Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening For Beginners Guide

Last updated: 02/03/21

I find vegetable gardening to be quite attractive. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a soil area that could support my interest. I saw that many had sucess with raised beds and thought it would be a great alternative. 

Are you looking to get into raised bed vegetable gardening as a beginner?

Well, I’ve got you covered.

In this article, I’ll tell you all you need to know about raised bed vegetable gardening for beginners. 

Let’s dig in!

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Gardening comes with its fair share of euphoria, especially for beginners. It’s a new experience that can turn out to be great or otherwise. In turn, it is this uncertainty that makes the whole experience all thrilling. 

However, as a beginner, it’s possible to increase your chances of achieving success, and significantly at that.

All it takes is attention to details and, of course, effort. So, what do you need to pay attention to?

Here are some keys to starting out.

1. Start Small

If you’re new to something, you need to start small and learn the ropes before expanding. This is one secret of life that applies to vegetable gardening.

You need to start with a small plot size that you can manage easily

One relevant rule is to start with only what you and your family member can consume. This system’s advantage is that it will ensure you do not expend too many resources if something goes wrong.

Even more, it will ensure you can pay attention to every area of your garden, something you’ll need at this early stage. 

So, while you need to go hard or go home, you don’t need to do this with a large garden. Pick a small area. Then, you can go hard in that area.

raised bed gardening beginner tips

2. Choose The Right Vegetables 

Most well-intentioned gardeners wonder if there’s anything like the right vegetable. Well, especially for a beginner, there is. You will need to ensure you plant only the right vegetables.

While we get to the best vegetables to plant later in this article, here, I’ll tell you what to consider when choosing veggies. 

Here are some things you’ll be smart to remember when choosing vegetables.

  • Pick only vegetables that you enjoy eating. You don’t want to choose a vegetable you or your family don’t consider as food regardless of how attractive it might seem.
  • It would be best to go for options that you like but can’t easily access at the supermarket.
  • Choosing vegetables that fit into your schedule and entire season. You don’t want to pick a high-maintenance vegetable when you’re going to have a busy schedule or go on summer vacation each planting season.
  • Ensure you get high-quality seeds when going for a veggie. 
  • You can always ask your friends for advice on what to plant.

Location Guide | Where to Place Your Garden?

Next up, you’ll need to pick a location for your vegetable gardening. I’ve got to tell you; this is no child’s play and any first-time gardeners.

In fact, getting this right will determine the whole course of your vegetable gardening experience. So, you’ve got to pay extra attention to getting the right location. 

Well, I wouldn’t tell you what to do without telling you how to do it.

Here are some steps to take when placing your garden each season. 

1. Get A Location with Good Access to Sunlight 

If there’s one recurrent vegetable gardening idea, it’s the reality that you can’t do without adequate direct sunlight. Like you can see, it’s not just sunlight but adequate hours of sunlight. This is because most veggies you’ll plant require access to a degree of sunlight.

You’ll find that a minimum of six hours of access to sunlight per day is required for most plants. They require this for their regular growth and development. In turn, they will experience poor growth without access to it. 

So, when looking for where to place your garden, you want to be sure you get a space that guarantees access to sunlight. Now, if you’re using a raised bed, you’ve got more options and flexibility. 

Regardless, ensure that you do not neglect to prioritize access to a sunny location. This way, you’re on your way to get the yield and results you desire from your vegetable gardening. 

2. Get a Location in a Firm and Stable Environment 

The next thing you’ll want to consider when getting a location is finding a stable and well-balanced environment. Keep in mind that this is about the environment and not the ground. You’re likely wondering what the environment has got to with your garden.

Well, a lot. The stability of your environment goes a long way in determining if your plants will survive or not. For instance, you don’t want to pick a place that records strong winds. 

In such an instance, your plant roots might not get the time to dive deep into the soil before they get blown away. The winds might prevent pollinators from functioning effectively. In turn, all this will culminate to hand you a bad experience.

You surely want to avoid this. Ensure you pick a location that enjoys stability. You don’t want a location that suffers from flooding. You also don’t want one that suffers from considerable foot traffic. All these are far from good news for your vegetable garden.

You want to devote considerable time to get a well-balanced environment. 

3. Go for a Well-drained and Moist Soil

Your choice of soil is perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a location. This is because of the significance the soil plays in the result of your gardening enterprise. You use a less than great soil, and you’re on your way to a bad harvest. It’s that simple.

You want to ensure that you pick a location that offers the best soil composition suitable for vegetable gardening. In some cases, it might be hard to get this naturally. This is where using a raised bed comes in. 

It allows you to get the best soil composition irrespective of the soil’s existing deficiencies in your area. You can also use mulches to improve your soil. Now, there is more to know about getting the best soil. So, we will get into more details as you read on.

How to Start Your First Vegetable Garden

Now that you’ve got a clear idea on choosing the best location, we can get right to starting your first vegetable garden using a raised bed. 

Here is all that you need to keep in mind when it comes to the garden plans.

Choose a Raised Bed

The first step is to choose a raised bed. You need to know there is a wide range of raised bed sizes, and they differ in width and height. However, when picking, remember that you need one that provides a great soil depth.

This is because the more inches of soil that you have, the more space for your plant’s roots to grow. In turn, this brings more productivity. 

I’ve got to say; the benefits are numerous. For instance, this will allow the soil to hold water while reducing your watering obligation significantly.

In case you’re wondering how many raised beds is appropriate, it would be best to stick with one raised bed as a beginner.

vegetable gardening fuide

Set-Up 

Once you’ve chosen a raised bed, the next thing you need to do is set it up. At this stage, you’ll need to pick the best location.

If you remember, I already discussed what to consider when choosing a location. So, prioritize all I’ve said when choosing a location.

You will also need to fill up the raised bed with soil. Ensure you use loamy soil. We will get to what you need to consider concerning your soil choice.

So, stay tuned. 

What to Plant

Next up, you will need to get to pick the vegetables you intend to grow. I’ve also told you what to consider when picking your vegetables, so keep them in mind. Just as a reminder, opt for what you and your family love eating.

You should also choose a high-quality seed.

I’ve got a list of twelve vegetable options that you can try out. So, stay tuned and read on to know them.

When to Plant

Next up, you’ll need to start planting. While this sounds all straightforward, you also need to know when to plant.

One thing you want to consider is the type of vegetable you will be planting. Usually, each vegetable has its preferred planting time. 

You want to consider the soil temperature and the danger of frost before you get to planting. Most plants require a set level of temperature – 60 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit – to grow appropriately.

So, ensure that you put this into consideration when choosing when to plant your vegetables. 

Tending to Your Vegetable Garden

You need to treat your plant as a baby. That is how much care you need to get the best result. You can’t just sow seeds and expect them to take care of yourself. You need to get this done yourself.

In turn, tending to your plant will include getting weeds out of your raised bed. Remember, you want to weed them out as soon as they grow. This way, your veggies are not competing with weeds for nutrients, space, and moisture. 

A good rule of thumb is to also mulch your plants to help prevent weeds.

You also want to fertilize your vegetables. Of course, no one asks you to overfertilize your plants as too many chemicals are bad for your veggies.

However, you want to fertilize them monthly with water-soluble options. It’s not a bad idea to add manure too.

In some cases, you’ll need to provide support either through a trellis or a cage to your plant. This is usually for climbing and vining plants. So, make provision for this where necessary. With the proper care, harvesting a great return becomes possible. 

Watering Your Vegetable Garden

Finally, you’ll need to provide adequate amounts of water to your veggies. In fact, this is non-negotiable. This is because your plants need water to grow. However, you’ll want to be careful and ensure that you do this right.

For instance, you want to get an irrigation system as your source of water. It will also help you avoid the risks that come with over-the-top watering.

Watering the leaves might cause fungi related issues with your plants. 

There is the need to avoid excess water. You don’t want the ground all soggy due to overwatering. Unfortunately, this will do more harm than good. So, be sure to check your soil to determine if there is a need for water. 

For instance, you’ll want to water less during the rainy season and water more when the weather is hot. So, just stick your fingers beyond the soil surface before watering. If it’s very damp or you’ve got wet soil, don’t water; if it’s slightly damp or hard, you can water. 

As mentioned above, using different types of mulches will help to regulate the evaporation of water.  Using mulch will also help with the top layer of soil to hasten the erosion of the soil’s beneficial nutrients.  A 1 to 2-inch layer of mulch is usually sufficient.

Soil is the Key to Growing Vegetables 

Like we have stated pretty much throughout this post, the soil you use in planting plays a vital role. You want to get the best result, then you need to remember that rich soil is key.

This is because your vegetables receive the nutrients they require for growth from the soil.

Generally, the soil structure comprises sand, clay, and silt in varying percentages resulting in different types of soils. You want a soil composition of 20% silt, 40% clay, and 40% sand for the best result.

This will provide you with loamy soil rather than sandy soils or clay soils. In turn, you get a soil that’s appropriate to provide you with the best results. 

In case you’re not sure about your soil composition, you can easily ascertain this through a test. This isn’t a pH test; instead, it is the “mason jar” test. All you need to do is get a sealable jar.

Afterward, pour the soil in question into it until it’s half full. 

Then, add water to the jar to get it all filled up. You can now seal the jar before shaking the jar vigorously. Following this, you can then drop the jar and allow it to settle for a few hours.

The soil composition will become evident as the clay will be top, silt in the middle, and sand at the bottom.

Once this is clear, you can easily tell the type of soil that you have. However, it is very well possible that your soil isn’t in the best condition. In such a situation, you can easily get garden soil from any garden center close by.

Alternatively, you can create your perfect mix. This is where our next tip – soil amendments – comes in.

Soil Amendment

While we always want our soil to be in the best possible condition, this is not always the case. In some cases, we will need to do one or two things to get our soil to the best shape for vegetable gardening. This is where soil amendment comes in. 

It’s simple; it involves a process of improving the soil through the addition of new materials. Now, as you can see, soil amendment is the process of soil improvement.

So, if you’ve got loamy soil, that doesn’t mean soil amendment doesn’t apply to you. After all, there is no harm in making something good a bit better or great. 

Now, for soil amendment, here are the things to prioritize.

Your Soil’s pH Level 

Your soil’s pH level refers to the alkalinity or acidity of the soil. In turn, this plays a significant role in your plant’s access to nutrients.

You want a pH level between 6.5 and 7.0. so, what you need to do is test your soil through a pH test. This way, you can determine its current level.

In a case where it is lower, you can use lime to increase your soil’s pH level. Alternatively, where it’s currently higher, you can use aluminum sulfate as a lowering agent. Don’t worry; they are not too hard to get as you can access them from the closest garden store. 

Also, you’ll find instructions on how to get this done in the bag you purchase. Great right? However, keep in mind that amending your soil’s acidity takes time. So, you will want to start some months before. 

Composting

Composting is another viable means to amend your soil. It’s a great option that adds incredible balance to soils when you do it properly. So, what does composting involve?

It concerns adding – compost -– organic matter as a layer of soil to provide them with more nutrient content. This way, your veggies have access to more nutrients when they take root in the soil. Even more, your soil will drain easily and allow your plants to access the required oxygen. 

Now, remember that while you can purchase compost, you can also make a do it yourself compost. All you need to do is combine those organic waste in your yard and kitchen. You can then add them to your soil, preferably during spring.

Spread it appropriately – three to four inches deep – and turn it thoroughly into the soil. 

Getting the Best Drainage

You must also remember that amending your soil also includes addressing moisture issues. You always want moist, well-drained soil.

For instance, if you’ve got sandy soil, you’ll suffer from too much drainage. On the other hand, if you’ve got clay soil, then you’ll have to contend with little or no drainage. 

So, to solve this, you can easily create an extra drainage layer under your soil that supports better drainage. For instance, coarse sands, rocks, or pea gravel will do the trick.

This way, your soil moisture is perfect.

Best Vegetables to Plants

After getting everything right, one thing you can’t afford to miss is planting the best vegetable plant. We have already detailed the things to consider when choosing vegetables.

Here are some of the best types of vegetables that you can try out. Remember, you can get seed packets from garden centers close by.

Beets

My first pick of the best vegetable plants is beets. I’ve chosen this option thanks to its fast-growing capacity that allows you to enjoy multiple harvests.

Even more, you don’t need to worry about providing considerable care for this option. 

Green Beans 

Next on my list is great beans. As expected, you’ll get loads of yield when you harvest. Even more impressive is that you can easily preserve green beans following your harvest through freezing or canning. 

Radishes

One great option is growing radishes. This is because they are easy to grow while also being fast growers. In turn, you can start planting by spring and still harvest fast enough to plant again in summer. 

Salad Greens

If you’re looking for a plant that will keep rewarding your dedication to gardening, then salad greens are for you. Whether you go for spinach, carrots, or lettuce, as long as you grow them under the right conditions, you’ll enjoy an impressive harvest. 

Onions

Onions are another great option thanks to their multi-use. Precisely, while the bulb might not mature properly, it’s nothing to worry about. This is because you can also use even that. 

Potatoes

You also want to try potatoes in your vegetable garden. They produce great harvest by the beginning of summer. Even more, when you harvest, all you need to do is leave the plant and be ready to harvest again through fall. 

Peppers

Whether you’re going for bell or hot peppers, peppers are generally a great choice. They are easy to cultivate and provide color to your garden. Even more, it’s a substance that will bring a great harvest. 

Basil

Another great option you would be wise to try out is basil. It stands out as an easy herb. Even more, it pairs great with a lot of other vegetable options. So, it’s a great combination. 

Tomatoes 

You’ll hardly go wrong with fresh tomato plants in your garden. They provide large yields that will make your investment worth it. So, you want to try out tomatoes.

Cucumbers

This climbing and vining plant is another great option that you want to try out. As long as there is enough room for their growth, you’ll get consistent growth all summer. 

Pumpkins

While you’ll need a large area to grow pumpkins, they are still a great place to start for beginners. Of course, you’ve got to have space. It is fun to grow and also provides great yields in large sizes. 

Bush Zucchini

With the bush zucchini, you’re opting for an option that’s easy to grow. Even more, you’ll enjoy a steady supply of this veggie throughout the summer if you cultivate it. 

Other items you can go for include:

  • Pole beans
  • Summer squash
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Gardening

Now that you’ve got a comprehensive idea of what to do, you must remember one more thing. These are the things to avoid when using raised beds for vegetable gardening.

Keep in mind that this is extremely important. This is because even if you were to do all the right things, the best result becomes harder once you do any wrong things. So, you want to ensure that you avoid any of these things.

Now, here are the mistakes that you want to avoid when it comes to vegetable gardening. 

1. Avoid Planting Too Early

If there’s one thing you must prioritize, it’s planting at the right time. In turn, you mustn’t make the mistake of planting your vegetable too early. 

This is because your plant requires a certain level of heat and sunlight for it to germinate or develop. In turn, if you plant too early, you will only expose it to frost, which will hinder its growth. Eventually, you will find your seedlings failing to germinate and all your efforts wasted. 

As a beginner, I’ve been there myself thanks to the absence of proper guidance. Luckily for you, this doesn’t have to be your case. So, ensure you look out for the appropriate timing based on your location and avoid planting too early.

Also, you might consider planting indoors and vegetable transplants to beat the frost. While that is a good idea, you need to note that some crops require deep soil to grow best. In turn, starting too early and indoors might not be the best bet.

So, ensure you consider your plant’s need, wait for the appropriate weather, and ensure you’re not planting too early. 

2. Avoid Ignoring the Pests

In most cases, you can’t avoid the threats of pests and insects in your vegetable garden. However, it is sometimes convenient to conclude that these pests pose little or no problem to your veggies. In turn, you pay little or no attention to addressing them. 

Unfortunately, this is a mistake that you must avoid if you have any intention to get great yield from your garden.

As you know, pests dwindle your yields and can even result in little or no yield in cases where you allow them to spread. 

So, you want to avoid neglecting the influx of pests in your garden. In fact, it would be best to make arrangements for pest control from the beginning. You can easily plant different crops that will naturally reduce the influx of pests. 

Even beyond this, you can have a fence for other types of pests like rabbits and deer. You can also opt for pesticides and insecticides in a way that does not damage your vegetable.

Regardless, what you must ensure is that you do not take the threat of pests too lightly. 

3. Avoid Neglecting the Soil

As you already know, a significant part of getting the best result in a vegetable garden is having fertile ground. Unfortunately, in some cases, access to the best soil for a vegetable garden might be difficult in your area.

Well, this is why a raised bed becomes a sane option.

Unfortunately, it is easy for gardeners to believe that all is well and great with a raised bed. However, this is far from the case. No doubt, a raised bed will allow you access to suitable soil for your vegetable garden.

Yet, this only works if you pay attention to get the best composition in the raised bed.

So, ensure you are not complacent with fine-tuning your raised bed. Your complacence would no doubt defeat the purpose of a raised bed.

Pay attention, test the soil, and get the right soil composition before you get planting. You can resort to various techniques like succession planting to get the best result.

4. Avoid Neglecting Irrigation

I know it’s quite easy and convenient to tell yourself that you’ll water your garden manually. Well, I also did tell myself the same thing. However, just before you dive fully into that reality, remember that this is another mistake that you need to avoid.

This is because watering manually will turn out to hectic and even ineffective. In time, you will find yourself abandoning this and leaving your veggies without adequate water.

I bet that I don’t need to remind you about the effect of inadequate water. 

So, don’t get into a false sense of security believing that hand watering will work. You want to plant for an irrigation system. Even when you still want to water manually or use a sprinkler, ensure that you’re very close to a water source.

This way, watering your plant is easier. 

Regardless, getting an irrigation system represents your best bet. It allows you to avoid overhead watering, which wastes water and might cause fungal diseases in your foliage. 

5. Avoid Using an Extremely Wide Raised Bed 

If there’s one thing you want to avoid, it is getting a raised bed that’s too wide. This is because this will defeat the purpose of getting the raised bed in the first place.

A raised bed allows you to avoid soil compaction since you don’t need to step on them.

However, once you get a vast raised bed, it becomes impossible to access the whole area without entering it. In turn, you will ruin the soil and record poor growth.

You want to avoid the mistake of going for an extensive raised bed.

At best, ensure your raised bed isn’t beyond 4 feet wide. This way, you can easily reach all areas. Also, if you will be placing your bed against the wall, this means you can’t access the other side.

You might want to go for something smaller that you can access from one side. 

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Final Thoughts 

Vegetable gardening is no doubt loads of fun. However, you will also need to put in the work. As a beginner, there is a lot you need to learn if you want to have a rewarding experience.

There is more to know if you are using a raised bed. 

We understand that all this can come with some challenges. Well, we don’t want that to be the case. As such, in this blog, we’ve detailed all you need to know.

Read up and be on your way to fun and happy gardening.

Green Thumb Gardener
raised bed gardening beginners guide
Jeremy Starke

We at Green Thumb Gardener provide tips and guides for both for beginners and advanced gardeners out there. 

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