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 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.
- Better Boy
- Early Girl
- Pink Brandywine
- Caspian Pink
- Thai Pink Egg
- Yellow Stuffer
- Garden Peach
- White Beauty
- Ghost Cherry
- White Queen
- German Green Stripe
- Green Moldovan
- Green Zebra
Purple and Black Tomatoes
- Cherokee Purple
- Black Ethiopian
- Paul Robeson
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.
- Hungarian Wax Peppers
- Ghost Pepper
- Carolina Reaper
- Red Bell Pepper
- Yellow Bell Pepper
- Orange Bell pepper
- Green Bell Pepper
- Mini Sweet Peppers
- Long Sweet Peppers
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
- Burpless #26
- Bush Champion – ideal for raised beds
- Dasher II
- Early Pride
- Long Green Improved
- Marketmore 76
- Poinsett 76
- Salad Bush – ideal for raised beds
- SpaceMaster – ideal for raised beds
- Straight Eight
- Sugar Crunch
- Sweet Slice
- Sweet Success
- 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 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.
- Leaf Lettuce [red and green]
- Romaine Lettuce
- Boston Lettuce
- Bibb Lettuce
- Oak Leaf
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.
- Purple Top White Globe
- Scarlet Queen
- Baby Bunch
- White Lady
- Gold Ball
- Manchester Market
- Tokyo Cross
- White Egg
- Red Round
- Seven Top
- Royal Crown
- Orange Jelly
- Top Star
- Sweet Scarlet Ball
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.
- Deep Purple Hybrid
- Imperator 58
- Little Fingers
- Lunar White
- Parisian Heirloom
- Purple Dragon
- Short ‘n Sweet
- Solar Yellow