7 Rookie Mistakes When Starting Raised Bed Gardens – What not to do when you get started!
Everyone makes mistakes, but this is one activity that you can’t reverse – once dirt and plants are in the ground, they won’t be easily relocated. So before you get your plans drawn up, review this checklist and make sure you don’t commit one of the “dirty seven” below!
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Plotting your bed(s) too close to a fence (or other barrier)
Talk about getting fenced in, literally…don’t let that happen to you. Be sure when you draw up your blueprints, you have ample space for movement on all sides. On our furthermost bed to the fence, there is probably about four feet between me and that fence (as you can see, there’s a pathway next to it, as well as additional patches of grass.)
So I don’t bump into anything while I am busy. And since gardens will do a lot to keep you busy, who needs that? So be sure when you make your plot, there is at least 2-3 feet of space between the bed and whatever barrier happens to be surrounding your backyard.
Not plotting out the pathways well
There also needs to be a fair amount of space between each bed, at least two feet. You’ll have an easier time tending to crops on each side, too. Also, think about who else will be involved – if you have kids old enough to help, will they have an easy time getting around the beds? If you have someone in mind that has a handicap, will he/she be able to maneuver easily?
Not having a good irrigation system
Do you plan on making use of a drip strip, sprinkler system, hose attachment, or what have you? Now it seems to rain a lot where i live certain times of the year (to reiterate, I’m in zone 8b) but other times, I’ve seen it go a month without rain, and last June (2022), we ended up filling in the gaps with one of those sprinkler systems (you know the kind that oscillates in a pattern,
You may remember running through one of these as a kid on hot summer days! Lol. However these are better suited to lawns than gardens. We found ourselves switching from this sprinkler system to a soaker hose system, which has worked out much better, in terms of moisture distribution.
Hopefully, you know to work this part out beforehand, be sure you’re even close to an outside faucet that is located in a good place. Some people are not. There may be days when you may not feel like dragging out the hose, so it would be wise to look into some good hands-off watering options.
Making the beds too wide
Although your beds ca be as long as you want, it is strongly encouraged to keep them no wider than four feet. Why is this?
Simple…to have ample working room. It’s easier to walk down a path to tend to cukes on one end and tomatoes in the middle than to have to circumvent them all the way around (or worse, walk on the bed itself) Narrower beds are the norm strictly for ergonomic reasons.
Planting the wrong kinds of crops (or not in the right order)
What have you decided to plant, and give thought to the arrangement of the different veggie plants.
Generally, it’s a good idea to keep the taller crops in the middle or on one side so they act as a shade source for the smaller plants on the other side.
Not factoring in source of sunlight
A certain length of sunlight (7-8 hours) is very important. We’re lucky that we don’t have the problem of a lack of sunlight in the wrong direction, also nothing obscuring the sun (save for one ornamental tree that is on my neighbor’s side – but it’s to the far left so even though it creates a little shade, it’s not enough to block the sunlight from our beds.
When you are drawing up your plots, be sure you choose a spot in which direct sunlight will be present and not obscured by things like tall trees, too much shade, or other things.
Not composting the soil
Although you can expect a much better time in this department, as you won’t have to deal with soil erosion and other issues, it’s important to remember the benefits of adding compost which will improve the fertility of the soil and maintain oxygenation.
The quality of the soil can change over time, so be sure to be on top of it! Literally. By adding materials that will keep the nutrient cycle going, you can assure yourself of a healthy harvest for years to come.
Good luck, and happy planting!