Here are some pitfalls to avoid when you build a raised bed garden. The internet is filled with articles on “how to build a raised bed garden,” as a topic, but they often lack specific information that you need after you’ve built the bed.
Raised bed gardens are extraordinarily popular with both experienced gardeners and newbies. Whether you’re growing vegetables, flowers, or herbs, it’s hard to beat a raised bed garden.
WHY RAISED BED GARDENS ARE INCREDIBLY POPULAR
- They are easy to build.
- Raised bed gardens are attractive and can even be a “feature” in your yard.
- It’s easy to keep this garden weed-free.
- Reaching plants is easy, even for someone with a mobility challenge.
- You get good yields of veggies and herbs.
That said, here are 5 common pitfalls to avoid with a raised bed system.
PITFALL ONE – MAKING THE BOX TOO SMALL
Before you create the box that’s the base of your raised bed garden, have a good idea of what you want to grow. Some plants, like tomatoes, need a lot of space to grow big and flourish.
Read your seed packet. It if tells you that your plant needs 18″ between plants and you want to plant six plants, that means you need a box that measures about 6 feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide. Do the math to make sure that you’re not crowding your plants.
Overcrowding your plants will lead to a mess of tangled plants with low yields.
PITFALL TWO – MAKING THE BOX TOO BIG
On the other hand, you can also make your box too BIG! Part of the appeal of the raised bed garden is that you can reach into the boxes to tend to the plants. You will need to pull weeds, remove dead leaves, inspect for insect infestations, and pick flowers, vegetables, or herbs.
If you make the box so large that you can’t reach the middle, you have defeated the purpose.
If you intend to plant a lot of plants, consider building two or three correctly-sized raised beds instead of one huge one.
PITFALL THREE – SKIPPING THE WEED CONTROL FABRIC OR MULCH
Some tutorials on how to build raised beds don’t mention that you should add weed control fabric. Mulch or other weed control measures are a must for your gardening success.
The appeal of a raised bed garden is partially the easy care. If you skip the weed control fabric, you will have deeply rooted weeds that are difficult to remove. As a result of all this extra work, you might even decide to quit gardening.
Weed control fabric is affordable and you can even buy it online. It’s in every hardware store. Just roll out the fabric, cut it to size, put your bed frame over it, and fill your garden.
It’s so easy to install that you won’t even believe it! Just roll out the fabric, cut it to size, put your bed frame over it, and fill your garden.
PITFALL FOUR: UNDERFILLING THE BED
I am guilty of pitfall #4. I tend to underfill my raised beds, every year. So I speak to this with my personal first-hand experience!
When you add your soil, compost, and organic materials, the bed will look rather full. However, the materials are going to settle. Rain will drive it down and maybe even spill some over the sides of the box. Little bunnies will visit your garden and lightly tamp down the soils. You will press your hands around as you’re planting.
All of these (and many other factors) will compact the soil.
PITFALL FIVE: POORLY SELECTED GARDEN BED SITE
Pitfall five, I was found guilty of. When I was a new gardener, I once planted a garden in a beautiful location. But I didn’t realize that my water hose didn’t reach. So I found myself hauling five-gallon buckets of water to the garden. Then, I had to use an iced tea pitcher to scoop out the water and pour it over the plants. It was a disaster. That garden only lasted one season.
Make sure that you select a site where your water hose can reach. That should go without saying, but I know that my enthusiasm for making a garden clouded my common sense at one time.
Also, make sure that your garden beds get the proper amount of sunlight per day for the plants you want to grow. Again, knowing your desired plants in advance of building the boxes is key to being successful.