Raise beds are great for growing vegetables and flowers, but they also require a significant investment in time and effort. If you want to get started with raised bed gardening, beginners often make some common errors. Read on so that you don't make those mistakes and handle your raised bed a little more easily.
10 Mistakes to Avoid When Gardening In Raised Beds:
1. There is too much space between raised beds.
Raised beds are great because you can grow taller crops like tomatoes and cucumbers. However, one of the drawbacks of raised beds is that they're typically wider than traditional gardens.
If you've ever tried to walk around a raised bed, you know what I'm talking about. You'll probably crush some of the soil underneath your feet every time you take a step.
This causes compacted soil, making it harder for roots to penetrate the ground. And since roots are essential for plant growth, this leads to stunted plants.
Soil compaction happens naturally when you use heavy machinery such as tractors, wheelbarrows, etc. Or, it could happen when people walk over the same area repeatedly.
The good news is that there's a simple solution. We just need to learn how to keep our soil loose enough to breathe while still being strong enough to support our plants.
2. Weed Barriers Not Applied
If you don't use a weed barrier down at the base of the bed, you'll likely find yourself pulling out some nasty weeds along with those beautiful flowers.
If you've ever had a lawn mowed under your raised beds, you know how fast grass grows once it's exposed. And if you haven't been keeping the grass trimmed around your raised beds, you'll probably see weeds pop up quickly.
Here's why: Grassroots spread like crazy, especially when they're growing underground. First, they send out root hairs that break into tiny pieces of soil called "rhizomes."
These rhizomes are small plants themselves, but they keep sending out more rhizomes. Eventually, the grass reaches the ground's surface and starts producing leaves again, and voilà. You have grass.
To prevent this, you must cover your raised beds with weed barriers or fabric mulch. The fabric mulch comes in different materials, depending on where you live. For example, you might find plastic mulch in California and straw mulch in New England.
3. Plants Are Too Tall
When we think of raised beds, we tend to envision them filled with tall plants like tomato vines. While these plants look nice, they actually cause problems in terms of drainage.
Since you're trying to create a dry environment inside your raised beds, having too tall plants can lead to waterlogged soil. That's not ideal for your plants.
It may be tempting to try planting vegetables and other annuals right away, but it's best to wait until the weather gets cooler before introducing new plants to your garden.
This gives your plants a chance to acclimate to their surroundings. Plus, you want to give your plants plenty of room to grow. So make sure you leave lots of space below the plants.
4. No Mulching
Mulches help keep moisture in the soil and protect against erosion. They also serve as a natural fertilizer and help retain nutrients. But without mulch, you're exposing your soil to potential threats.
For starters, bare soil attracts animals and insects like rabbits, mice, birds, and deer. When these pests eat your plants, they can carry diseases that kill off your entire crop.
But even if you avoid animal attacks, you should always use a thick layer of mulch. It helps prevent soil erosion by holding back rainwater and snow melt. It also keeps the soil warm, which encourages plant growth.
5. Using Irrigation without Proper Drainage
There are two key things to consider when watering your raised beds. First, you want to ensure that any irrigation system you install drains properly. You don't want standing water collecting anywhere near your plants.
Second, you want to ensure enough space between your plants so that the excess water doesn't run through the middle of the row and soak your neighbors' plants. A simple way to do this is to set aside just a few inches between rows.
6. Not Watering Enough
If you aren't giving your plants adequate water, they won't thrive. And no amount of fertilizer will compensate for the lack of moisture. Over-fertilizing can result in stunted growth because it takes time for plants to absorb nutrients.
7. Failing to Add Nutrients
Plants need both nitrogen and phosphorus to get strong and healthy. If you feed your plants nitrogen but neglect to add phosphorous, you'll have weak stems and leaves.
8. Planting Too Many Vegetables at One time
Vegetables often require more sunlight than most crops. That means they need at least six hours of direct light each day. However, many people only have four hours of sunshine during summer.
To make matters worse, you can end up with overcrowded plants. When that happens, your plants can't access much oxygen or nutrients. As a result, they become stressed and less likely to produce fruit or flowers.
9. Forgetting About Insect Pests
Many bugs and weeds prefer warmer temperatures than those found indoors. Unfortunately, that means they'll probably show up in your vegetable garden sooner rather than later.
10. Getting Started too Early
The last mistake beginners make is starting their gardening too early. You want to let your plants acclimate to outdoor conditions before trying to grow them outside.
It's better to wait until spring comes around again before planting anything outdoors. Then, once the temperature rises above freezing, you can start growing plants outside.
How can you avoid these raised bed mistakes?
Raised beds are an excellent way to grow vegetables in your backyard without spending money on soil or fertilizer. However, if you're not careful, they can be very dangerous. So here are some common mistakes when building raised beds.
Step 1: Don't Leave Your Bed Unfinished
When raising bed construction, it's best to leave the frame unfinished until everything else has been completed. For example, don't put down the plastic liner until you've planted your seeds. You want to ensure that the bed isn't leaking or getting wet.
Step 2: Make Sure Each Side Is Level
Raised beds come in different sizes, so it's important to check both sides of each bed to ensure they're even. Use a string line or measuring tape to do this. It's also important to fill the spaces between the plants; otherwise, roots may grow out of nowhere.
Step 3: Keep Out of Reach of Children
You never know what kids might find in their yards, so keep them away from raised beds. In addition, make sure no tools or other items are lying around the garden. Kids can easily fall on sharp objects and become injured, so make sure they stay safe.
Step 4: Don't Build over Water
If you live near a body of water like a pond or lake, you should build your raised bed about two feet higher than that area. This will help prevent any debris from falling into the water.
Step 5: Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
It's easy to follow instructions when you're starting, but as you progress through your gardening career, you'll need to ask questions. If you aren't sure how to go about something, seek advice. You could also ask your local nursery or garden center to give you some tips. They can usually point you in the right direction.
Step 6: Choose the Right Size
Once your raised bed is built, you'll want to choose the size that works well for you. Smaller raised beds allow you to plant more closely together, while larger ones are good for sprawling veggies like pumpkins.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the biggest mistakes you see in your garden?
Using too small pots.
2. How big should your pots be?
Indeterminate varieties require 5-gallon pails or 2-foot wide pots if you want to grow them.
3. Which soil must be avoided for a raised bed?
Never use garden soil or soil from the ground in a raised bed because it contains bacteria and holds too much water.
4. When should I add potting soil?
In addition to potting soil, you need more substance.
5. How wide a raised bed should be?
It should be 2.5 feet wide, which makes it easy to work from one side if needed.
Raised beds are a great option for growing fresh organic food, but you should be aware of their risks. By following these steps, you can ensure your raised beds are as safe as possible.