Raised Vegetable Garden Beds- Different types of raised beds

Raised Garden beds have become more and more popular, especially for back yard gardeners who have limited space. Raised beds have many benefits over traditional growing, especially in newly broken ground areas. These beds give plants an immediate deep, rich, loose soil to reach their roots down into. These beds can bring the plants closer to you, so you don’t have to bend as far to reach them. They can eliminate the need to till the ground every year which actually disrupts the soil microbiome that is already established, making it have to start all over. Raised vegetable garden beds can also give the garden a clean straight line look that is easy to keep, which is very beneficial in tiny areas.

Let’s take a look at different types of material that can be used for raised beds and the cons and benefits of each.

 

Wooden raised beds

raise bed gardenWood is probably the most common material used for raised garden beds. Probably because it is easy to use and readily available and gives an organic look that a lot of people prefer. Where you live will determine what type of lumber you might use for your raised bed. Where I’m from in Texas, western red cedar is the most commonly used lumber for raised garden beds. If you are from California, you may use redwood, while other parts of the country may use Doug Fir. Some people have used treated pine, which I strongly urge against because the chemicals used to treat the wood may cause harm to you since they will leach into soil and be taken up through the roots of the plants and therefore into your food.

I have seen and used beds built with logs from the Ashe Juniper tree’s that are prevalent, almost invasive in the Texas hill country. These beds are a little harder to build since the logs are not uniform, but they give a real neat cottage feel to your raised beds. Using local trees as borders for your raised beds if you can, is a great way to recycle/reuse the material that is around you and save trees from other areas that are being cut down in large numbers for building. Also, it is much cheaper than having to buy wood.

The biggest con to using wood is that it won’t last. Certain types of wood will last longer, but because you have one side constantly touching wet soil and because it is an organic material, it will break down through natural processes. The thicker the wood you use the longer life span you will get out of your raised bed, but it is more expensive.

Wood raised beds are my favorite way to build raised beds. How about you?

Concrete and Rock Raised Beds

Concrete is used all over the place, maybe more than I like but can be used to grow your garden. There are different forms that concrete can be poured into but the easiest and cheapest form for raised vegetables beds is using cinder blocks. I have come to really like using cinder blocks for gardening because they are easy to install and the holes in them give you extra space to grow flowers, bulb vegetables like onions or garlic, and smaller plants like strawberries.cinder block raised bed

I’m not as crazy about the look of these as I am the functionality, but they do a great job and will never rot!

Of course if you have the money you can build forms and bring in concrete mix and build solid walls for your raised bed. This is usually seen in front of store fronts or as planters built by the city to help beautify it. I have also seen large concrete pots used but these are very expensive and heavy to move.

Another option is using rock. You can use what is just lying around or buy some from a landscape store. Rock makes great raised beds and can save you a lot of money if you use what is on your property or someone else’s. You may even be able to do someone a favor by removing rocks from their property that they don’t want.

Metal Raised Beds

Metal raised beds can look very beautiful and have become more popular especially as an architectural design for yards. I have not personally used metal for a raised bed, mainly because I’m not crazy about the look, but also because I worry about the heat that can build up on them in the summer and become uncomfortable to work around, and create a hotter atmosphere for the palnts, especially in the Texas heat.

The use of metal water troughs is very common and are very neat and easy ways to do raised bed gardening. However a downfall to using these are that over time the metal will rust and deteriorate. You could use galvanized metal but just like treated material the chemicals used to do the galvanization can leach into the soil contaminating your food. One of the main reasons I grow my own vegetables is to know exactly what is in my food and using material that has chemicals that can potentially leach into my food is a no go for me. I would totally use these troughs for flowers though!

Composite Raised Beds

Composite material has become more and more popular over the past couple of years, especially for decking. What a lot of people don’t know is it can be a great alternative for raised beds. Composite material is made of recycled wood and plastic, combined together through processes that create nearly waterproof material. Some are actually completely waterproof. One brand that makes a composite material that is completely waterproof is MoistureShield Decking company. You can use their decking to make raised beds or their fascia boards, which are thinner and actually make great planter boxes. They are also slightly pliable and can be made into shapes other than squares or rectangles.

The downside to composite material is that the upfront cost is very high, but the longevity of the material, along with its ability to keep it’s color pay off in the long run.

Building your raised garden beds

There are multiple options to use when it comes to building raised vegetable or flower beds. Whether you use wood, concrete, metal, composite material or anything else you can think of to build your bed you can benefit from having eye-catching beds that give your plants deeper soil for healthier root systems and therefore healthier plants that you can enjoy for food or flowers. The choice is yours as to what you wan to use, whatever it is, have fun, be creative and remember you can never have to many plants!

 

 

 

 

Seed starting tips-Starting seeds indoors

Spring is just around the corner and that means it will be time to plant your spring garden. Now is the time to get a head start by starting your seeds indoors.vegetable-seeds Starting seeds indoors has many advantages, so let’s look at a couple of seed starting tips and advantages that I have learned over the years of gardening.

Use a good seed starting medium

There are many soils to choose from and most of them will germinate seed, however there are certain soils or seed starting kits that make germinating easier.

Seed starting soil which can be purchased at any nursery is very fine and spongy when it gets wet. You want seed starting soilsomething that will hold moisture since this is what seeds need to germinate. In fact a seed can germinate in total darkness as long as there is moisture. Light is only needed once germination has begun. Do you remember germinating bean seeds in elementary school with a wet paper towel? Moisture is the main key and temperature is the second.

Depending on the type of seeds being germinated you can use single cell trays or a shallow tray that you place the soil in and sow the seeds in the same space. Either way is fine and both have their pros and cons.

I personally like to use single cell trays like the Park’s Seed Bio Dome. It comes with sponge seed starters that soak up water from the bottom and keep the seed moist. It’s also especially nice for indoor seed starting since there is no soil to mess with.

You can also sow seeds in an open tray as I mentioned earlier. This method is quick and easy when sowing but creates more shock for the seedlings when transplanting. It is still a good method and in my experience seems to give a higher germination rate.

Temperature

Temperature is very important when germinating seeds. You will need to know what each seed requires temperature wise to germinate. All seeds are different, but are usually in a close enough range that you can germinate multiple seed varieties in the same space.

For example, you can germinate tomatoes, peppers, radishes, beans, squash and many more in warm soil temp, while broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, carrots and others need a cooler soil temp to germinate.

The best way to control soil temp when germinating is to use a heat pad. There are many brands of seed starting heat pads that heat the soil from underneath the pot or tray you are starting your seeds in. These are simple plug in heat pads that usually have multiple settings and are waterproof. Some come with thermometers that will keep track of the soil temp and turn the heat pad on and off to keep soil at the correct temp. I have found that when starting seed indoors the soil temp is usually easy to control with your central heating system, if you keep your house around 65-70 degrees most seed will germinate without the use of the heat pads, although the heat pads can speed up the process.

You can also make your own heat pad with incandescent rope lights, but usually the time it takes to make one is not worth the few extra dollars for a real heat pad.

There are also heat cords that can be buried in the soil that heat it but these aren’t really necessary unless you are germinating on a larger scale.

Water and lighting

Water is the most important thing you need to germinate seeds. Without water, you will just have seeds. Any source of water that you have will work to germinate seeds, of course if you have access to rain water that is the best, since it is usually pure and full of nitrogen.

I like to be able to use kits that enable me to water from below the seeds where the water is soaked up through the bottom of the soil or plugs. This is much easier and cleaner for indoor seed starting. If you don’t have the ability to use a kit like this, misting with water multiple times a day from the top is just as good. Remember to never let the seeds dry out. If you do, you will have a very low germination rate since most seeds will have started to germinate and dried up and died. Seedlings are very weak and vulnerable and usually any stress will kill them.leggy seedling sprouts

Lighting is only important once the seedlings have germinated and you see the two baby leaves. At this point the plant will be seeking sunlight to produce food and it’s first mature leaves. The use of a good grow light or very, very bright window will be necessary. If you have your seedlings in a window that is not getting direct sun for a majority of the day your seedlings will get very long and leggy and will be very fragile. Once this happens, it is very hard to get them to survive. At this point it may be best to just eat them as sprouts. Now, if you have the ability to set them outside during the day that would be great, however if you are starting seeds indoors it’s usually because it is still very cold outside.

Benefits of starting seeds indoors

There are many benefits to starting seeds indoors.

  • Controlling the temp is easier
  • You get a head start on the growing season and therefore can harvest sooner
  • You get the joy of gardening when it is still to cold outside to grow
  • You can experiment with different types of seeds with better control than sowing outside
  • higher germination rates
  • Get to see the plant grow from a seed to a mature plant

There are many other benefits to starting your seeds indoors but you can only find out what they are if you do it yourself.

Start your own seeds today!

You can start seeds indoors very easily as long as you have a good growing medium the correct lighting and proper temperature.

yellow pear tomatosDon’t wait any longer, go out and get what you need to start growing plants now for spring and be the envy of your neighbors when you have that first tomato weeks before they do or your flowers are blooming long before theirs!gerber daisy flowers

Have fun and experiment with different varieties of plants to see what you can grow!

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Garden Spaces- growing plants in any space

When it comes to growing plants not everybody has the same amount of space, some are blessed with all the space they can imagine, to grow a beautiful vegetable garden or flower garden or herb garden, while most of us have limited space. In fact some only have tiny garden spaces and that is where I hope to be able to inspire new and creative ideas.

A tiny garden space can mean something different for each person so Let’s look at the different ways you can take your tiny garden space and grow something you can enjoy no matter how limited your space is.

Growing in Existing Flower beds

flower bed gardeningIf you own or rent a house you probably have existing flower beds. These are the easiest areas to grow in because they already exist. While flower beds are usually just thought of as being used for growing flowers, they can also be used to grow vegetables and herbs. The great thing about it is that all these plants can be grown together. A lot of time we tend to think we can’t grow this or that because there isn’t enough space or there are to many plants already in a certain space. The wonderful thing about plants is that they can grow closer to each other than you think and don’t have to be grown in rows like you see on farms. In fact, if you mimic nature you can grow many varieties of plants right next to each other.

One other way of using existing flower or mulched beds is to set pots out in those areas and grow whatever you would like in them. This leads us to our next subject. Patio or balcony gardening.

Growing on a Patio or Balcony

Just about everyone has a patio or a balcony that they can utilize to grow plants on. While some are larger than others the opportunity to grow and enjoy plants is available. We have all seen those beautiful pots with plants growing in them in front of restaurants and stores in the middle of the city. All you need to do is follow their example and get the pots that you like and fill them with the soil of your choice from the local nursery and you are ready to grow in your small space.

There are many sizes of pots to chose from and using these different sizes in your patio/balcony garden can give pots, pots and more potsa nice visual appeal that you may not get using the same size pots for everything. Besides some plants may not need the same amount of soil or water that other’s do and a different size pot may be required.

Whatever size pots you use have fun and experiment, that’s what gardening is all about!

Growing in Raised Beds

If you’re like me, you have a small outdoor space in your backyard to grow in. I have tried growing the traditional way in the ground but because I live in a subdivision the soil is a poor quality back fill with a thin layer of topsoil. Very difficult to grow in and takes time to get to a good quality growing medium.

I have found that raised beds give me the ability to choose the soil I want to use and creates an immediate deep soil base for roots, and also helps with weed control. Raised bed gardening also organizes the garden and defines walk ways that are easy to see especially when your plants are full-grown and tend to cover walk ways in the traditional gardening method in tiny spaces. They also help with weed control which is a never ending battle as a gardener by putting the soil line above the existing one which is full of existing weed seeds and deep-rooted weeds which are hard to get rid of. You will still have to keep on top pf the weeds so they don’t take over but it is much Raised Bedeasier when they are young and tender than once they have become established.

Raised beds can consist of any material that you can think of from wood to cinder blocks to water troughs. I’ve even seen them made of old tires, talk about a great way to recycle!

 

Growing Indoors

Anybody, no matter where they live can grow indoors. You may be limited compared to growing outside but there is a large variety of plants that thrive indoors and even certain veggies that do very well for short periods of time.

Veggies that you can grow indoors include micro greens, leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce and kale. You can even grow mushrooms and herbs on your kitchen counter.

Grow lights are usually used for indoor growing. These lights simulate the sunlight which is needed for plants to go through photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to make food from carbon dioxide and water. If you don’t have grow lights you can use a very bright window, however vegetables may not perform as well without grow lights.Indoor Plants

There are many indoor plants which can do well without grow lights and are usually tropical plants that don’t fair well in most outdoor climates in the United States, at least not for the whole year. Most of these plants can be found at your local nursery and usually require no more than bright lit windows to grow and thrive. Some examples of these are ivy’s, succulents, air plants, orchids and many more.

 

You can garden no matter what size space you have

No matter how tiny your space is there are opportunities to garden. No matter if your space consists of indoors only or you have enough space to have a raised bed you can grow food to eat or flowers to enjoy. Don’t let a tiny space deter you from doing something that is fun and therapeutic. Like I said earlier have fun and experiment, you never know what you can come up with. Opportunities to garden abound! You just have to look for them and dig in!