For the last five years there has been a big resurgence in the interest of “grow your own” vegetables. Retiring boomers to new home owner millennials are looking for an efficient way to grow food at home. Here at Rolling Green we have listened and learned from our employees and customers about what works. Since we ‘grow rocks’ in NH soil, many homeowners find raised beds are an easier way to grow vegetables. Here is a recipe for easy raised beds from Patti Elwell, our in-house vegie growing enthusiast who has 10+ raised beds of her own.
Lumber: Hemlock 1” x 12” x 12’ is a great start. Two boards 12’ cut boards will make one 4’ x 8’ bed. Patti recommends Seacoast Mills in Exeter who will cut to length. Hemlock is a dense wood that holds up for a good 5 plus years.
Assembly: on a flat surface of your yard, in full sun, set out your lumber and use 24” lengths of rebar – 3 pieces for the ends and 4-6 pieces for the sides. Pound the rebar into the ground inside and outside of the wood to support the boards upright and often the boards will pop screws out anyway. This makes changing out a board easy. There are sources for corners but they can be difficult to install.
Line your raised bed with a layer of 10 sheets of newspaper or large pieces of cardboard. If you have leaves or grass clippings layer those on top of the cardboard. This way you do not have to remove the grass under the raised bed.
The soil recipe that works really well is 3 parts mixed screened loam to 1 part bulk compost. Our compost is yard & food waste from Seacoast Farms and has no manures or nitrogen charge, but is certified organic for veg gardening by the state of NH and adds important organic matter. The next layer we recommend is Bumper Crop compost. This product is made by Coast of Maine for Master Nursery Garden Centers. It has worm castings, hen and cow manures, lobster compost, mycorrhizaes, all sorts of magic. Some of the testimonials we get are “crack for vegies and 4 ft kale”. Going forward, each spring, add a two cubic foot bag of Bumper Crop before planting in a 4’x 8’ bed ensures a good start for your plants. The rich organic compost helps the soil and plant hold onto water especially during dry spells.
Raised beds are the perfect garden to plant intensively, so you may want to check out square foot gardens on how to lay out your seeds and seedlings. Keeping a journal helps you identify what worked and didn’t and how to rotate your crops, especially tomatoes.
Fertilizing your vegetables and flowers in your raised bed: we recommend organics, especially Espoma’s Tomato Tone monthly and as your garden progresses, do a liquid feed of Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed, which works as a soil and foliar feed, once every 2 weeks. After planting, consider using straw or salt marsh hay to mulch to reduce weeding and watering needs and to prevent splash up of soil that can cause blight. These mulches break down and add to the richness of your raised bed soil. At the end of the season, cut off your spent veg plants at soil level and let Mother Nature break down the roots over the winter. You may want to plant a green manure in the fall to further enhance your soil, buckwheat, crimson clover and peas/oats soil builder are seeds we carry from Botanical Interests.
Share your successes and failures with us, we love to learn what works for you and your family.