Best Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds [2020]

Best Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds 2020

The best vegetables to grow in a raised bed depends on the size of the raised bed and/or surrounding area. Some vegetables require more room like watermelons, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash because they are vine/climbing plants. They grow quite large and can take up 100+ square feet.

As a general rule, the best vegetables to grow in raised beds are upright or tall plants, roots and non crawling plants. Crawling plants like watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber and squash will take over a large area and most likely grow out of a raised bed. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, corn, turnip, radishes, carrots, etc will do nicely in a raised bed.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great vegetable to grow in a raised bed garden. They grow fast and can become quite large. They produce beautiful fruit in many colors and sizes from grape tomatoes to the large Beefsteak variety. They are easy to grow.

How to Start:Tomatoes are easy to grow from seeds. Bury the seeds about 1/2″ deep in the soil and cover. I recommend covering the area where you are planting tomato seeds with a thin layer of mulch to retain moisture and speed up seed germination. The seeds will sprout in about 7-10 days. After planting seeds, water regularly to keep the soil moist. You should see sprouts in about a week or so.

Needs:Tomato plants need a support of some sort as they grow. If they do not have something rigid to hold them upright, they will fall over. The best supports are tomato cages. These are heavy gauge wire cages that stick into the ground and encircle the tomato plant. The plants will get support from the cage and grow straight up. You can also use stakes along side to provide support.

Space tomato plants 24″ to 36″ apart to allow for maximum growth

Tomato plants will grow best in rich, organic soil. Compost or Garden Soil are the best choices for raised beds. You can also mix native soil with compost in a ratio of 1:1. This will produce a great organic soil with plenty of nutrients. Tomato plants grow fast and need lots of Nitrogen. Organic material will provide this over the entire growing season. You can supplement this with a good 10-10-10 fertilizer. Just be careful how much you apply. Follow the directions on the bag of fertilizer.

Size: Tomato plants can get quite large. The Beefsteak tomato plant can grow to 8 feet tall and produce 2 lb tomatoes. They requires a lot of space. Even the tiny grape tomato plants can reach lengths of 8-9 feet. So tomato plants need lots of room. Space them far apart for best results.

Harvest Time: Tomatoes take a long growing season to produce large beautiful fruit. From seed to harvest is usually 65-85 days. You can shorten this period by planting seedlings or young plants. This will shorten the harvest period by at least 2 weeks.

Varieties: There are endless varieties of tomatoes from grape to cherry to plum and of course beefsteak. There are also many colors too like red, purple, yellow, orange, pink, black, striped and streaked.

Red Tomatoes

  • Beefsteak
  • Beefmaster
  • Better Boy
  • Early Girl

Pink Tomatoes

  • Pink Brandywine
  • Caspian Pink
  • Thai Pink Egg

Orange Tomatoes

  • Azoychka
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Garden Peach

White Tomatoes

  • White Beauty
  • Ghost Cherry
  • White Queen

Green Tomatoes

  • German Green Stripe
  • Green Moldovan
  • Green Zebra

Purple and Black Tomatoes

  • Cherokee Purple
  • Black Ethiopian
  • Paul Robeson

Peppers

Hot peppers and sweet peppers are pretty easy to grow. The hardest part is seed germination and sprout care. Once the plants are 4-6 inches tall, they are pretty hardy. Peppers are not speedy to harvest and will require about 150 days for hot and 60-90 days for sweet.

How to Start: You can start peppers indoors before spring or outdoors during spring. It’s very simple. Plant the seeds about 1/2″ deep in soil and water regularly so that the soil stays moist. Moisture and warmth are the 2 things that make a seed germinate and sprout. When starting seeds outdoors, I like to cover the area where I plant pepper seeds with a thin layer of mulch [grass clippings]. Mulch helps keep the soil moist.

Hot Peppers germinate in different periods depending on the variety. It can be 7-14 days or 30-60 days. Look up your particular variety for germination periods. You can speed up the germination period by soaking the seeds in warm water for 24 hours and then planting.

Sweet peppers typically germinate in 7 days.

Needs: Sweet pepper plants are thirsty plants and require substantial water. But don’t overdue it. Soggy roots will rot. Good drainage is a must. Compost or garden soil are perfect soils for moisture retention and drainage along with nutrition. It’s hard to beat.

Hot peppers prefer drier soil and warmer temperatures.

Don’t over fertilize pepper plants. This will cause excess foliage and less fruit production. Pepper plants are light feeders. You can use 5-10-10 fertilizer sparingly.

If you grow peppers in a raised bed or box garden with compost or garden soil, you most likely will not need to fertilize at all. Mulching will help with water retention and keeping weeds and grass out of the garden. Peppers like little or no competition for food and water.

Here are some things you can do to increase production of peppers.

  • Mulch the garden area – increase water retention and decrease weeds
  • Companion planting – tomatoes, parsley, basil and carrots
  • Staking – support pepper stalks with stakes to prevent damage from heavy fruit

Size: Most pepper plants are medium size, around 15-30 inches tall. I recommend spacing the plants about 24″ apart to allow room for growth. Stakes are recommended for support as the limbs may get damaged from heavy fruit.

Harvest Time: If you transplant seedlings, harvest time is about 65-95 days. Add 7-10 days if you are growing from seeds. The hotter peppers will take longer, like 120 days for Ghost peppers.

Be careful harvesting super hot peppers. Wear gloves and remove them when done. Be careful to never touch your face after handling super hot peppers like ghost peppers and Carolina Reapers. It can burn your skin and eyes or nose.

Varieties: There are many varieties of sweet and hot peppers to grow. They will add a lot of color to the garden.

Hot Peppers

  • Anaheims
  • Hungarian Wax Peppers
  • Jalapeno
  • Poblano
  • Serrano
  • Cayenne
  • Habanero
  • Ghost Pepper
  • Carolina Reaper

Sweet Peppers

  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Orange Bell pepper
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Mini Sweet Peppers
  • Long Sweet Peppers

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are easy to grow and produce lots of fruit. Fresh cucumbers from your own garden are delicious. There’s nothing like them.

How to Start: Cucumber seeds are easy to germinate and grow. Plant seeds 1/2″ deep in a rich, organic soil. Cover the area with a thin layer of mulch to retain moisture and help with germination. Now water regularly to keep the soil moist. The seeds will sprout in 7-10 days.

The sprouts or seedlings will grow slow at first. As they mature, the growth rate will increase significantly. You will be able to see changes overnight. They do grow fast. Make sure they have plenty of room to grow along the ground or climb. They will smother other plants that are nearby.

Needs: Cucumbers do well in fertile soil such as commercial garden soil or compost, either mixed with native soil or straight. A good soil will provide nutrients, water retention, drainage and a soft texture for root development.

Cucumbers do well in full sunlight or partial shade. They are not fussy. They will grow and produce quickly with adequate water. The more you pick the fruit, the more you will get.

You may not need to fertilize if you use compost and/or garden soil. If you are growing them in native soil, you may want to use some 5-10-10 fertilizer every 2-3 months. Or mix some good compost in with the soil 3-4 weeks before you plant.

For raised beds, go with the Bush Champion cucumbers. They are a compact plant [bush type plant] that produces nice fruit in 60 days.

Size: Cucumber plants can get very large, like 10-12 feet long or larger. They need a lot of room to do well and actually will smother other nearby plants. They also like to climb.

The fruit themselves can get pretty big too if you let them grow. I had one that measured over 25 inches long. Don’t let then grow too big if you want to eat them. Large cucumbers are very bitter. Always pick them young.

Harvest Time: Cucumbers take about 50-70 days from planting. Add 7-10 days if you are starting cucumbers from seed. That’s about 2 months. Once the plants starts flowering, you’ll get a ton of cucumbers.

I had 2 cucumber plants that were producing 5-7 cucumbers per week. I couldn’t eat them all. The more I picked the more would grow. It gets crazy. If you leave cucumbers on the vine longer, you will slow down production. So pick them as soon as they are about 4-6 inches long. Smaller ones taste better than bigger ones.

Slicing or Salad Cucumber Varieties

  • Ashley
  • Burpless #26
  • Bush Champion – ideal for raised beds
  • Dasher II
  • Diva
  • Early Pride
  • Fanfare
  • Long Green Improved
  • Marketer
  • Marketmore 76
  • Muncher
  • Poinsett 76
  • Salad Bush – ideal for raised beds
  • SpaceMaster – ideal for raised beds
  • Straight Eight
  • Sugar Crunch
  • Sweet Slice
  • Sweet Success
  • Tanja
  • Tendergreen Burpless

If you are limited on space, try the Bush Champion cucumbers. It’s a hybrid compact plant that produces cucumbers in 60 days. These are ideal for container farming and raised beds.

Lettuce

Lettuce is perfect for raised beds because it requires a very small area and grows vertically and not horizontal. In other words, they grow tall and not wide. They are delicious and very colorful. Lettuce adds color to any garden. Try growing red and green lettuce in alternating rows or next to each other.

How to Start: Lettuce grows easily from seeds. Just sprinkle them anywhere you want to grow lettuce, water and wait. It’s that easy. Keep the soil moist for 7-14 days and they will sprout. Lettuce grows pretty fast.

The best soil to use in a raised bed is either compost or commercial garden soil. This will make it easier to get seeds to germinate and grow.

Needs: Lettuce is very hardy and does not need any special care. However it does prefer cooler temperatures and will bolt in mid summer. Lettuce likes full sun if the temperatures are cooler. If you plant during the warmer months, pick a location that has partial shade. Lettuce likes higher pH soils. You may need to add lime if your soil pH is lower than 6.0.

Lettuce should be watered lightly and frequently. You want more leaf development than root development.

Size: Lettuce stays pretty small, maybe 10-12 inches high. Head lettuce is typically larger and can get the size of a basketball.

Harvest Time: You can start harvesting leaf lettuce between 30 and 70 days. You can harvest some leaves or the entire bundle.

Lettuce Varieties

  • Leaf Lettuce [red and green]
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Butterhead
  • Iceberg
  • Boston Lettuce
  • Bibb Lettuce
  • Crisphead
  • Oak Leaf

Turnips

Turnips are a fantastic vegetable to grow in raised beds. The roots will turn out fabulous. Turnips are a great addition to any soup, stew or pot pie. The green tops look great in the garden too.

How to Start: Turnips are easy to start from seeds. The seeds are tiny, so sprinkle them in fertile soil [1/2″ deep] and cover. I recommend covering the area with a thin layer of mulch to retain moisture and help the seeds germinate and sprout. Now keep the soil moist for 7-14 days.

I start turnips outside in my raised bed and they sprout every time.

Needs: Turnips need full sun for best results but can tolerate partial shade. Fertile, organic soil is a must for turnips and all root vegetables. Organic soil like compost and commercial garden soil are very soft and make it easy for roots to develop without obstructions.

Once the turnip sprouts get a few inches tall, thin them out to enable proper root growth. If they are too close together, the roots will not be able to grow freely. You want about 4″ in between plants.

Water turnips after a few days of dry soil. Don’t keep the soil wet or dry too long. 1 to 2 days in between watering will be fine.

Size: Turnip tops may grow to 12-14″ tall. The root bulb can be 2-8″ in diameter. They are the perfect size for raised beds, container farming and pots.

Harvest Time: Turnips can be harvested after 45-50 days. If you are not sure if they are ready to harvest, pull one up and check it out. If it’s large enough, harvest now.

Turnip Varieties

  • Purple Top White Globe
  • Scarlet Queen
  • Baby Bunch
  • White Lady
  • Gold Ball
  • Manchester Market
  • Tokyo Cross
  • White Egg
  • Red Round
  • Gilfeather
  • Seven Top
  • Royal Crown
  • Hidabeni
  • Orange Jelly
  • Top Star
  • Sweet Scarlet Ball

Carrots

Carrots are one the best vegetables for raised beds and box gardens. The soil is perfect for any root vegetable. Nothing beats a fresh carrot from the garden. Put them in stews, soups or steam them. Great stuff!

How to Start: Carrots are easy to start from seeds. The seeds are tiny. Just sprinkle them on fertile garden soil and cover lightly. Now water regularly to keep the seeds moist for 14-21 days. The sprouts are tiny and hard to see at first. But after they grow a few inches, you will know what they are. The tops of carrots are unique.

The most important aspect of growing carrots is good soft soil. Use an airy loamy soil like some of the commercial garden soils. Don’t use high nitrogen materials like manure or fertilizers. The roots will grow forks. Use coffee grounds instead.

Needs: Carrots need a soft airy type soil like Loam for proper root development. You could use one of the commercial garden soils available form Kellogg or GardenTime. Do not use manure or high nitrogen fertilizers.

Till the soil to 12″ or so to allow deep roots to grow. Remove rocks, stones, gravel and hard soil clumps from the area.

Water about 2″ per week after seedlings have grown.

Carrots prefer the cooler months like spring and fall.

Size: Carrots can grow to a length of 12″ or more but it’s better to harvest them when they reach about a 1/2″ in diameter. The taste will be much sweeter. Smaller carrots taste better.

Harvest Time: Carrots take some time to mature. From seed to harvest can be as long as 2-4 months. But they are well worth the wait. Fresh carrots are grand. Pull one carrot when you think they are ready and see how big the root is. If it’s big enough then pull them.

Carrot Varieties

  • Deep Purple Hybrid
  • Imperator 58
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Little Fingers
  • Lunar White
  • Parisian Heirloom
  • Purple Dragon
  • Red
  • Short ‘n Sweet
  • Solar Yellow
  • Tendersweet
  • Thumbelina
  • Touchon

10 Fast Growing Vegetables [2020]

10 Fast Growing Vegetables 2020

Everyone loves growing a garden where they can harvest their own fresh vegetables…BUT does it have to take so long? Tomatoes and peppers can take 3 months to harvest

Typically leafy vegetables and herbs are the fast growers while fruit bearing plants take more time. Watermelons take 80 days.

Vegetable Growing Tips

If you plan and plant vegetables early, like before Spring, you can get a jump start on the growing season. Another tip is to buy seedlings instead of planting from seeds. Planting seeds takes up 2 weeks of your season.

You can start seeds indoors in February or March. This will give you a jump start on the growing season.

Let’s see what we can grow and harvest in less time.

Arugula [30 days]

Arugula can be ready to harvest in 3-4 weeks from planting. Plant the seed in a good organic soil and cover. Now cover the area with a thin layer of mulch to keep in moisture. Seeds need to stay moist in order to germinate. Now water regularly to maintain moisture levels. The seeds will sprout in 7-14 days.

Arugula has very shallow roots and can be planted in small garden pots or box gardens. It grows best in rich organic soils like commercial garden soil and/or compost. it does very well in full sun or part shade locations.

Arugula will be ready to harvest in as little as 3 weeks. Cut off the leaves when you’re ready to harvest. Baby leaves taste much sweeter than more mature leaves. Arugula is like a leaf lettuce but with a somewhat spicy flavor. It can be used as a substitute for basil.

Bok Choy [45-60 days]

Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage and grows pretty fast. Bok Choy can be ready for harvesting in 45-60 days.

There are 2 varieties, Baby Bok Choy and standard Bok Choy. Baby Bok Choy grows to about 10 inches tall while standard Bok Choy will grow to 12 to 24 inches tall.

Plant Bok Choy seeds in fertile soil like compost, composted manures and commercial garden soil and cover with a thin layer of mulch to retain moisture. Water regularly for 7-14 days until sprouts appear. Then water 1 or 2 days after the soil is dry. Bok Choy likes shady locations.

Broccoli Rabe [50-60 days]

Broccoli Rabe can be ready to harvest in 50-60 days.Harvest the clusters as soon as they appear because they will flower quickly.

Broccoli Rabe resembles Broccoli but it is actually related to the turnip family. Broccoli Rabe has a slightly bitter taste. It’s a great addition to any salad or stir fry. The leaves and stem are also edible and are best when young.

Choose a sunny location for Plant Broccoli Rabe. Plant seeds in fertile soil like compost or garden soil and water daily for 7-14 days. After they sprout, water only after the soil has become dry for a day or two. Don’t over water.

Cress [14 days]

Cress can be ready to harvest in as little as 2 weeks. Seeds germinate in 2 days or so.

Cress is a popular green for salads and can be used as a spicy herb in other recipes. Harvest the leaves when they reach about 2 inches in size.

Cress is best grown indoors and in shallow trays lined with paper towels. Sprinkle the tiny seeds on the wet paper towels and cover to retain moisture. Cress does not need soil.

The seeds will germinate in 2 or 3 days. If grown outdoors, Cress make become too spicy in summer months. It does well in full sunlight or partial shade.

Kale [30-40 days]

Kale can be harvested in about 30-40 days when using transplants or 55-75 days when starting from seeds. It’s worth the wait.

Kale is popular in salads, soups and stir-fries. It’s a great green food and full of nutrition. It’s at its best when it matures in cooler weather. Harvest the outer leaves first.

Kale will grow in just about anything with rich soil like planter pots, containers, box gardens, etc. Fertile soil is a must and compost and/or garden soil work best. Kale can be grown year round as it is very cold weather tolerant.

Kale needs plenty of water. Lack of water will make it bitter. Water after the soil starts to dry. Kale does well in direct sunlight and partial shade.

Mustard Greens [30 days]

Mustard Greens are ready to harvest in about 4 weeks. They grow very fast. They can be grown from seeds easily.

Mustard Greens are a great green that can be enjoyed in salads or in sandwiches. It has a nice spicy flavor. You can also steam them or braise them and stir-fried too. They have a distinct flavor that is unforgettable.

Plant Mustard Green seeds in a fertile, organic soil like compost or a commercial garden soil. The seeds quickly sprout in 5-7 days and grow quickly. Mustard Greens prefer cooler weather and will stop producing leaves in the heat of summer. Stick with fall or early spring for planting.

Radishes [21 days]

Radishes grow very fast and are easy to care for. They are ready for harvest in 3 weeks after planting. They are ideal for new gardeners.

Radishes are delicious raw or in salads. I love picking them, rinsing and eating right out of the garden. They are on the “warm” side of spiciness. They’re not too hot but not plain either.

Sprinkle radish seeds wherever you want they to grow and then water regularly. Radishes need good, fertile and soft soil for their roots to grow in. Hard compacted soils will stunt growth. Compost and/or commercial garden soil work well. Radishes like full sun locations.

Turnips [35 days]

Turnips can be harvested in a fast as 5 weeks or as long as 2 months depending on the size of the root you want. Leaves and roots both can be eaten.

Turnips are tasty additions to any soup or salad. They are nutritious and have a unique flavor. My mom used to always add turnips to her beef stew and beef pot-pie. Turnips take a while to cook and are great for slow cooker recipes like stews. Harvest turnips when the roots are about 2-3 inches in circumference.

Turnips easily start from seeds in just about any soil type like sandy, loamy or acidic to neutral pH. They are not picky.at all and grow fast and without much attention….just water. Seed sprout in about 5-10 days.

Spinach [30 days]

Spinach can be ready for harvest in as little as 30 days. Harvest as soon as the rosette has 5 or 6 leaves.

Spinach is great in salads, soups and on sandwiches. It’s a great “super food” with tons of nutrition and is actually the most nutritious food you can eat. I love steamed spinach as a side dish with lunches. I also put it on sandwiches in place of lettuce.

Spinach starts easily from seeds dumped in soil and watered. Yes, it’s that easy to grow spinach. Of course, fertile soil will grow the biggest and best tasting spinach. Spinach prefers cool weather like early spring or fall.

Leaf Lettuce [30 days]

Leaf lettuce can be harvested in 30 days from seeds. The leaves will grow quite rapidly when water is prevalent

Lettuce is the salad staple and is also great on sandwiches and subs. The green or more colorful varieties are more nutritious than the pale or white colored. Color is good. There is nothing like picking lettuce from the garden and then making a salad with it in the same day. Now that’s fresh.

Lettuce starts easily from seed. Sprinkle seeds on fertile soil and water. Lettuce seeds will sprout in 5-10 days. Composted soils work best with lettuce or any vegetable. Lettuce will do well in sunny locations or in partial shade.

How to Build a Garden Box [2020]

How to Build a Garden Box 2020

A garden box can be built by anyone with basic or no woodworking skills. They are easy and inexpensive to build. I built a 4’x2’x8″ wooden garden box for about $25.

Garden Box Materials

A simple garden box doesn’t require a lot of materials or tools to build. It’s basically a rectangular or a square wooden frame held together with screws or dowel pins. It’s a simple structure for supporting soil and plants

You can build a garden box from any of the following materials.

  • Bricks
  • Concrete blocks
  • Wood
  • Galvanized metal
  • Safe Plastics

Brick garden boxes are even easier to build than wood since you don’t need fasteners to hold the sides together. You may choose to use mortar to cement the bricks together or not. If the bricks are larger and heavier, you could just stack them without any type of adhesive. The soil inside will not push them out.

Larger bricks or blocks work even better if they are about 8-10″ high/tall. Be careful when using Cinder Blocks though. Some Cinder Blocks contain Coal Ash which is nasty stuff and toxic. Adobe or concrete blocks will work fine.

4′ x  2′ Wooden Garden Box Materials [Example]

  1. Sides [4′ length] – 2 [2×8 lumber] or 4 [2×4 lumber] pieces 48″ long
  2. Sides [2′ width] –  2 [2×8 lumber] or 4 [2×4 lumber] pieces 24″ long
  3. 3″ Wood Screws – 16 screws needed for 2×4 construction. or 8 screws for 2×8 construction.

Wood – you can use any untreated lumber like 2×4 or 2×6 or 2×8. You can get it cut to length at most home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot. You’ll need either 4 or 8 pieces of lumber. If you choose to use 2×4’s, you’ll need to double the pieces so you can stack them 2 high to make the sides 8″ high. 2×8 lumber is high enough so you don’t have to stack them on top of each other.

Wood Choices for Garden Boxes

  • Pine
  • Douglas Fir
  • Redwood
  • Red Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Black Walnut
  • Hemlock
  • Spruce
  • Juniper
  • American Chestnut
  • Yew
  • Catalpa

Any of these wood choices will make an excellent garden box. I like to use standard lumber sizes like 2×4, 2×6 or 2×8. Most home improvement stores will stock these and will also cut them to size.

I looked at 2×4 studs [Douglas Fir] at Lowes and the price was about $5 for a 2x4x92″. The 2″ thick lumber will make these boxes long lasting. It will take 15-20 years before it rots away. If you use thinner lumber like 1″ or less, it will rot through quicker.

Redwood and Cedar will last the longest but they are more expensive. Pine and Douglas Fir are great choices and long lasting…and cheap.

4′ x 2′ x 8″ Garden Box Project

I’m in the process of building a 4′ x 2′ x 8″ garden box. I’m going to use standard Douglas Fir 2×4’s from Home Depot. I’ll need 4 pieces 4′ long and 4 pieces 2′ long for the sides. I want untreated lumber because I don’t want any chemicals to leach into my garden where I’m growing edibles. Douglas Fir or Pine works perfectly.

I’m going to stack 2 2×4 pieces on top of each other to make the garden box 8″ high. I chose 2×4’s because they’re a lot cheaper than 2×8 lumber.

I’m going to fasten the 2×4 sides together using 3″ long stainless steel wood screws. I chose stainless steel because it is a non-toxic metal and will not rust easily. Don’t use any type of glues as they may contain toxic chemicals or may dissolve when wet. You really don’t want glue getting into the soil and then into the plants. It may harm the plants and/or you.

You can use either Philips head screws or the hex head. The hex head are easier to screw and tighten with a nut driver or socket and ratchet. I like the hex heads.

Safe Metal Fasteners

  • Stainless Steel
  • Zinc Galvanized

Recommended Fasteners

  • Stainless Steel Screws
  • Stainless Steel Nails
  • Zinc Galvanized Screws
  • Wood Dowels

**** Be careful what you use to fasten the wood together if you’re going to grow edibles/vegetables

Another safe option is to use dowels to fasten the wood together but it is more work. Drill holes [3/8″] in the lumber and then tap in the appropriate size wooden dowels. I prefer screws though.

When I’m ready to build the box, I’ll pre-drill holes in the lumber for the screws with a 1/4″ drill bit. This makes it much easier to screw a long fastener like a 3″ into hard lumber. If you don’t pre-dill holes, you might crack or split the lumber with the screws.

I’ll use the 3″ long screws to securely fasten the 2×4’s together and I’m basically done. Now I’ll choose a location and prepare the soil.

Best Locations for Garden Boxes

I’m going to select a location in my backyard that has 50/50 direct sun and shade. The Arizona sun can be brutal during the day. Shade will provide cooler temps for vegetables and flowers. I have a block wall that will provide afternoon shade.

Preparing the Garden Box Site

I’m going to use a mixture of native soil and commercial compost for my garden box. This will provide a rich soil that drains well, has good water retention, fertilizes and enhances the Arizona clay soil. Clay soils are pretty poor for growing anything but weeds and Bermuda grass. They don’t drain, are rock hard when dry and have zero organic material in them. Compost will change all of this.

I really like Kellogg’s garden products like N-Rich and All Natural Garden Soil. They are 100% organic and reasonably priced at $8.98 per 3 cubic feet bag. These bags are compressed, so you get a lot more than what it looks like in the bag.

You can use any commercial organic compost, garden soil or composted manure. You can also mix the soil anyway you like from 100% compost or commercial garden soil to 50% compost and 50% native soil or even 25% compost/garden soil and 75% native or yard soil. All of these will work really well. I prefer the 50% compost mixed with 50% native soil. It has worked fantastically for me.

First I’m going to till or dig up about 12″ of the soil in the garden box location. This will break up the compacted dry soil and make it easier to mix with the compost. I use a claw hammer to break up the soil. Claw hammers are the best gardening tools.

Now, I’ll put the garden box frame in place. I like to wet the bottom soil to help soften it. The compost will help with that too. I’ll dump some of the N-Rich Soil conditioner compost in the box and mix the soil with it thoroughly. I keep adding and mixing. I want to try to keep it a 50/50 mix of compost and native soil. If it looks like too much compost, I’ll add more native soil from my yard.

After the garden box is full, I level it off and water thoroughly. I won’t plant anything for 3 weeks. I water regularly to promote bacteria and microbe growth. Soil is an ecosystem full of microorganisms and insects. It takes a few weeks for this ecosystem to grow and stabilize. After 3 or 4 weeks, I’ll start planting seeds.

Garden Box Benefits

So why build a garden box instead of just making a garden on the ground?

Easier Garden Soil Setup
A garden box makes it easy to have rich, organic soil that will make a vegetable garden produce beautiful fruit and lots of it. It also makes the best flower gardens too. It’s as easy as dumping rich soil into the box and then plant. A ground garden is not so easy.

If you make a garden on the ground you are limited to the native soil or you have to spend a lot of time preparing the soil. In order to prepare native soil for gardening, you might have to till or turn the soil so that you can mix in organic material. Tilling dry, compacted soil is difficult and time consuming…and back breaking. I’ve tilled many gardens in my time and choose not to anymore. My back thanks me too.

Anyway, you need to dig up the soil and mix it with compost before planting anything. This is no easy task.

Weed and Grass Control
Garden boxes also separate the garden from the rest of the yard which means, weeds and grass won’t invade the garden. A ground garden will get invaded by weeds and grass. Weeds will drop seeds in the garden and sprout quickly. It’s much harder for weed seeds to get into a raised box garden. If weeds do get into the box garden, they are very easy to pull out because the soil is moist and soft.

Keep Pests Out
A raised garden box also repels pests from getting in your garden because its more difficult to get into. Rabbits and cats will be more likely to stay out of a garden box because it’s elevated off the ground and harder to access. Rabbits love to eat your plants and will demolish a lettuce garden in no time. Cats love to dig and poop in soft soil. The raised box will deter them from climbing in.

Easier Maintenance

It is easy to do garden maintenance when the garden bed is raised off of the ground by 12-24″. You don’t have to bend over as far or sit on your knees. Plucking any weeds will be a snap.

Garden Boxes are Decorative
Garden boxes also add visual appear to your front or backyard. They are very functional and decorative. Nothing looks more organized and pleasant than several raised wooden box gardens.

Can Pick Locations
You are able to pick any location for a garden box site. You can even build one on top of your patio. You get to choose the location unlike a ground garden where you are limited to available space in your yard.

A garden box is also temporary or mobile. You can move one if you need to. Just empty it of soil, pickup the frame and move it to a new location. You can’t do that easily with a ground garden.