Now that you have built your raised-garden bed, and filled it with a high-quality garden soil, I bet you’re super excited to start actually growing vegetables. But there are a few more tips we at GGS wanted to share with you to ensure the most successful harvest. And whether you are a first-time gardener, or a seasoned grower, it’s always a good idea to keep up on the latest gardening practices.
A good rule of thumb is to water your growing vegetables weekly with 1-inch of water. But this rule goes out the door in the hottest days of summer. If the temperatures stay above 80, 90, or 100 degrees, you may have to give your plants as much as three inches of water (generally you should add a 1/2 inch of water for every 10 degrees above 60). A good way to know if your plants are getting enough water is to use a rain gauge. Pick a day of the week to check it and empty it, so that you have a good idea of how much water your garden is actually receiving.
Water at the Roots! Drip irrigation systems are the best for watering your vegetable in raised garden beds, but even if you are using a hose and nozzle, you can easily water you plants at their bases, rather than by spraying over their leaves. Watering at the base of plants gets the water to where it needs to go most efficiently. In hot, dry places especially, watering from above leads to a great deal of evaporation. Your plants won’t get the water they need, wasting time and water.
Not all fertilizers are created equally, and that all-purpose fertilizer that you use for your indoor plants or flower pots, may actually be bad for growing vegetables because the high levels of nitrogen in them can actually stunt the growth of common fruiting vegetables (like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and eggplants). Be sure to read the labels of your fertilizer carefully. Some brands recommend fertilizing weekly, others may have a monthly schedule. For instance, Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish Fertilizer recommends a 2-3 week feeding schedule. Espoma recommends a monthly feeding schedule for its granular Organic Garden-Tone.
Don’t Neglect the Flowers
Many common vegetable plants actually require pollination for their “fruits” to develop. So if you’re garden has no flowers, bees and other pollinating insects probably won’t be making regular trips to your yard. Cucumbers, melons, berries, and fruit trees all require pollination to grow. So to ensure the best harvest when growing vegetables, it’s a good idea to plant your yard with flowers plants to attract pollinators. It’s even a good idea to plant flowers among your vegetables in your raised garden bed. You should also avoid using pesticides near plants grown to attract pollinators, and avoid using pesticides (even organic ones) when any of your vegetable plants are actually flowering.
A few great plants for attracting pollinators are:
-Butterfuly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
-Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
-English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
-Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Plan to Rotate your Crops
Crop rotation is a bit more of a complicated gardening practice, but it deserves a mention, especially if you are planning to have an organic garden. Basically, if you leave one type of vegetable crop in one location over the years, soil will be depleted and you will likely attract pests that will treat your vegetable garden as their favorite buffet. If you have more than one raised garden bed, it’s easy to rotate your crops every year. Simply switch one crop from one raised garden bed to another from year to year. So if you are planting tomatoes and cucumbers in one bed, and kale and peas in another bed, flip them from year to year.
If you have only one bed, you simply use the same practice, but move similar types of vegetables in groups around the bed each year. For example, grow your tomato plants in a row, and then move your “tomato” row each year to the left (or right). It’s a good idea to take a picture of your raised bed garden every year, so that you have a record of where you planted each type of vegetable.
Watering, fertilizing, beneficial insects and rotating your crops are all part of good gardening practices. With these tips, we’re sure you will learn to make the most out of your raised bed vegetable gardens. If you have your own veggie growing wisdom to share, please let us know in the comments. Link us to your Pinterest boards, and we will follow you back. Happy (vegetable) gardening!