Well, it’s that time of the year again! If you haven’t got your garden started, you may be missing out on some early spring crops. Today, many people are no longer using the traditional gardening method of plowing a large area and then planting their crops in nice, neat rows. Many folks are now using smaller raised beds framed with lumber, logs, local rocks or other material that are closer to the house and a steady water supply. These raised beds are generally at least 12 inches tall. The width of a raised bed is dependant on one’s reach and are usually under 4 ft. Length is where raised beds vary the most, from 4 ft all the ways up to 16 ft depending on your needs.
Raised beds are often placed in locations that are aesthetically pleasing to the landscape. Since we don’t live in a perfect world, it is not always possible to have all of the aspects of a location to be perfect. When choosing your site, if the property is not perfectly level, that’s not the end of the world. On the high side of the slope, you can use shorter boards such as a 2 x 6 and on the low side you can use taller boards like 2 x12’s in order even things up. This will generally work for most mild to medium slopes. When choosing a location there are a few things to consider such as sun exposure and size It is usually best for most plants that you will be growing, as much sun as possible. When a plant calls for full sun that means no less than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Most of your summer crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and corn are full sun. Shade loving plants include most of your cool weather crops like cabbages, greens, onions, and radishes.
Another thing to consider is the size of the areas that you want to plant. We tend to get overly aggressive when it comes to the size. We envision all of the fresh vegetables that we are going to eat and preserve and then we think of all of the ways that our crops can help others by supplying them with home grown products. While these are all admirable thoughts, we need to be realistic and not plant more than we are able to keep under control. Too often we go crazy at planting time and then six weeks later we fall behind and lose confidence in our project and it falls apart and we end up with nothing but discouragement. Start with what you can comfortably manage and then build from there.
The next thing you need to consider is what planting medium you will fill your raised beds with and where you will acquire it. Do you have adequate soil on your property or will you have to purchase it? Make sure that you have your soil tested at your local Soil Conservation District. This is a very important step, so don’t skip it.
You will also need to keep in mind the maintenance the project requires. This was mentioned earlier but it is so important. Keep up with your work! If you fall behind, the weeds will take over and at this point it is easy to give up.
Finally, Be thinking about the crops that you will be planting and plant things that you and your family enjoy eating. Having said that, don’t be afraid to try something new. Often you will find something that you never tried before but all of a sudden, like it. Let this be a learning experience for you and your family and get as many involved in your project as possible.
Tom with raised beds he built for The Lords Cafe in McCreary County Kentucky.
At Times especially in our region of the United States it is hard to find a level space to plant a garden, or it may be our soil is just not fit to raise a garden. Raised beds then become a fabulous option for us. There are several ways to get started with raised beds one method id to double dig the beds first. Here in these beds where you see the grass on the inside. A thick layer of cardboard will be put down to smother the grass out and soil will be added.
The Lord’s Cafe (www.crossroadscommunitybc.org/index.html) is a ministry of Crossroads Community Baptist Church founded by Pastor Grant Hasty and his wife Gina. The cafe is a Grow Appalachia participant in McCreary County Kentucky. They work toward feeding free lunch to the locals three days a week and increase to 5 days a week in the summer months. In these raised beds pictured above the plan is to grow food that can be served in the cafe.