At the time I decided to go with raised bed gardening I didn’t realize how advantageous they really were. With that said there are some things I would certainly do differently.
For my first raised bed I wanted it to be an attractive addition to the backyard. Having experience with retaining walls I decided to build it using landscaping blocks.
When it was finished it looked great but it was very expensive.
Not having built a raised bed before I followed the recommendations of others on the net that said to cover the bottom with cardboard to prevent grass from growing up in the bed.
Even though the grass inside was removed, the first course of block was 4 inches below grade, and the bottom was covered with cardboard it didn’t stop the grass from eventually growing up inside. It may just be a Florida thing with the type of grass we have but the cardboard advice proved wrong.
Another reason I think the grass grew up inside is because the roots followed the water used in the bed. Plants are amazing. Somehow the roots know how to seek the water and nutrients they need to survive.
The first thing I do differently now whenever I build a new bed is lay down a black plastic barrier before filling the bed. As long as the bed is 10 to 12 inches deep the roots will spread out as needed in the bed. They do not need any more depth inside the bed.
As you’ll see in the picture below the finished bed is mulched with screened wood chips. You absolutely must mulch to prevent weeds although wood chips are good they aren’t my first choice anymore.
Another thing that I did based on recommendations of others on the net was to make the growing area 4 foot wide. Their logic is that you can reach in 2 feet from either side to work the bed. Wrong!
Why I Don’t Make My Beds 4′ Wide Anymore
Four feet is too wide. If you have a bug problem many times the bugs are using the under side of the plant leaves. In a 4 foot bed you can’t reach the back side of the leaves on the other side of the bed to inspect them or apply a bug preventative.
Now all my new beds are 30 inches wide max, or less depending on the crops planned for the bed.
Watering Tips For Raised Bed Gardens
If you are a new gardener one question that keeps coming up is, “how much watering do I need to do?”. This is an area where a raised bed has a big advantage. It’s hard to over water a raised bed because the excess water will run out the bottom of the bed around the sides.
With that said, I highly recommend an automatic watering system. In my beds I setup mini-spray heads around the perimeter and they run once in the morning and once in the evening. See the picture below.
These mini-spray heads put out a gentle mist of water and the plants must love it because they thrive in it. All my beds are setup this way and run off the same timer and system. You can get a lot of things wrong in gardening but watering can’t be one of them. This method of watering solves that problem.
The only thing I would suggest is to use individual shutoffs for each bed. Not all my beds are planted and in use at the same time. The shutoffs allow me to turn off watering for beds that are not in use.
Here’s Another Important Tip
That brings me to another tip. Never, never ever leave the soil uncovered in a bed that isn’t in use. After your beds are finished for the growing season cover them with black plastic. The plastic will prevent all sorts of bugs and weeds from making their home in your garden.
Trust me on that one. I learned the hard way. The first year it obviously wasn’t a problem. The second year it was a nightmare. The bugs devastated most of the crops and the weeds were uncontrollable.
I’ve had fire ants in my beds and caterpillar worms that live in the soil and only come out at night to dine on the lush crops. One of my pepper plants was completely defoliated. At first I thought it was an animal but there was no other signs to support that. I finally learned about the nocturnal bug behavior. That was an eye opener for me.
The weeds in Florida are like no other weeds I’m familiar with. There are so many different kinds and trust me when I say that even screening your garden in won’t keep them out. The only thing that worked the was using a black plastic mulch. It stopped the bugs and the weeds.
Let me say that I’m still learning. Although gardening is easy it can also be hard. As a backyard gardener each growing season I get a little better and eliminate more problems.
In Florida The Bugs Rule
In Florida bugs rule. You have daytime bugs and nighttime bugs to fight. Of the two, the nighttime ones are the most difficult to control. See my latest solution in the picture below.