Hi all and welcome back! In this post I will be talking about the best veggies to start growing in your elevated beds. Whew, I’ve had a long day of digging in the dirt…had to get the ‘ol nail brush out again. We’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather lately and finishing up our planting on our first bed and starting to work on the second.
Earlier we were at the store getting more bags of topsoil (45 total), yes that’s right, which will be for replacing what “settled” over last growing season. Weather is changeable here too, and on a dime, it started to get blustery outside so we finished our planting for the day. But that made me want to tackle this subject, so here I go.
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So if you are building out your first raised bed(s) here are the top veggies you should be planting, and why they have a good track record to thrive. Last year we planted the following:
1.)Tomatoes -several hybrids (Good yield)
2.) peppers – sweet, banana and hot (Good yield)
3.) Corn (didn’t do as well)
4.) Sunflower (did not do well)
5.) Bush beans (good yield)
6.) Radishes (did so-so – only got 2 or 3)
7.) Cucumbers – did so-so
We planted other things alongside the beds, with mixed results, I hope in this article I’ll share what worked out well and what not so well.. We were out of town last weekend and picked up some seed potatoes that we hoped to plant today – hopefully we’ll get to that tomorrow unless the weather doesn’t cooperate. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes. Without further ado, let’s get into the best veggies to add to your list this growing season.
Tomatoes are always a winner, and since they crave full sun and at least 6 hours a day of it, you can’t go wrong here. Last spring and summer, we had a lineup of Better Boy, Cherokee Purple (not easy to find) and Early June. Keep in mind there are “determinate” and “indeterminate” varieties of tomatoes, the former will not get as big as the latter. Indeterminate will need to be staked for sure (well, both types will…) and they’ll be producing fruit up until frost, for us that was around November.
This goes for sweet as well as hot. They love sun, and since they don’t get too humungous they’ll have adequate space around them. We had the bell (the basic green you’re familiar with), banana and chilis all planted on one side of our first bed last spring. Harvesting them was fun…cutting them up was not, at least at first when I didn’t know about the effects of capsaicin. I must say the bananas were the most abundant. I like them as they’re not hot which means you can slice them up and use them on many things.
Here are the tomato and pepper plants we’ve set out most recently:
Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplants belong to the nightshade family, and can take the heat in the summer. John and I are not a fan of eggplants taste-wise,so we didn’t plant any – but they do very well in raised beds. I’ve watched them grow before and seeing that purple fruit on the vine is quite a sight.They do need more space than peppers, but the warmth of the soil and good drainage post-rain makes them an excellent crop plant.
Cantelopes, honeydo and watermelons all get pretty big and sprawling what with the vines and all, so you’ll need to plan on adequate tools to allow them, like a trellis, but they will produce with more gusto than the traditional approach, because of 2 reasons – one, as beds have good drainage, the budding fruits will not get overly damp to the point of a few rotten spots, and two the un-compacted soil will be better for the root parts of them.
Funny story, we’ve actually planted melons inadvertently in our front bed and didn’t know it at first until we saw how much the vines were spreading out and little fruits showing. You can read about that here. The day is young of course, so too soon to see how they turn out. Here’s a glimpse so far:
5) Bush beans
I’d definitely recommend you add bush beans to your garden repertoire if you’re thinking about it. These don’t drag their feet – they sprout from seed pretty early (ours did, anyway) and while they do have vines, they don’t get super tall, unlike pole beans which could reach a height of 6 feet and will need to be able to climb a tower kind of structure. The soil should be nitrogen-rich.
These are our bush beans; this was right around May of 2022 when I took that picture- about a month after planting, on the left is 2 bean seedlings prior to putting it in the ground. One of them was already producing a pod, so I was really jazzed!
This year we’ve got a new crop of both pole and bush planted, let’s see if lightening will strike twice. Or better, since we’re skipping the seed-transplant stage which is a good idea.
These include such veggies you’d use in a salad : lettuce, kale, endive, et. al. You can seed them in a straight row and they can easily flourish without the ‘square foot” layout.They do well in the warm soil – our seeds started to come up in about a week a month before growing season too by the way (Of course, if it’s before the potential for frost could still happen, be sure to cover them with something protective before then.)
Here’s our microgreens starting to come up – we planted them kind of early, right around the first week of March. It was starting to get unseasonably warm, but I hope it wasn’t too early, as we’re still having some chilly nights in the 40s. Notice we planted the seeds vertically:
Microgreens do well in the fall, so we hope to sow some again in late summer to see how well they do (These above didn’t really do as well as we hoped…Better luck next time, I suppose.)
Root crops like carrots and turnips can thrive in raised beds due to the soil’s improved drainage ability. In rocky soil laden with excess roots (as I encounter down here) it can stunt the growth more or cause the carrot to “fork” out somewhat, but with the nutrient-rich topsoil and your compost/manure addins, carrots can flourish.
If you like the tang of radishes in your salad, consider planting them in your beds. They are expedient growers that you could harvest pretty early compared to other crops. The nutrient rich soil will provide all they need, and since radishes don’t get that big, you could get a lot of them in a small space and easily plant the seeds in vertical rows.
Who doesn’t like a cool cuke, if you have a bumper crop of these, they can be pickled, too! They can be harvest-ready just 12 weeks from sowing seeds. Just be ready with a small climbing apparatus as they do have long creeping vines that need to be accommodated well. Also the vines are kind of prickly. I always used a small paring knife to trim off the fully developed fruit.
Although our cuke crops didn’t do as well last year, that didn’t deter us, we got some started in the making this season and so far, they are taking off…fingers crossed 🙂
Fun fact- A raw cucumber contains up to 95% water, and they are actually a fruit, not a veggie, contrary to popular knowledge.
10.) Most Herbs
Herbs can do great in beds as you can get a larger amount of them in a row as each one doesn’t take up that much space relative to others. If you plant them alongside bigger crops they will get shaded well too. They have shallower roots and some of them can potentiate certain vegetable crops, as well as double as repellents of some pests, which is great.
Well here’s a little snapshot of some of last year’s crops. To recall: chili peppers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and the bigger tomato in the middle is a Cherokee purple. Just to show you firsthand what is possible. Yes, we did get some corn after all was said and done – I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you go in with a master plan first. it is a little more challenging with elevated beds.
Good luck and happy planting!