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10 Tips to Keep in Mind When Maintaining a Raised Bed Garden

With Grocery Prices going through the Roof, planting your own produce has never been a more popular idea.

According to USDA, all food prices are now predicted to increase between 4.5 and 5.5 percent. This includes fruits and vegetables, which are a necessity to any healthy diet. To ease their mind at the thought of an unreliable food supply, many homeowners are exploring alternatives such as sustainable gardens.  

If you want to start your own garden, odds are you’ll want to grow produce in your own backyard. Any experienced gardener could tell you that maintaining a well manicured garden that grows glistening produce doesn’t happen without a little elbow grease. Because of this, many argue that gardening is too time intensive or costly. It doesn’t have to be that way! The trick to a sustainable and flourishing garden is working smarter, not harder.

Many beginner and seasoned gardeners utilize raised bed gardens to grow produce. Not only do they look great when well kept, but they provide a lot of control over the ground environment your plants inhibit.

Here are 10 raised bed garden tips to help keep you on track!

1: Consider What Size Garden Bed You Want

What size bed works best in the space you have provided? Raised garden beds offer flexibility regardless of how small or big of a growing space. Take a browse at the many kits available or invest in building your own with some lumber planks!

What size garden bed works best?

A good rule of thumb to follow is making sure the width of boxes are small enough that you can water from both sides without standing in the middle. This will ensure that you can care for your plants without having to exert too much effort.

Measuring

2: Have an Irrigation Plan

 This may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s definitely a key factor. How do you plan to get water to your plants? From a network of drip irrigation systems to a simple watering hose, anything can do the trick as long as the plants get full proper coverage inside the soil. You may even want to get a rain barrel or two nearby for free water!

 How much water do my plants need?

Deep watering is recommended for most crops because it promotes stronger root systems and healthier plants. However, if you have a crop with shallow root systems be sure to water carefully so as to not cause harm to them. Always check what kind of roots your plants have before placing them close together in the same bed!

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3: Account for Sunlight Coverage

With good sun coverage comes happier plants, so think about where you want to place the beds for the best possible sun coverage. The key is to find that sweet spot that offers full coverage on all sides.

How much sunlight do my plants need?

 In order to achieve a meaningful amount of growth for most plants, choose a place that receives around six to eight hours of sunlight per day.

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4: Don’t use Subpar Soils

It’s common for most people to think using dirt or old topsoil from their own backyard is more cost efficient. Unfortunately, most yards lack a proper balance of water retention, drainage, aeration, and acidity. While skipping this step may seem like you are saving a few bucks, the money lost from a lack of growth in your plants will greatly outweigh those benefits. Causing you to miss out on a bountiful harvest

What soil should I use?

APE offers screened, organic topsoil that is perfect for anyone’s garden bed.

This topsoil contains vital nutrients that make plants thrive over bagged soil. Skip the subpar big brand dirt and get what you need directly at the source. It even costs less!

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5: Utilize Mulch

Just because you have water, soil, and sunlight doesn’t mean you’re all set for the growing season yet! Leaving out mulch in the prep-work causes you to miss out on significant growth potential and water retention. Adding mulch to your garden helps monitor moisture and aerate the soil to give roots more oxygen. It deters weeds, so you’ll spend less time pulling unwanted growth that takes up space.

Where can I find the best mulch near me?

At APE, we know quality and quantity matters when it comes to plants. You can be certain you’re getting the best quality mulch North Carolina has to offer because we use 100% recycled mulch. On Budget. On Time. No Excuses.

We produce and grind our own mulch from 100% recycled trees opposed to other big brands that kill trees for their mulch.  That means we aren’t actively cutting down forests to supply our stock. Instead, we use natural vegetative debris that pays for itself in added effectiveness. By adding mulch, you are closer to reaching the maximum potential a garden can achieve. 

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6: Correctly Add Fertilizer

Fertilizer boosts any plant’s growth potential. It replenishes nutrients that have been lost over time, because plants need to eat too! This ensures that soil nutrient levels are sufficient for healthy development.

 How often and how much should I fertilize my garden?

This is dependent on the seasonal plants you’re growing. For instance, cool-weather crops like lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage have a very short growth season, taking as little as 60 days to reach maturity.

Because these early crops do not bear fruit, they require relatively little fertilizing past placing them in the ground. Adding a quick release 10-10-10 NPK (10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, 10% potassium) into the soil before sowing seeds often yields the best results.

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7: Invite Pollinators

Plants need their pollen spread to different plants’ flowers to thrive. The most common pollinators who carry out this action are bees, butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds. They like to nestle in the flowering bodies of plants so they can drink the nectar or store it to become honey. This scavenging trip has added benefits for all gardeners. While pollinators fly all over your garden, they will spread pollen to the flowers of other plants. A lack of pollinators around is a huge red flag! Your plants will lack sufficient growth if pollinators fail to drop by.

How can I get more pollinators to come to my garden?

Try planting annual flowers such as petunias, pansies, sunflowers, or alyssum. In addition to them adding beautiful color and variety to your garden, they are pollinator magnets because of their smell.

You can also create a water source for them. It is simply a shallow and accessible vessel of water that the creature can drink out of. Make sure the container you’re putting water in isn’t too deep so they don’t fall in! A tried and true method is getting a pie pan and putting a handful of ground oyster shells at the bottom of it. Any living thing love the hint of saltiness that the oyster shells give the water!

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8: Extend your Grow Season

 Raised beds can be turned into a makeshift greenhouse to extend your growth season. This is done with a little DIY that involves constructing a cold-frame on top of the garden bed.

What materials can I use to make a cold-frame?

Wood and old windows can be used to construct the top. You may cover your raised bed as needed by adding a couple hinges to the lid. Think of it as a barrier between the plants and the harsh elements while still letting in ample sunlight. This allows for better growing conditions.

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9: Amend Soil

As mentioned earlier, raised beds offer direct control over the ground environment they inhabit. With this ease comes the requirement of amended soil to replenish the ground with nutrients used from the previous plants.

What should I use to amend my soil?

In addition to APE’s hearty topsoil, we offer a nutritious compost blended topsoil that adds the right amount of nutrients to weak, malnourished soil where plants struggle to grow. This soil amendment blends screened, organic topsoil, compost containing turkey & chicken litter, gypsum and other organics, as well as mulch fines to add strength to existing soil and feed previously malnourished plants so that they may thrive.

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10: Don’t forget to Winterize!

Finally, remember to winterize your raised beds. Clear the grow space of all dead plants, garbage, and weeds.

What can I put over my raised bed?

Covering your bed with APE mulch and planting a cover crop can complete the process.

Clover, for example, is an excellent cover crop for returning nutrients to the soil. When the following growing season arrives, till the cover crops and mulch into the soil and compost it to aid the next generation of plants.

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This concludes our tips for raised beds. APE understands how important yard projects are to the vitality of our well being. Seeing our customers empowered in their growing projects is why we do what we love. Now get out there and start growin’!