Growing herbs and veggies in a raised garden bed
Why grow herbs and veggies in a raised garden bed?
Raised garden beds are a brilliant way to grow edibles. Great soil is key to growing herbs and veggies, so if your soil is rock-hard clay or pure sand, a raised garden bed filled with top-notch soil makes perfect sense. Modern versions of the raised garden bed are also a total life-saver if you have a bad back - plus they make it much harder for pets and wildlife to get at your crop. Plus, there’s no need for walking on a raised bed, so soil won’t be compacted over time, which equals better drainage. With the addition of a garden bed cover, you can even grow your favourite herbs and veggies year round.
Choosing your raised garden bed size
The ideal width of a raised garden bed for growing edibles is around 1.2 to 1.3 metres. This allows you to easily reach into the centre of the bed to plant, harvest and dig, without having to step on the soil.
Location, location, location
From concrete to grass, you can place your raised garden bed on top of virtually any surface. If you're using a traditional on-ground raised bed, it’s always best to prepare the ground below by removing weeds. To further weed-proof your raised garden bed, you can also add a layer of between 12 and 20 sheets of newspaper. With more modern systems like the VegTrug range, none of this preparation work is necessary as the soil is held in a container above the ground, safely away from weed invasion. VegTrug even have some "wall hugger" options, which mean that you can grow your own herbs and veggies even in tight spaces, like in courtyards and on balconies, right up against a wall.
Almost all herbs and veggies love six to eight hours of sunlight daily, so establish your raised garden bed in a spot that enjoys plenty of sunshine. As herbs and veggies need regular watering (they do best in soil that is consistently moist, neither sodden nor bone dry) it’s wise to choose a spot where you can access water easily.
Edibles that can be grown with less than a full day's sunshine include beetroot, carrots, chervil, chives, coriander, leek, mint, onion, parsley, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, spring onion and tarragon.
Filling your raised garden bed
Herbs and veggies need at least 30 to 40 centimetres of nutrient-rich soil to thrive (see below for details on soil quality). To ensure the rim of your raised garden bed isn’t creating shade, fill it up to 10 centimetres from the rim, allowing space for mulch on top.
If your bed is deeper than 40 centimetres, you can fill the base up with sand, crushed sandstone or a sub-planter mix (this is a mix of coarse bark, ash and sand).
Herbs and veggies love rich, fertile soil, so the more organic material, the better.
You can buy our ready-made herb and veggie mix, which will contain all the nutrients your herbs and veggies need. If planning to use existing soil from your garden, add compost and enriched cow or chicken manure. These are the magic ingredients when it comes to growing herbs and veggies. As always, make sure you read packet instructions for recommended amounts to add, so you can create the perfect blend.
Exceptions to the rule of providing ‘rich, fertile soil’ are root crops such as parsnips, carrots and potatoes, which don’t like their roots in contact with too much fertiliser.
Dig the soil over as thoroughly as you can, down to a depth of about 30 centimetres. Break up any clumps of soil. The end result should be fine, light, crumbly soil. Lastly, rake the soil smooth and level it out.
Laying out your plants
Creating a strategic planting plan is vital for avoiding gluts, which can create wastage - there's only so much of any one veggie you can eat at a time, and if you plant all at once, your entire crop will ripen together, too! Start out by planting small amounts of each edible, leaving some of the soil bare, and then plant again in three to four weeks. This will spread your crops out so you don’t get everything in one hit.
Though all that bare soil can be quite inviting, resist the temptation to over-plant. You'll get far better results if you give your plants room to spread out and grow to full size, following spacing directions on the label.
One mistake gardeners often make is planting tall-growing edibles (such as silverbeet) at the front of the garden bed, which casts a shadow over the lower-growers behind. Make sure you read all the labels before planting, and position your crops strategically to ensure they all get enough sun.
What to plant and when?
Here are Flower Power's top five herbs and veggies for every season. Follow this planting plan and you could have a veritable smorgasbord right outside your back door!
In summer, plant spring onion, beans, capsicum, chilli and chives.
During autumn, crops like broad beans, silverbeet, turnip, thyme and marjoram are popular for planting.
Winter-loving crops include leeks, shallots, spinach, peas and parsnip.
Once spring hits, you can plant cress, garlic, potato, pumpkin and lemongrass.