Raised Bed Gardening in the South

Photo Courtesy of Alabama Extension

Raised bed gardens are different from regular gardens. They are an activity for the entire family and a great way to spend time outdoors.

“Raised beds have taken gardening to a new level for many people,” said  Tim Crow, a home grounds regional extension agent located in Cullman County. “It’s a chance to have success in the garden for people who enjoy home-grown vegetables and who do not want to commit to the large-scale gardens.”

Most plants can grow in raised bed gardens. All vegetable and small fruit plants can grow as well, but of course, the size of the garden decides what can grow.

“In the summer months, the gardener could grow tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, eggplants and corn,” he said. “Gardeners grow any vegetable in a raised bed. In the cool season months, we grow more of our leafy vegetables like cabbages, lettuce, kale, broccoli and cauliflower plants.”

Plant spacing in a raised bed garden has the same importance as plant spacing in regular ground plantings.

“To maximize production of plants, proper spacing gives it the best chance to produce and not compete with too many root systems trying to do the same thing,” said Crow.

Raised bed gardens thrive anywhere; however, strategic placing in one’s yard depends on what a gardener plants to grow.

“Any area receiving six to eight hours of direct sunlight suits vegetable plants,” he said. “Make sure there is a water source nearby for watering. Shady areas are beneficial for ornamental plants that require certain hours of shade per day.”

Sizes of beds vary, but the average bed size is four by eight feet and 12 inches deep.

“Raised beds can be constructed from numerous products,” said Crow. Wood, stones and metal products easily construct the beds.”

Another difference of raised bed gardens is the type of soil used. Since the growing medium is easily controlled, it creates ideal growing conditions.

“Vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and mini pine bark nuggets make for a really good soil mix,” he said. “There are commercially produced products containing these mixtures, and local stores sell these mixtures.”

Proper care of raised gardens is imperative to ensure a long-lasting gardening experience.

“Make sure materials are staying together,” Crow said. “Wood products can begin to rot over time. When using stones, make sure they are stable and secure the structure, and replace pieces over time that need repair.”

All in all, it is reasonably inexpensive and can produce a lot of produce for a small family.

“My children love to plant and keep it up,” he said. “It can give children a garden that is more proportionate to their scale, and they enjoy spending time in it.”

For more information about raised bed gardens, please click here to read the Alabama Cooperative Extension System article, and to learn more about Alabama Cooperative Extension, visit www.aces.edu.

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