Raised bed gardening is gaining in popularity. If you are thinking of following suit, you may be wondering what are the best vegetables to grow in raised beds? Given that raised beds do not have unlimited room for deep roots, it’s worth putting a bit of thought into your crops beforehand. Fortunately, many veggies do quite well in a raised setting.
6 of the best vegetables to grow in raised beds
One of the best plants for raised garden beds is tomatoes. They are easy to grow and generally yield a large crop, plus there are many different varieties to choose from. If you’re new to raised garden beds, you really can’t go wrong with tomato plants.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to add tomatoes to your raised bed. First, you will need to cage your tomatoes just as you would in a traditional ground bed. This is best done shortly after the plants begin to sprout as it can be difficult to contain a bushy, mature plant. Also, when watering your tomatoes, try and aim the water so that it hits the base of the plant and not the leaves. Overwatering the leaves can spread fungus and disease and prevent the water from soaking down to the roots, which is the ultimate goal.
For more information about growing tomatoes outdoors, see my article “Tomato Growing Tips for Cultivation Outdoors“.
Potatoes are unique in that they actually tend to do better in raised beds than they do when planted directly in the ground. Best of all, they require very minimal effort on your part. If you live in a humid climate, the occasional rainfall may be enough to keep your potatoes watered. Otherwise, weekly watering is usually sufficient.
The only real drawback to using a raised garden bed for potatoes seems to be the harvesting. If you’ve grown potatoes before, then you know that the actual potato grows several inches deep in the soil. You have to dig the potato out, which is usually done using a potato fork. However, it can sometimes be difficult to use a potato fork in a raised bed. If your raised bed is sturdy enough, you may be able to stand on the side and dig the potato fork down. Otherwise, you will likely need to use a small garden shovel to dig the potatoes out by hand.
As far as vegetables go, carrots are considered to have deep roots. If you are going to successfully grow carrots in your raised bed, you will need to make sure the bed is large enough to accommodate their root system. Ideally, your bed should allow for about 18 inches of soil depth. If that condition is met, raised beds actually provide an excellent environment for carrots to grow.
To help your carrots reach their full potential, aim to keep the bed’s soil loose and fairly moist, especially in those crucial few days after planting the seeds. Post-germination, you may be able to get away with watering once per week, but it’s a good idea to continue checking on your soil to make sure it doesn’t get too dry.
With their distinct spicy taste and fast grow times, radishes are a favorite amongst many gardeners. And, it turns out, they often do very well in a raised garden bed. This is true for both winter and summer radishes. In fact, if your growing season is long enough, you could probably even grow both varieties.
To plant radishes in your raised bed, simply dig a hole a few inches deep and plant a seed. Leave two inches or so of space between radishes and water them at least once per week. After a few weeks, your radishes should be ready to harvest. It’s important not to let the fully grown radishes sit in the ground too long or it will change their taste.
Peas grow well in raised beds for a few reasons. For one, raised beds often provide better drainage than ground beds. This lowers the risk of root rot, leading to healthier pea plants. Also, raised beds generally have warmer soil, meaning you can start your peas earlier in the season. The primary drawback is space– if you want to plant multiple rows, you need to plan to leave at least one foot of space between each row.
Ideally, you should also have some kind of post or trellis for your pea plants to grow up. This will help protect nearby plants and provide a safe material to support your peas as they grow taller. After planting, simply water your peas as needed– usually once per week, unless you are in a particularly dry area.
Whether you are growing bell peppers, hot peppers (such as Jalapenos), or both, one thing is for sure: peppers require good drainage to thrive. That is what makes a raised garden bed the perfect place to grow your peppers. Furthermore, because the soil is generally warmer in a raised bed than in the ground, you can actually extend the growing season for your peppers.
For best results, water your peppers only as needed. Check the soil before watering and only do so when it feels dry a couple of inches down. Also, take care not to water the leaves of the plant. This can take a little more effort, but you will lower the risk of diseases and fungus if you only water the soil and not the plant itself.
Benefits of raised garden beds
While there is no doubt that you can grow plenty of different veggies in a raised garden bed, why should you? After all, isn’t it easier to simply stick with a garden bed on the ground that you don’t have to build?
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why raised beds are worth considering.
- Easier to tend to. Even if you don’t have back issues, leaning over to harvest crops and pull weeds can lead to a fair amount of soreness. Not only that, but all of that kneeling can really do a number on your knees. With raised beds, you can often find a much more comfortable position for your harvesting and weeding.
- More control over the soil. When you are using a ground bed, you are often stuck with whatever soil is native to your area. This may or may not be fine. Some areas have naturally fertile and nutrient-dense soil. In other spots, you may be dealing with soil that is primarily clay. With a raised garden bed, you are adding your own soil, meaning you can choose the best dirt possible for your plants.
- Less space than a traditional bed. You can usually plant veggies more densely in a raised garden bed than a traditional ground garden. That means your garden bed takes up less space. Whether you’re living in tight quarters or just want to grow more veggies, the less space your garden bed takes up, the better.
- Not as much work to maintain. Because your raised garden bed is densely planted, there is less room for weeds to grow. That is excellent news because it translates to less work for you. There are fewer weeds to pull in a raised bed, allowing you to spend your time enjoying your garden instead of plucking out weed after weed.
- Warmer soil. The soil in a raised garden bed is generally a few degrees warmer than soil in the Earth. This can help extend your growing season, as you can plant your veggies earlier in the year in a raised bed.
There are all sorts of reasons to give raised bed gardening a try. Pick one of two of the plants on our list of the best vegetables to grow in a raised bed and see how it works for you.