Organic Vegetable Gardening Made Easy: 3. Getting Started: Bed Preparation

So once you have read the first posts in this series, about Site Selection, and asked yourself the questions and evaluated your yard, you are ready to start building your garden! If space is limited you can use pots for container gardening! Bed Preparation So how are you going to grow your plants? In pots? Raised beds? Or something else? Here are some of your options! Container: If space is limited, you are moving soon, or renting, you can still plant vegetables in pots! My first "garden" was a three by five foot balcony in my apartment. I filled it with various pots! I had herbs in smaller pots and tomatoes in big pots! They were what I missed the most from my home garden growing up! Just get some good quality organic potting soil and fill up your pots placing them where they will get the best light.   20140917_110323 Raised Beds: Raised beds are my favorite to work with and my first choice! Raised beds allow you to focus all your care to where it matters most, the soil around the roots. They regulate moisture very well so that you have better drainage and better retention, best of both worlds! It helps you improve soil fertility and add organic matter right where it needs to be with no waste. Best of all, it makes weeding a breeze! The materials used to build your beds can be cheap or expensive and from various materials. Bricks, stones, lumber, sheet metal, I have seen them all! If I had a permanent location and plenty of cash I would consider brick or stone walls for my beds. If I had extra sheet metal I would consider that. But lumber is the most common material used for raised beds. It's affordable and diverse enough to use for different size beds.  Landscape timbers are a common material also but I don't trust the treatments on those myself. If you have access to new heat-treated pallets, they are very affordable to use. Untreated pine or cedar are your best bets, cedar will cost you more but last way longer. My recommendation is 3-4 foot wide beds at any length but 8-10 feet works well for most backyard gardens. Depth should be a minimum of 10-12 inches but I prefer two feet so I can build a platform on top for sitting on! You can always build another one next year and keep adding as your growing increases.   IMG_20150531_165841_062 Hill or Mound: My current beds are this set up due to size and resources. They work great! It is the same idea as raised beds and has the same benefits. There is slightly more runoff but not too bad if you rake out the center a little before planting. So it's like a raised bed just without walls holding soil in. Same size recommendations work for hills or mounds as raised beds. Ours are 4' x 20' so that is twice as long as I recommend but we are set up to grow high volume. You may have to rake the soil or mulch back into beds after heavy rains. It's definitely affordable to anyone starting out with a small budget. The nice thing is if you get to the point where you can buy the materials and build the walls your soil is already there! Hugelkultur/Permaculture: These are less traditional ways of preparing beds but definitely worth looking at! I love the idea of hugelkulture beds where you layer sticks and branches and compost and leaves, etc to form a big hill of naturally slow release fertilizer and plant right into the hill. There are always branches falling from pecan trees in my yard so we definitely want to try this!. Permaculture is a whole mindset. We try to think of our homestead from a permaculture perspective but we have a lot to learn. Some parts of our gardening are becoming more perennial and taking on a permaculture twist but we still have high production beds set up so we have a way to go. I recommend you research these ideas further and maybe in the future I can write a post that goes into more detail on these. Now you have narrowed your choices on how to build your garden, the next step is finally here! SOIL! Soil for your garden is the number one most important thing you will build! Read my next blog post to learn what you need to do for healthy soil. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss out!

About Rose Duncan

I grew up in a homesteading family and have been on many life paths since then. Getting back to my roots has been a goal ever since leaving home. In the past five years I have become closer to where I want to be than ever. We grow and preserve most of our vegetables, have chickens for eggs and sometimes meat, and make most of our food from scratch. I have been a Professional Horticulturist for 15 years, I am also a Master Gardener, and a Certified Landscape Professional. I recently began being a stay at home mom. This big change will allow me to put even more attention into living off the land in a sustainable, organic way. We chose this lifestyle. It makes us feel good. We live closer to the earth and know our food comes from a clean, environmentally friendly, humane, healthy and affordable source. I have a passion for all of this and want to share it with others. So many people are curious about this way of life and want to learn more and my hope is that this blog will help them on their path and we can enjoy this journey together as a community. Feel free to contact me if you need any more information.

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