A raised bed offers several advantages over a conventional garden plot: it eliminates soil compaction; improves soil drainage; increases productivity while decreasing garden space; decreases soil loss from erosion; and makes weeding and cultivation easier. Raised beds are also an excellent method of showcasing your plants, making a beautiful display of your garden.
Raised beds can be planted as simple mounds for temporary beds, or can be framed for more permanent beds. To increase productivity, there are two planting methods that may be used: succession planting, which helps eliminate bare spots; and companion planting, which can aid in pest and disease control.
Dig soil to loosen and encourage root growth. The best method for raised beds is double digging, where the soil is removed from the bed to a spade’s depth.
Turn the lower layer, loosening soil to allow deeper root penetration, which is a great advantage of raised beds.
Return the top layer of soil to the bed and mix soil layers together.
Mix organic matter into the soil, especially if it is high in clay or sand content. Preferred sources of organic matter are compost, manure, peat moss, or a mixture of these. Do not add layers of soil without mixing, as this creates barriers that are not easily penetrated by roots or water.
Transplant seedlings or seed-raised beds according to planting recommendations, just as you would for a conventional garden plot.
Make successive plantings to eliminate bare spots. Mix in additional organic compost in between successive plantings. This method involves using bed space efficiently by planting early crops and replanting the same space with a later crop when the first crop is harvested.
Plant companion plants together in the same bed to economize space use and aid in pest and disease control. This method can be used to utilize space more efficiently by planting smaller vegetables (such as carrots or lettuce) in the same space with larger vegetables, like tomatoes or broccoli. Companion planting can also be used as a form of pest control by planting flowers or vegetables that give off chemicals or odors that repel certain pests along with plants in which those pests are a problem. For example, herbs such as catnip, marjoram, basil, parsley, mint, rue, coriander, tansy and thyme act as repellents to vegetables planted nearby; and marigolds, when planted heavily, can deter underground pests.
Water well after planting and keep moist for at least two weeks, until plants have become established. Apply organic mulch to increase moisture. Christopher J. Starbuck, of the Department of Horticulture at the University of Missouri, also recommends the use of soaker hoses or drip irrigation.
Fertilize raised beds as you would for a conventional garden spot.