New Raised Bed Planters – My Approach

raised bed vegetable planter

New, pine and corrugated tin raised planters after a heavy rain.

These new raised vegetable beds have a depth if the soil is fill to the top of 2 feet.

These new raised vegetable beds have a depth of 2 feet, if the soil is filled to the top.

My neighbor has built two great looking raised beds to grow their vegetables. They are new to the vegetable gardening scene, and I hope that I have given them some good advice, which I want to share with you. They have done an excellent job of locating the beds in full sun and close to a water source. They are built on pine wood frames, and the sides are made of corrugated tin. Also, because moles and voles are bad in our neighborhood, they lined the bottom with wire mesh. Since the two planters needed about 3 cubic yards of soil to fill them, I suggested he get mixed soil from a good landscape company.

Mixed soil for the new planters purchased from a local landscape company.

Mixed soil for the new planters purchased from a local landscape company.

The soil they bought was a mixture of good loamy top soil, very fine ground pine bark, and some sand. Good stuff, but as with any newly mixed soil, especially those that contain bark (and I don’t know any that you buy in bulk that is not), except for two things. One, when it gets a good rain or wet it will pack down and second, decomposition will occur. Neither of these is bad, but it is important to handle these issues. Mixed soil will compact no matter how much you fill it. Compaction means that you will end up with it 3 inches to 6 inches lower in the planter than you filled it. And because it will decompose (and so does bagged mixed soils), your plants can quickly be deficient of nitrogen because decomposition uses nitrogen in the process. So, it has to be replaced. This is especially important because the decomposition process is fastest in the first year. Once the raised planters are filled, water them well. I like to let them rest at least a week before planting. This allows the soil to compact and release any fumes associated with the mixing. When you are ready to plant, add nitrogen at planting if you are planting seedlings, and once the true leaves appear on seeds that are directly planted. One application is not enough for the whole growing season. If you are using a total organic approach, I recommend processed cow manure at planting and fish emulsion or a like organic product every several weeks throughout the growing season. If you are okay using chemical fertilizers, which I recommend especially the first year, I apply a granular product at planting (like 15-0-15 or 12-6-6), and then start on a regular schedule throughout the growing season. I would recommend liquid feeding after the initial granular application, every two to three weeks at the recommended rate on the bag. Remember, a good raised bed grows better and more productive plants in season two than they generally do their first growing season.

More Vegetables in Planters and Containers

Earthboxes: These Planters are Growing Machines

Planting Lettuce Pots

Straw Bale Vegetable Gardening

Containerized Greens

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

4 thoughts on “New Raised Bed Planters – My Approach

  1. Some nice quality compost and worm castings will help the microbial activity and soil health. Our worms produce amazing castings that have had a profound effect on our raised beds. There has been great research published on castings and it’s use in soil as well as using worms in aquaponics to enrich those systems.

  2. Very smart lining the bottom with wire mesh. Several years after installing our raised beds voles consumed my entire garden within a two hour time frame. We had to remove all of the dirt from our raised beds and add the mesh. It was exhausting!

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