Growing vegetables in raised beds is a bit like maximizing real estate.
You want to make efficient use of every square inch of your beds all year round.
This calls for a system that will allow for maximizing your efforts. Gaps you have in your beds through harvesting or loss of plants should be refilled immediately by new vegetable plants and seedling. This means you have to plan ahead and decide on what you want to grow.
Here is our system for growing vegetables in raised beds. If executed well it will produce more organic vegetables than you can eat!
There is no point in growing what you don’t like or have no use for. Don’t plant too many plants of one variety. For example, there is no need for 6 courgette plants that need a lot of space if you only have to feed a family of four.
Two or three courgette plants are enough for a family and you will still have enough to give away for your neighbors!
Start your vegetables ahead of time in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. This will save valuable time in your raised beds. Depending on the time of the year and vegetable this can save you 4-5 weeks.
can then transplant the hardened off seedlings into your raised beds
after other crops have been harvested. You also always have gap fillers
handy when you need them.
We use reusable multi-cell trays for this technique. The benefit of these is that each plant will have its own individual rootball that doesn’t get disturbed when you transplant them.
Some vegetables can be harvested over and over without having to be
replanted. Grow these at the right time of the year (some of them are
best as a fall and winter crop) and you can harvest for months from the
same plant! Here are some examples:
Kale (Red Russian, Curly Kale, Cavolo Nero,…)
Loose Leaf Cabbage
New Zealand Spinach
Mustard Leaves (Winter)
Wild Rocket (Arugula)
Download our FREE Gardening4Climate guide and learn how to do just that in your own backyard with permaculture gardening!
Instead of growing lettuce as a head and harvesting the whole plant at once consider growing loose leaf or pick leaf varieties. This way you can get much more and longer out of a single plant.
Another benefit of this method is that you can grow different varieties with a different colour and texture of the leaves. That is so much nicer and more interesting in your salad bowl!
Some vegetables need a long time to mature and they also need to be planted far apart because they will grow big. Some examples for this are kale, broccoli or courgettes.
Use the vacant space in between those plants while they are small and plant quick growing and maturing vegetables in between. You can use lettuce, radishes or scallions for this purpose. By the time the bigger vegetables grow to their full size these quick maturing will be finished.
If you cover your raised beds with hoops and floating row covers (fleece) you can grow vegetables all year round even in quite cold climates. Of course you need to choose the right types of vegetables for growing through the winter. You won’t be able to grow tomatoes this way but a lot of other vegetables are suitable for winter harvesting. Here are some example to give you an idea:
Oriental Greens (Mizuna, Mibuna)
If you want to learn more about growing vegetables during the winter check out Eliot Coleman's Book 'The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses'. This brilliant book will teach you all you need to know about the subject.
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