I want to start a vegetable garden this year, and I will be using raised beds as I live in the city on a small lot. 1) How deep should my beds be? 2) What mix of soil should I use for the veggies?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Tim: Starting a vegetable garden is a great way to provide you and your family/friends with fresh food. Even a small city lot is enough space to grow herbs and veggies. Gardening in raised beds is ideal for your situation. Before constructing your beds, keep in mind that vegetables require full sun so make sure you have a space that will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The dimensions of your raised beds are going to be up to you and the space limitations you are working with. The most important dimension is the depth. Ideally you do not want it to be any less than a foot deep and in direct contact with the existing soil. This allows enough space for the roots to spread and continue into the earth if needed. This is especially true if you intend to grow any root vegetables. Growing in raised beds certainly has its advantages, one of the most important being that we can create the ideal soil mixture for our plants. A mixture of quality topsoil, compost, and manure provides plants with the optimal environment in which to grow. Soil structure, fertility, drainage, and pH are all important aspects in creating this environment. First you will want to till up the base soil and then add topsoil, compost, and decomposed manure. Different layers of soil can create barriers, not allowing soil to penetrate, so make sure to mix it all together. Equal parts topsoil and amendments is best, but heavier on the topsoil is fine as well. There is a movement in Louisville inspired by 15,000 farmers that encourages city dwellers to start growing their own food. Their Web site is full of information on square foot gardening in raised beds along with planting diagrams. If you are interested you can visit their Web site at www.15thousandfarmers.com/Home_Page.html.