Raised Bed Checklist
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2014
URBANA, Ill.- The idea of
putting in a raised-bed vegetable garden can be confusing if you're not sure
where to start, said a University of Illinois horticulture educator.
It can be especially difficult for schools and communities
that have never put in gardens before. Spring is a great time to start planning
for this year's garden, said Candice Miller.
"A checklist can be helpful in putting in a raised-bed
garden," Miller said. "The list below can help you work through all the steps
of putting in a raised-bed garden, from selecting a location for your raised
bed, all the way through planting your bed."
Step 1: Choose a location
The location for a raised bed should be in full
sun for most fruits and vegetables.
It should be near a water source for easy
watering and should be close to the building for convenient harvesting.
The bed can face any direction, but if you are
building a longer bed, orienting the bed east and west will provide better
Step 2: Kill off existing vegetation where your raised
bed will go
Grass and weeds can grow up through the new bed
so it's best to kill off any existing grass and weeds prior to putting the soil
in the bed.
This can be done naturally by placing plastic,
cardboard, or layers of newspaper down over the vegetation. This will eliminate
all light from the plants and will kill off the growth over a few months' time.
This can be done in the fall so that the area is ready for spring planting.
Newspaper or cardboard can be left at the bottom of the bed as it will degrade,
but plastic should be removed prior to placing soil in order to not impede the
drainage of your bed.
Another method is to spray the existing
vegetation with a herbicide, like glyphosate, to kill all existing vegetation.
Follow the safety and application instructions on the product label.
Step 3: Choose your construction materials
Raised beds can be constructed out of just about
anything. Some of the most popular choices include redwood or cedar wood,
concrete blocks, bricks, stone, and various recycled materials.
Redwood and cedar are some of the longest-lasting
woods for building raised beds.
Some materials you want to avoid include some
treated lumbers (read more about treated lumbers here: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uc173.pdf),
creosote-treated railroad ties, and chemically treated pallet wood. Avoid any
type of material that may be dangerous for food products to come in contact
with. If these materials are used for bed construction, the bed may be lined
with plastic to avoid contact of the materials with the soil.
Choose whatever material will be the most
economical and long lasting for your bed.
Step 4: Build your bed
The size of the bed will depend on the number of
people the bed will provide with food.
Beds should be no more than 4 feet wide if
accessible from both sides and 3 feet if accessible from one side. The length
of the bed can be as long as needed.
The depth of the bed should be at least 6 to 12
inches to promote good root growth.
Beds built higher than 18 to 24 inches will need
At least a 4-foot-wide pathway between beds is
standard for easy accessibility. This pathway can also be covered with mulch,
straw, newspaper, etc., to prevent weeds. It can be planted with grass as long
as the pathway is large enough to allow a mower to pass through.
Step 5: Fill your bed with soil
The soil used for the bed should include good
topsoil and lots of organic matter. This can be any combination of: purchased
topsoil, compost, fine pine bark mulch, or peat moss.
A soil mixture example could be: 60 percent
topsoil, 30 percent compost, 10 percent soilless growing mix that contains peat
moss, perlite, and/or vermiculite.
Various websites have soil calculators available
that can tell you how much soil is needed for a certain bed size.
It's recommended (though not required) to test
the soil using a soil test kit prior to planting and in years following to
monitor pH and nutrient levels.
Step 6: Plant your bed
Nearly anything can be
grown in a raised bed. Cucurbit crops like melons and cucumbers may be better
suited to a larger site though as they quickly fill a bed.
Plant spacing is very
important in a raised bed so that prime planting space is not wasted. Consult
your seed packet for information on proper spacing. Information can also be
found on U of I Extension websites (http://web.extension.illinois.edu/vegguide/step02.cfm) and in various books about ways to maximize planting
Be sure to place
taller vegetables on the appropriate side of the bed to prevent shading of
other plants in the bed.
Visit the Illinois
Vegetable Garden Guide website by U of I Extension for more information on
raised beds and vegetable gardening: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/vegguide/
Source: Candice Miller, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com