Raised Bed Organic Garden
A raised bed organic garden is not only an effective method for growing healthy vegetables, but it is also one of the easiest gardening methods that you are likely to find. The secret lies within its superior drainage capability which allows for constant irrigation without the risk of rotting the roots. If you have been contemplating starting a raised bed organic garden next year, this fall is a great time to begin.
There are many per-fabricated styles that are available through mail order or on the internet but it is not surprising to find yourself spending a couple hundred dollars or more by the time you make a selection and then add in the shipping costs. But I have to tell you in all honesty that your vegetables are not going to know the difference and it certainly is not going to do anything to increase your success. What matters the most is not what it is made of or even what it looks like, but what it is filed with.
A simple and inexpensive design that I use consists 2” X 6” X 8’ boards that are readily available at most lumber yards or hardware stores. I get mine from Home Depot simply because it is the closest retailer to my home. You will find that most stores will be more than happy to cut your boards to your measurements if you ask.
What I do is cut one board into four equal sections of two feet and use a couple for the end pieces between two eight foot boards. You can start with one of these simple beds for the first season and then add additional layers as time goes by or start with two or three stacked on top of each other. That is a decision that should be made after you determine if you have enough fertile soil to fill them with after you are done. Typically, most people start with one and then add another section on top at the end of each season.
One reason why fall is a good time to start your raised bed is that you have plenty of time build sufficient amounts of soil to fill them. Instead of sending all those leaves and grass clippings to the landfill, you can recycle them right in your raised beds. Simply run your mower over the leaves a few times to chop them up in nice small pieces and then mix with the grass clippings. I like to use a lot of the tall grass that grows on the back side of my property.
Put it in your beds and water well to help pack it all down. I shovel dirt on top for two reasons, it helps keep it from blowing around and it contains earthworms and microorganisms which help to break it all down that much faster.
You can even add all that shredded paper from under your desk and recycle that as well. It is also a good idea to add a couple bags of compost from your local garden center. I use a product called Nature’s Blend, cotton burr compost. It is made from the debris left over from ginning cotton and it produces very good quality compost.
If you are fortunate enough to live anywhere near a farm or ranch, ask if you can get a couple buckets (or more) of manure that you can mix into your beds. This step, while unpleasant to some is a critical ingredient to building the overall quality of your soil. If you are able to walk out through the pasture you can find piles of droppings that are old and weathered.
These will not be nearly as heavy or ‘aromatic’ as fresh manure and should be your first choice. Break up the clumps with a spade before adding it to your raised bed.
The philosophy behind organic gardening is to use natural amendments that to build soil that is alive. Even if you live in an area where the soil is of poor quality it still has many of the needed components. Don’t be afraid to mix it into your beds. We have clay in our region, but even clay has many nutrients locked up in that tight lattice-like soil structure which are beneficial. I have used up to third of the total bed capacity with no ill effects. The following year after harvesting and turning the soil it is all broken down nicely and all you see is rich dark soil. In fact I am often able to dig down several inches below the bed into the ground before I hit solid clay.
This summer I started using the Bokashi method for recycling my household waste and I have been able to build up my beds quite quickly. Bokashi doesn’t break down organic material the way composting does, so you have probably four times as much to amend with than if you had composted it. Unlike composting, Bokashi ferments organic waste without decomposition and preserves all the natural elements that we need for our soil.
If you are unfamiliar with Bokashi then you are missing out on the greatest thing to come road for gardeners in a long while. You can find out more detailed information about what Bokashi is and how you can make it by visiting
Between your shredded lawn waste, horse or cow manure, a few bags of commercially available compost and the continual addition from your Bokashi buckets you will have plenty of rich fertile soil in your raised beds by the time Spring rolls around.
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