With the ever-increasing interest in growing your own veg at home these days, lots of people are turning over parts of their gardens to veg patches. Others, especially those with small gardens, are not so lucky as they simply don’t have the space. Judging by the questions we’re receiving in the Flower Power Gardening Club there’s also an increasing interest in raised beds. Which, are far as I’m concerned, is all good news.
I love raised beds! I grow lots of my veggies in raised beds, even though I have the space for a more traditional vegetable garden. The reason is that they give me lots of advantages.
- I have back problems, and being raised, there is less bending to do.
- My soil is clay and they provide much better growing conditions, which I can also easily control.
- They warm up quicker than my soil in spring, so I can get growing earlier in the year.
- They grow more crops than growing in the ground.
The whats, the whys and the wherefores
A raised bed is simply that. It’s an area of raised soil that is usually enclosed within walls that contain it within an easy to manage area. These walls can be made from wood or brick, but wood is the traditional choice. You can use wooden planks, scaffold boards, sleepers or get your hands on pre-made kits, such as those offered by WoodblocX. Wider walls give you somewhere to sit, to make tending them more comfortable, but obviously take up a bit more of the growing space.
The height of the beds can be anything you like – but the taller they are, the more expensive they become. Mine are 20cm (8in) high. If the soil under the beds is really poor, then higher is better, as they provide deeper rooting zones, but you’re unlikely to need anything deeper than 30cm (12in).
The beds can be any size you like, but the best width is 1.2m (4ft), as this gives ample growing space and it allows you to stretch in to the middle from either side. As for length, don’t make the mistake I did once. I wanted to maximise the space I had, so I made them 4.8m (16ft) long; unfortunately, this involved a lot of walking around them to get to the other side! My next ones were 2.4m (8ft) and 1.8m (6ft) long.
The BIG difference – raised beds and no dig
One of the advantages of raised beds is that you can choose what to fill them with. And the better it is, the more productive they are. The ideal is good soil mixed roughly 50:50 with organic matter, such as home-made compost or well-rotted manure. Other materials, such as bagged compost, composted bark and spent mushroom compost also work, just not as well. As with a good cake – the filling is the most important bit!
If you use a highly fertile soil/compost mix, the fertility and productivity of the bed go through the roof. This allows you to grow crops closer together than you would in the ground and that is recommended on seed packets, and get the same yield as if you were growing them at the further distances in the ground.
The other important thing to bear in mind, is that you never walk on them – hence all my walking around them. Walking on them compacts the soil and reduces plant growth and productivity. This is why heavy clays soils often fail to grow plants well.
The other advantage of raised beds is the “no dig” system. Because you never walk on them, you never have to dig them – which is great news for my back! Once crops are cleared, just add more compost/manure to the surface. Easy – and productive.
Pod’s the answer
Making raised beds on patios and other hard surfaces is difficult if not impossible. Which is why we love Vegepods and why we’re now selling them. These self-contained growing units are the perfect answer for these areas – and anywhere else in the garden, too.
Vegepods help you control the growth and quality of your veg in an environment away from the ground and away from pests. Their black body absorbs warmth from the sun, keeping all your plants nice and warm and growing at a quick, steady pace.
The in-built self-watering wicking system allows plants to look after themselves, reducing watering needs – and the number of times you have to water – and helping to recycle essential plant nutrients. The irrigation system in the cover even makes watering easy.
You can even buy a stand or wheeled trolley stand that makes them even easier to use – no stooping down to tend to your veg – especially if you have mobility issues, problems bending down or garden from a wheelchair.
Finally, the Vegepod’s mesh cover keeps out pests, minimises weather damage and creates fabulous growing conditions inside. You can even add a Hothouse Cover that creates a greenhouse/polytunnel environment, keeping heat in, and keeping cold and rain out, perfect for getting your veggies off to the perfect start in life.