Many gardeners utilize raised garden beds to grow a variety of fresh, organic vegetables. Raised garden beds offer many advantages including easy harvesting, better drainage, and higher yields. Although you can grow almost any vegetables in garden beds, some vegetables are easier to grow than others. Below is a list of vegetables that are recommended for beginner gardeners.
Although many vegetables are low maintenance, it is still important to pay attention to their soil requirements. The soil should be loose, well-draining, and rich in nutrients. Raised bed soil, a specific mix of soil formulated for raised beds, is often suggested, as it contains the ideal balance between potting soil and garden soil. Potting mix is too light to be raised in beds, while garden soil is too heavy.
If you are seeking a cheaper alternative, you can create your own raised garden bed soil by combining garden soil with potting soil, keeping in mind to use more garden soil than potting mix, usually at a 5:1 ratio. If you want to save money, we suggest you try the Hugelkultur method or a soil blend of 50% topsoil, 30% compost, and 20% organic matter.
- Cherry Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the most common vegetables grown in North America, with over 25,000 types. While larger varieties take longer to harvest, cherry tomatoes are quick growing, producing around two months after transplanting.
If your raised bed is small, or you want to grow other crops as well, you should consider cherry tomatoes. You can support them using trellises or cages, or you can just grow them directly on the ground. Tomatoes do not like the cold, so make sure to not plant them too early. It is recommended that you plant them mid-May.
Peas can be planted in early spring and again in fall, when the temperature is cool. The three kinds of peas are English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. English peas are known as shelling peas and do not have edible pods. Snow peas have flat edible pods and have the longest maturity of all peas. Sugar snap peas are a cross between the other two varieties, with their pods being crisp and edible. Although most require some kind of support, you can purchase dwarf varieties or let the pea vines trail on the sides of your bed. Peas are ideal for succession planting because they enrich the soil with nitrogen, a vital nutrient that fertilizes the soil. After you have harvested your peas, pull them out and plant something else in your raised garden bed.
Potatoes are a versatile and popular crop to grow in raised garden beds. As they are very sturdy and can thrive in many conditions, they can be grown in potato bags or bins, but we recommend raised garden beds for a plentiful yield. Each potato plant can yield anywhere from three to five pounds of potatoes. It is important to know the variety of potato you are planting and the harvest time, so you know when you can dig them up. Early seed potatoes can be planted in February or a few weeks after the last frost.
Potatoes do not grow well in close proximity with cucumbers, squash, carrots, and turnips, so it is best to give them a separate bed if you have the space. Beans and legumes are suggested companion plants for potatoes, as they release nitrogen into the soil. Potatoes deter the Mexican bean beetle, which attacks legumes.
Onions are good companion plants that deter pests, so it is ideal to plant them next to vegetables such as kale, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and peppers. They do not take up a lot of space, so you can just plant them between your larger plants. The easiest way to grow them is to purchase bulbs, which are called onion sets, and plant them in the spring. You can also cultivate them indoors 8 – 10 weeks before the last frost to get a head start on the growing season.
Like onions, Garlic is very easy to grow and is a natural pest detergent. It has powerful health benefits by providing a host of antioxidants, and is a great flavoring added to food. Unlike onions, which are usually planted in the spring, garlic should be planted in the fall. Garlic comes in softneck and hardneck varieties. Softnecks are more productive and easier to grow, especially in mild climates. The reason they are called softnecks is that the above ground stalks of softnecks will flop over in the summer, a signal that they are ready to harvest. Hardnecks have more variety and depth of flavor, which can appeal to a more experienced gardener.
Cucumbers come in both bush and vining varieties, with trellises being suggested for vining types. They are a great source of hydration, consisting of 96 % water. If you do not like fresh cucumbers, you can consider pickling them. Cucumbers are a warm weather crop that should be planted after the last spring frost during the summer. Cucumber seeds should be planted 6 inches apart and no more than one inch deep. We recommend patio cucumbers, which are compact vines ideal for growing on patios, porches, or balconies.
Lettuce is a cool weather crop that grows quickly, so it can be planted in early spring or fall. Leaf lettuce is suggested for a salad. You can plant it next to tomatoes and other larger plants. If you notice that too many plants have clustered together, make sure to thin them out so that your plants have room to grow. It is a good idea to plant lettuce in small amounts, and periodically supplement your raised garden bed with a fresh crop of lettuce every two or three weeks during the growing season. This conserves space in your raised bed while ensuring that you have a steady supply of fresh greens.
- Root Vegetables
Root vegetables such as carrots and radishes are easy to grow. Radishes are ready to harvest after three or four weeks after planting. Radish seeds should be planted 2 inches apart, or you can thin them out to this spacing after they sprout. You may find it beneficial to plant carrots next to radishes, as radishes will push up through the soil faster, breaking it up for the carrots.
Carrots favor loose, sandy soil during the cooler periods of the growing season. In addition to the standard orange, they come in a variety of colors, such as purple, yellow, and white. It is important that you use fluffy, loose soil that drains well with sand; otherwise, their growth can be stunted, leading them to become misshapen and knobby. As with radishes, you need to thin out your carrots to prevent them from overcrowding each other.
Zucchinis are plants that do well in full sun and hot weather and can provide shade for neighboring crops in your raised bed. Plant seeds half an inch deep and three to four inches apart. Once they are established, you may need to thin them to six feet apart. Make sure to not plant too many, as they produce tremendous yields. Harvest zucchinis when they are between 3 – 6 inches long for optimal flavor and texture, as larger ones tend to be less savory. Keep an eye out for powdery mildew and squash vine borers, especially if you live in a place that encounters wet summers. The soil should be amended with well-aged compost to improve aeration.
Kale is a popular addition to salads, or as a substitute for spinach in omelets and casseroles. It is a cool season plant that should be planted during fall or spring, as cool weather enhances their sweetness. If you are transplanting kale plants, plant them about a foot apart. If you are using seeds, sprinkle a few in the center of each square foot. Ornamental kale is an attractive option for flower beds.