Vegetables Grown Easy

Rafash Brew is the Area Horticulture Specialist for the LSU AgCenter.

This article originally ran in the Ruston Daily Leader on April 12, 2011, and you may also view this article at the Fount's web site.

Thinking about vegetable gardening this spring? What about raised bed gardening? Traditionally, to grow your own fresh vegetables, we often thought that we had to have a back-40 or some large area to plant, along with equipment such as a tractor or tiller, which is not necessarily true. A garden salad can be produced in small raised bed 4 foor x 4 foot gardens or even in containers. This is what we have set up to do with school and community gardens throughout northern Louisiana.

A raised bed garden can be as rustic or as contemporary as you like. Raised beds can be very inexpensive using recycled material or very expensive using decorative stones or bricks. One of the greatest things that we want to keep in mind is the ease in the maintenance of the garden. For instance, in many cases where we use a garden tiller to turn over soil, we often later encounter a battle with weeds, which can be very discouraging. Building raised beds, we can combat the weed problem from the start. The typical size of a raised bed garden is approximately 10 feet long and 4 feet wide.

The first thing to do when building a raised bed for vegetables is to locate the garden in as much sunlight as possible. The fruit-bearing crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, need full sunlight for best production. Too much shade results in a very disappointed gardener because of limited production, although the leafy vegetables will tolerate more shade than the root or fruit bearing crops.

To suppress the weeds we can lay a weed mat on the ground or cover the small area with several layers of newspaper or cardboard. The weed mats are normally sold in garden centers and can be costly. However, they are very effective at blocking the light from the grassy weeds and allowing your plants above the mat to thrive. The cardboard or newspaper can be recycled material.

Once you have placed several layers of newspaper or cardboard on the ground to suppress the weeds, determine what to use as the side walls. Side walls can be made of lumber, rubber borders, stones, bricks or anything that will hold soil. The height of the garden bed can be as high is you like; however, a 4- to 6-inch depth is sufficient to grow vegetables.

Once you have established your side walls, you are ready to fill the bed with soil. Remember, you want to keep a raised bed weed-free so caution should be taken in determining what soil type to use to fill your raised bed. It is no fun if you have to weed the garden each time you go out. Soil purchased in bags is normally free of unwanted weeds and can be handled easily. If you have a well-aged compost pile, this soil may be just what you need.

Once you have filled your bed with soil, you are ready to figure out what you are going to plant. A garden salad can be produced from the seeds of lettuce, radishes, spinach and carrots in just 45 days. Tomatoes and cucumber can be added later after there is no danger of frost. Remember you do not have to have a back-40 or a garden tractor or tiller to grow your own vegetables.

For more information, please contact me.

4/11/2011 8:57:00 PM
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