Creating raised garden boxes in your yard is a fantastic way to grow healthy and happy plants as they have many benefits. Raised garden boxes provide better drainage for your soil, can act as barriers to some pests, and help to prevent soil compaction. They also raise your plants up and give you a better view of all your hard work! The constructed sides of your garden beds, whether you use wood or another material, help to prevent erosion and soil loss throughout the year. For us on the west coast, it sometimes allows us to plant certain gardens earlier because the soil is warmer in your raised garden beds.
What makes garden boxes so versatile is that you can add different soil and amendments to each, depending on what you plan on planting inside. Every year, as the soil level drops due to the natural elements, you have the chance to top it up with your choice of materials. This will allow you to rotate your crops and other plants, keeping your soil healthier and less likely to become leached of nutrients.
For new garden beds, either mix the soil and amendments together first and fill the area or layer your soil and amendments like lasagna. Either way, make sure to fill your boxes 5-6" higher than the rim of the bed, to allow for settling throughout the Spring.
If you already have established garden beds, then add 2-3" of soil, compost or mulch on top of your beds in the Spring to top them up and refresh the soil.
Preparing Your Annual Garden Boxes
If the main event in your garden beds is annuals, then starting off with well-draining soil is key. Adding compost to the soil will give your plants nutrients while peat moss creates a healthy way for the roots to spread and grow. Because annuals have a relatively short life, you do not have to worry about adding a layer of compost on the garden beds in the fall, as you would for other plants.
Berry Bushes in Your Garden Beds
If you plan on planting raspberries, or other berry bushes, in your raised garden beds, then we suggest building long beds so that you can plant a row of bushes that will be easy to harvest. Planting these along a back fence, for example, would be a great use of space and also give you an easy way to tie up the young plants. Plan for a long-term spot for these bushes, as they are very difficult to transplant once fully grown.
Fill your garden beds with soil that has a high sand content and very little clay content. This type of soil will feel coarse in your hand and won't form a ball when squeezed in your fist. You can amend your soil by adding compost or manure on top (or dig it in when first creating your garden bed) to add nutrients for your bushes.
Creating Vegetable Garden Boxes
When getting your garden boxes ready for planting vegetables, it's important to make sure you use well-draining, nutritious soil for your crops to ensure they grow great-tasting fruit and vegetables! Generally, vegetable gardens need quality soil (bonus points if it's organic) and compost or other organic material added a few times a year. You can do this by spreading the amendments around your plants on top of the soil and giving them a good watering to settle them in.
For vegetables that need a higher nitrogen level in the soil (including beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, and Swiss chard) you can either add a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content or try amending your soil with manure.
If your vegetable garden requires more phosphorus (for all your root vegetables) try a specific fertilizer or use bone meal or rock phosphate.
Some vegetables and fruit enjoy high potassium levels (such as tomatoes, squash and fruit bushes) which can be created through adding fertilizer or using wood ash or potash.
Take a look at the nutrient requirements of your plants to see what they might benefit from. Remember to rotate your crops yearly, so that you don't wear out the soil in your garden beds!
No matter what you are growing in your garden boxes, you can customize your soil and nutrient content to give it the boost it needs to really shine this year! When filling your boxes for the first time, or as an annual top-up, think about buying bulk as it can save you money and allow you to get just the amount you need for your project!
West Coast Gardens is proud to have our own bulk garden and landscaping materials available, with only the highest quality sourced products.Find out more about our bulk materials here.