a limited growing area, such as a balcony or small terrace. These planter boxes are usually smaller than elevated garden beds, and some even come with wheels so you can move them around according to your needs.
Both varieties can be found at your local Walmart Garden Center or Home Depot, and they often come as raised garden kits that are easy to assemble, making them perfect for beginners. If you love a bit of DIY, you can always make your own garden bed planters from scratch.
4 Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
If you have plenty of room and are planning to get your hands dirty with vegetable gardening, you may be thinking about planting your veggies directly in the ground. Even though this is a legitimate option, it may not be the best way to get started when you don’t know your garden soil’s quality and characteristics.
Raised bed gardening comes with tons of advantages, giving any gardener a great head start no matter what kind of plants they plan to grow. Here are four main benefits of a raised vegetable garden.
1. Easy Access
One of the main reasons why gardeners opt for raised garden beds is convenience. If the idea of spending hours kneeling and squatting while tending to your garden is enough to put you off gardening, then a raised garden bed is the best option for you.
You’ll have easy access to your veggie patch, herb garden, or flower bed without straining your back or knees, making your gardening activity more enjoyable. If you pick a sturdy, heavy-duty garden bed with large timbers, you can sit down while removing weeds or picking fresh tomatoes.
Those with accessibility issues (such as needing a wheelchair) can pick a garden bed kit or build a raised garden bed with the correct width and height to enjoy the thrill of growing their own food.
2. Better Growing Conditions
When you grow your plants in a raised garden bed — no matter which one you end up picking — you’ll avoid the frequent stomping that usually occurs in a conventional garden. As such, you can prevent the compaction of soil, which helps to support proper aeration and drainage conditions.
When selecting your garden bed, choose one that is not too wide so you can easily reach all your plants. Besides that, you’ll have full control over the soil that will be filling your planter boxes. If you only have a terrace or balcony, a combination of organic potting soil and organic matter is a great way to keep your plants happy and healthy.
On the other hand, if you have access to native soil — the soil found in your garden — a combination of topsoil (the top layer richer in plant nourishment), organic potting soil, and organic matter will work wonders for your plants.
Raised garden beds provide excellent drainage because they are raised. If you opt for a planter box instead, make sure it has drainage holes or use a drill to make a few so you can avoid waterlog situations.
If you aim to grow an organic vegetable garden, select a raised bed made of natural materials such as cedarwood, redwood, or fir wood. They may be a bit more expensive than plastic, but they’re a more sustainable and healthier option for your plants.
If you go for a plastic garden bed, look for a BPA-free product to prevent this harmful chemical from leaching into your precious plants.
For the best growing conditions, it doesn’t get much better than a Back to the Roots Fabric Raised Garden Bed kit. It’s lightweight, easy to use (and store), and works with all sorts of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Unlike steel raised beds, the Back to the Roots raised garden bed provides more oxygen to plant roots thanks to the breathable fabric. Plus, you can use it both indoors and outdoors even if you have minimal space to grow.
With a Back to the Roots Fabric Raised Garden kit, you control the soil your plants are growing in, which is essential if you live in a place without soil (or with bad soil). Even better, the kit requires no assembly — you just unfold, fill, and watch your veggies grow.
3. Bountiful Yields
A raised vegetable garden will start bearing fruit earlier as the soil warms up quicker during early spring than native soil. As such, you can also start seeds earlier than if you were planting them directly into the ground.
Since the soil you’ll be using in your garden beds is lighter and less compacted than regular garden soil, your plants’ roots can quickly spread out in search of nutrients. Also, both water and air can move more freely, providing optimal conditions for your veggies to thrive.
As a consequence of this rich environment, you can populate your raised garden beds with more plants than a conventional garden, which translates into bigger harvests during your veggies’ growing seasons.
4. Efficient Weed and Pest Control
One of the most remarkable qualities of a raised vegetable garden is its low maintenance when it comes to weeding. Due to the dense planting in raised beds, this leaves little space for weeds to sneak in and develop their roots.
If you have persistent and aggressive weeds in your garden, placing a weed or hardware cloth between your garden bed and the ground works well to prevent these stubborn species from invading your vegetables.
These clever garden boxes are also easier to efficiently protect from birds — using a net or row cover — than a large, traditional garden. If you struggle with rodents, add some metal screens to prevent them from nibbling your precious veggies.
Tips To Kick Start Your Raised Vegetable Garden
Now that we’ve explored the advantages of raised beds, it’s time to learn some useful tricks and tips so you can breeze through your first experience of creating a raised vegetable garden.
Choose Cedar When Possible
One of the most important decisions to make when selecting your raised bed is the material. As mentioned, plastic might be a cheap option, but it also breaks more easily when exposed to the elements and may even leak harmful chemicals into your plants.
The most common, affordable, and eco-friendly choice is cedar raised garden beds. Cedar planters are rot-resistant, chemical-free, and will make your garden or terrace look like a million bucks.
If you only have a small balcony and want to start a vertical garden, a planter box with a trellis support structure is a fantastic and versatile option. You can either hang a couple of smaller planter pots on the trellis and plant more veggies in the planter box, or you can grow climbing species — such as green beans, cucumbers, or cherry tomato plants — and use the structure to support their vining nature.
Consider Companion Planting
Raised garden beds are also great for companion planting — planting veggies next to other veggies and herbs that support each other’s growth. For example, carrots and basil grow really well next to tomatoes, while bush beans enjoy the companionship of strawberries.
If you have a large garden and plan on using a wheelbarrow to transport gardening materials or carry weeds, take that into account if you decide to set up more than one raised bed. You want to make sure you have enough space to move around your garden and have room to work comfortably without being jammed between two garden boxes.
Know How (and When) to Water Your Garden
Once your seedlings have turned into adult plants, you may want to add mulch to the soil. This helps to keep snails and slugs at bay and allows the ground to retain moisture. Retaining moisture is key for raised garden beds, as they tend to need more watering than conventional gardens.
The good news is that since these containers are usually heavily populated by plants, this slows down the water evaporation rate, as the soil is less exposed to the sun.
To further support your plant’s hydration, water only in the mornings or evenings. Also, adopt occasional but abundant waterings instead of frequent little sips. Doing so encourages the plant to develop complex root systems and lowers water use.
If you’re setting up more than one or two garden beds, using a watering can may not be the most efficient hydrating method. Investing in drip irrigation or a soaker hose is a more systematic and cost-effective method. It may be a bit more expensive upfront, but it’s well worth it.
These two systems water the plants at the base, where they need it the most, preventing evaporation and water waste. Avoid sprinklers as they drop water on top of leaves, which may cause powdery mildew and other diseases. If you’re a busy gardener who leads a busy life, consider building your own self-watering garden bed.
Put Your Plants in Their Place
Try to lay out the garden boxes horizontally and facing south so that all plants are exposed to full sun. If this is not a viable option, plant taller species on the north side of the bed and smaller ones towards the south.
Plants that need less care can be placed in the center of the bed, while veggies that require more attention should be planted near the edges.
Starting a Raised Vegetable Garden Is Easy and Fun
If you’re new to gardening and believe you need a lot of space to start your own green corner, raised vegetable gardens will change your perspective.
When set up correctly, they’re effective, highly-productive, and very low-maintenance compared to conventional gardens.
Now that you’ve learned the basics about these incredible gardening boxes, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start growing the veggie garden of your dreams. For more tips and tricks on how to add more green to your life, be sure to check out the Back to the Roots blog.