By Chris Dato • June 03, 2015
There was a much less enlightened time when having a garden was thought of as a “feminine” hobby. However, this misconception has pretty much disappeared. Now, everyone from nostalgic hipsters to self-reliant suburban farmers are discovering the rewarding and literally delicious benefits of tending a backyard vegetable garden. Especially with summer growing (pun intended) closer each day, smart parents have already started planning out activities to prepare for the surging tidal wave of boredom energy inside every kid who is on vacation from school. A raised vegetable garden is the perfect DIY family project to channel your child’s enthusiasm. The project requires dedication and patience and can teach your little boy or girl about life and science, while brightening up your backyard and saving money on groceries in the process! Knowing this handful of helpful tips for each stage of your garden will make the project a breeze, and before the end of summer, you will be on your way to living off the land!
Choosing an appropriate spot for your raised garden is the first step. It is critical that you find a good location, as moving the planter box will be very difficult and potentially harmful to the plants once it has been filled. I recommend choosing a spot along a wall in order to conserve space, as well as simplify construction by having one less side to build. However, I would try to avoid corners. Having more than one side of your garden bordering a wall might make it more difficult to harvest certain plants. Putting a small raised garden box in a corner could also limit exposure to direct sunlight for some of the plants, which is the most critical criteria (fun to say) in choosing a location. The box must be put in an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. This will ensure that each plant receives enough exposure.
One of the primary advantages to a raised vegetable garden is that it does not require you to already have healthy soil in your backyard, or any soil for that matter! Still, be strategic when deciding its foundation. Do not build your box on a wood surface, such as a deck, for instance. The weight of the dirt and soil in combination with this moisture can cause the wood underneath to warp. Almost any other ground material will make a suitable foundation, including concrete and pavement. Ideally, try to find an area that is already dirt, especially if it is dry and unhealthy. Then, lay down an appropriate sized base of cement pavers, and you are ready to get building!
The dimensions of your garden should fit your available space and level of commitment. There are, however, some specific dimensions that may be helpful to know. An ideal depth for the sides of your raised vegetable garden is 12”. This will make the box deep enough to provide room for the roots for your plants, and tall enough that you will be able to tend to them with less bending over. Also, the added height will serve as a deterrent for some pesky garden insects.
It is also a good idea to limit the width of your garden to a max of 3’, especially if you are following my advice about building it against a wall. Making the box any wider could make it hard to harvest some of the plants near the wall without stepping on the soul, which is not good for the growth of the plants’ roots. Kneeling or stepping on the soil in a garden that is already so small will compact the dirt, which means unhappy roots.
The frame itself can be built out of any material from your local Home Depot. Stone, cinderblock, brick, and wood are just some of the more popular choices. Remember, wood is a fine choice of material for the raised box itself, but it is a poor choice for the foundation upon which the box is placed. Once the frame is constructed, remember to line the walls with tarpaper, in order to prevent roots or excess water from finding its way through the seams. Also, you can save a little money on your trip to the hardware store with these Home Deport promo codes.
Once the location of your raised garden has been scouted, and your box has been built, all that is left to do it fill it and reap the rewards! It is important that the filling process for your brand new garden starts with high quality soil. Because of the plants’ close proximity to each other, combined with the fact that the soil only extends to the bottom of the box, it is critical that the soil holds water and nutrients with maximum efficiency.
As far as which veggies you should grow, almost any have the ability to flourish in your microgarden. However, it might be a good idea to avoid growing potatoes or corn. Potatoes tend to require a lot of room in the soil to grow, making them not ideal for your set-up. On the flip side, corn has the potential to grow so tall that it can be hard to harvest and can block sunlight from reaching other plants.
A vegetable that I like planting is cucumber. If you line the edge of your raised vegetable garden with cucumber seeds, the plant will naturally trail over the sides of the box and grow right on the patio. Other plants have unique qualities to them as well that can set your plot apart. For instance, growing milkweed or carrots will attracts certain types of butterflies.
The last thing I recommend as an accessory to your backyard garden is some outdoor lighting. We have some great Bellacor promo codes that will help you save up to 45% off on select outdoor lighting, which is the final accessory your garden project needs. While the majority of your garden time will be invested during the daylight, chances are company will be seeing the backyard primarily in the evening. This way you can make sure everyone has the chance to admire (and envy) your hard work.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'