Creating a raised bed in which to grow your vegetables is a great idea. Soil in a raised bed warms up faster than the surrounding soil, meaning you can make the most of your growing period. Raised beds also offer more protection from pests and weeds. Lastly, the soil can be managed more easily than in normal beds, being less compacted and more contained.
What you need:
- Edging Tool (or spade)
- 4 x Large boards (scaffolding boards are perfect)
- 4 x Short blocks of wood
- 8 or 10 x wooden stakes (50-60cm long)
Marking out the Raised Bed
Check the length of your boards and if they are longer than the raised bed needs to be, trim them down to the correct length. Now, using your edging tool or spade, mark out the shape of the raised bed in the ground. You should then dig about 10cm into the ground along the marked lines and pile the soil into the middle of the bed.
Creating the sides
Place your boards into position along the “trench” you have created around the edge of your bed. Ideally, you should be able to reach the middle of the raised bed easily, and without standing on the bed. If needed, move the edges in until you can do this (it makes working at the bed much easier in the future, if you do this now). Make sure the boards are laying level in the trenches and make sure they meet at all four corners.
Place the four short wooden blocks in the corners and mark their positions on the end boards. Screw or nail them into position on the end boards and then, in turn, screw the side boards into the blocks. You should now have your rectangular raised bed shape. Again, make sure this sits nicely in the trenches around the edge.
With a mallet or hammer, drive the 10 stakes into the ground on the outside of the boards, spacing them out evenly on the longer sides and the ends. Hammer them flush with the top of the boards. These will stop the boards spreading out when the earth inside is piled against them.
Spread the soil in the center out to the edges and dig over the whole bed well. Now add Manure and compost and dig this in. The level of the bed should be slightly below the level of the boards. This depth of soil will be perfect for most root vegetables. All you need to do now is plan your crop!
What to Grow in a Raised Bed
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a relatively easy thing to start doing. However, there are several things you want to consider before digging up your lawn for a raised bed and planting dozens of potato plants.
Choosing your crop
The most important thing to think about is what fruit and veg you like and use regularly. Radishes are easy to grow in most gardens, but no good if you only have radish once in a blue moon and most of your family don’t even like it. Make a list, plan your “perfect crop” and then find out if growing those things is possible. You may have to compromise in places, but that isn’t a bad thing, Maybe you will even discover something new that you like!
However, it is also worth looking at how much time a particular type of vegetable will take to look after. Some crops will demand a lot of your time, especially things like peas and celery, whilst others like turnip and broad beans almost grow on their own with little input needed other than watering. A good beginner crop list might look something like:
Location, Location, Location
When thinking about GYO, you need to consider both the geographical location of your garden, and then the location of your vegetable plot within that garden. It is going to be much easier to grow tomatoes outside in Devon than it is to grow them outside in Glasgow. If you know anyone locally who grow’s their own, they could be a font of useful advice concerning what is viable and what isn’t in your part of the country. It is not just temperature that will dictate this, soil conditions also vary greatly across the UK, and whilst carrots will grow well in sandy, well drained soil, they will have a difficult time in soil heavy with clay.
Next you need to look at where you are going to have your growing beds. Ideally you should try to keep a vegetable patch in the open so it gets the sun for as much of the day as possible. Very few crops will grow in shaded areas (Artichokes and spinach being some of the few that can tolerate light shade). If you have room against a south-facing wall, consider buying or building a Cold Frame. This can extend your viable growing season by several weeks in some areas. You can buy a ready-made cold frame for as little as £30 or make one for even less.
Size Isn’t Everything
Having a small garden or even a concrete covered yard doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own. You just need a be a bit more selective about exactly what you grow. If you have a large garden, you could very well dedicate one area to slower growing main crop vegetables like Potatoes and swede, and another area to faster growing salad vegetables. However, in a small garden, growing main crop vegetables might not be a great use of space. In the time it takes to grow one crop of swede, you could have grown several crops of salad veg in the same area.
If your garden is particularly short of usable ground, you can always grow in containers. You choices will be much more limited, and the containers will need to be fairly large, but you can still produce a good amount of food. Websites such as www.greenhousesensation.co.uk sell purpose made “mini gardens” with the option of protective covers. This means that even if you only have a balcony, you can still GYO.
So you can see, with a bit of thought, almost anyone can grow their own. Next we will be taking a in-depth look at some main GYO crops, with advice on growing each type.