Raised Beds Aren’t Just for Vegetables

Raised Beds Aren’t Just for Vegetables

I mostly use raised beds for my vegetables but the truth is almost any plant can do great in a raised bed. Herbs, flowers, and ornamentals can all thrive in raised beds.  What makes a raised bed an awesome growing method is the soil that it uses.  You can mix the perfect soil mixture for any plant you want to grow whether it be ornamental or edible!

Rosemary

Herbs in a raised bed will want a well drained soil that isn’t too rich.  Often herbs do much better when planted in a nutrient deficient soil so you don’t have to build a rich compost-like soil for them.  For herbs a well drained mix is very important.  Soggy soil can lead to rotting and the eventual demise for some herbs.  They can handle conditions that are drier. In fact the flavor that herbs produce can be enhanced in dry conditions. When you fill a raised bed specifically for herbs consider adding sand into the mix to encourage good drainage – unless you have heavy clay  (Clay and sand mix great together – if you want to make a brick!) For heavy clay soils add organic matter like it’s going out of style.  If I were starting with a soil mix for herbs I would go about 2-3 parts of compost or soil to 1 part sand or vermiculite.  Herbs are flexible and can handle variations in the soil mix.  My herbs tend to get the leftover soil from other potted plants.  They seem to enjoy the leftovers just fine.

Ornamentals are awesome in raised beds.  I built a quasi-raised bed last year from retaining wall block and planted hostas and coleus inside. Perhaps quasi isn’t the right descriptor to add to the raised bed.

One side of the planting bed rests below the grade of the opposite side of the bed which allows the retaining wall blocks to hold the soil back, which of course does indeed make a raised bed.  Indeed.   I dumped a big load of homemade compost into the area and made some of the richest soil of any of my gardens.  The coleus leaves became gigantic!  I think they liked the compost, but who wouldn’t? …oh that’s right the herbs…

Raised beds let you control the soil characteristics.  It’s not a bad idea to test the soil on occasional using your local extension service.  They can do a complete soil analysis and advise you on on what to add to grow various plantings.  Soil tests mostly analyze for edibles but many edibles need the same or similar soil conditions as the ornamentals.

Dave

Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I want raised beds but need for it to be a simple process as a beginner..any suggestions?

    1. I recommend starting with a 4'x4' wooden raised bed for the first one. It's a good small size that is easy to manage. Maybe try 2-4 of these beds for your total first year garden. What seeds did you get and how much do you want to grow?

  2. I tried to pick things I thought we would actually eat:
    Blue Lake Pole Stingless
    Sugar snap Pole
    Tomato Tint Tim
    Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
    Carrott Little Finger
    and,
    Champion Radish

  3. Start with the snap sugar snap peas. You can plant them very soon – within the next couple weeks would be ideal here in TN. The lettuce and carrots can be planted from seed about 4 weeks before the last frost date and can be successively planted every couple weeks to insure a steady crop. The tomatoes should get started indoors then transplanted outside after danger of frost has passed.

    I hope that helps a little!

  4. Yes! Thank You! Now….Soil? We have alot of clay type soil…Any suggestions? Hope I'm not a pest!

    1. Rabbits, voles, and deer are pests, not a question! Amend with compost or organic material. Soil conditioner helps a lot too. If you're doing raised beds fill with compost or consider sheet composting where you layer materials and allow them to break down over time while still being able to plant your garden. If you buy the compost in bags it should be fine, if you're getting it from a farm make sure it has decomposed/aged about 6 months. Otherwise there could be too much nitrogen in the mix and it will burn the plants.

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