Raised Bed Gardens – Elevated Garden Beds

Posted on Mar 17, 2012

There is a movement across America, and Southern California is no exception —  adding a place to grow edibles in your garden.  There are several options for finding the right spot for growing vegetables (or maybe a flower cutting garden!).  One of the following ideas or a combination of the ideas, will probably work well for you.

You can amend the soil at ground level in either an existing bed, or one that you create by removing a patch of turf, etc.  The soil should be amended with manure, compost, or leaf mold to create an environment that will promote microbial activity which not only affects the texture of the soil, but also supplies nutritional benefits.  Larger beds that are lower to the ground are the perfect environment for trailing plants that have heavier fruits, such as cucumber and squash.

Another option is to build a frame 6-8” tall to create a raised bed garden, which will allow you to fill the space with soil that is perfectly suited to what you choose to grow (vegetables, cut flowers, etc.), and is loose and loamy, which creates an environment in which your plants will thrive.  This soil is available in bulk at sources such as Aguinaga Green in Irvine, and Quality Mulch and Topsoil in Orange.  Packaged varieties such as Mel’s Mix of Square Foot Gardening fame, are available at Orange County Farm Supply.  There are many other sources, too, that can be found with an online search.  Important to note is that the ground at the bottom of this newly-created bed must be tilled and — if possible — amended to allow for proper drainage and root development.

Elevated garden beds are perfect for not only waist-high gardening, but for raising your growing area up and into the sunlight of side yards or small lots.  One of our favorite raised bed products is by Gronomics, as there are no tools required for assembly, they are constructed of 100% Western Red Cedar, and are made in the USA.  The products are available at Home Depot, and can be viewed at our website at https://www.landscapedesignbycarol.com/?p=1314.

If you decide to construct a bed using wood, make sure that it has not been chemically treated  (arsenic in the form of chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, was at one time used for pressure-treated lumber as a wood preservative), as these chemicals can leach into your soil.

Now is the time to start planning for warm-season produce, such as beans, carrots, cucumbers and squash.  A handy reference guide of planting schedules can be found at Digital Seed http://www.digitalseed.com/gardener/schedule/vegetable.html).  Another invaluable resource is the website of the University of California Master Gardeners of Orange County, which provides information about vegetable gardening and also has links to their many gardening workshops (http://www.uccemg.com/).

Most edibles will require fertilizer on a regular basis.  Fertilizer options are both organic and inorganic.  Some research has shown that plants become resistant to inorganic fertilizers, requiring that more product at a greater frequency needs to be applied.  Also, inorganic fertilizers feed only the plant and do nothing to promote health in the soil.  Organic fertilizers are slow releasing and encourage the soil structure and fertility that your plants prefer.  Dr. Earth offers an extensive line of amendments, soil and fertilizers, and their website provides the answers to many questions that people have about organic vs. inorganic gardening practices:  http://drearth.net/blog.

Fun ideas:  1.) If you have the room (about 7’ in diameter), an artichoke makes a stunning addition to any landscape.  Let the chokes bloom for an extraordinary flower show, or harvest them for eating.  2.) Plant sunflowers not only for their beautiful flower, but for the edible seeds.  3.) If you are anxious to have something ready to harvest, plant radish seeds.  You will be amazed at how quickly they are ready to be picked and eaten.  4.) If you enjoy the sweetener Stevia, grow it in your garden!  The leaves can be picked and then torn in half to release their flavor in a cup of hot tea.  5.)  Enjoy!