Raised beds are a solution to a couple of gardening nightmares—whether it be weed invasion or soil compaction. From durability to pest control, here are some tips from the BH&G Test Garden that will help you make the most out of the raised beds in your garden.
At this point, we're guessing you've heard of raised garden beds. You get the perks of container gardening without the size limitation for strong root growth. At the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden, we have 14 raised beds filled with vegetables and herbs. From growing in raised beds for years, we have gained a lot of knowledge along the way.
Use Drip Irrigation
When it comes to watering, especially larger gardens, drip irrigation is the way to go. The hoses make it easy to distribute the water evenly across the bed, and having them laid out ahead of time makes watering as easy as turning on the garden hose. You can also set your irrigation on a timer so your system is highly-efficient and reliable. Drip irrigation also prevents disease and mildew from large amounts of sitting water.
Install Rabbit Fencing
Although we love the natural world, we don't love when rabbits eat our lettuce and tomatoes that we worked so hard to grow all season. If you have issues with hungry critters in your garden, try installing rabbit fencing around the plants that they target. Make sure to look for the fences that have smaller gaps near the surface of the soil so rabbits can't squeeze through.
Have Beds of Different Shapes and Sizes
Vary the size and shape of your raised beds if you have an arrangement of more than one. Some plants need room to sprawl and expand, so you need something long enough to hold those plants. Other plants will take over the entire bed if you let them and will choke out the other plants in the bed. Having different shapes and sizes can control the plants that need to be and let the plants that need to vine go wild.
Make Sure Everything is Within Reach
Be really mindful about size. You don't want to have to step into the bed too often, because you could crush plants or compact the soil to a point where the plants can't get water. But, you need to be able to weed, deadhead, prune, and water the entire bed in order to keep your plants growing strong and healthy. Make sure you can do all those things without having to step into the bed.
Use Long-Lasting Frames
Never settle for sub-par raised bed framing materials, no matter how inexpensive they are. Once you fill a raised bed, it's really hard to replace the sides without having soil spill out and make a mess. The raised bed in the test garden are made of long-lasting composite deck material. We chose this because it's rot-resistant, resistant to insect damage, weather-resistant, and doesn't crack, split or fade easily.
You can read the best gardening books and do as much research as you can, but you never learn as much about gardening as you do in practice. The Test Garden exists so we can grow our own plants and learn along the way. We hope our raised bed tips help you in your personal garden and gives you a place to start in raised bed gardening.