January 15, 2021

8 Of My BEST Raised Bed Gardening Tips

Raised beds are probably the easiestway to get started in the garden, aside from a simple container garden.

But along with raised beds, there comes a whole host of questions.

How to irrigate them, what to fill them with, all sorts of different things that canreally confuse a beginner gardener.

So in this video, we're going to go through a bunch of tips, some from old videos, some new tips for you in a compilationto answer as many of those questions as I can.

Kevin Espiritu here from Epic Gardeningwhere it's my goal to help you grow a greener thumb.

And this really is a throwback andcompilation to try to get you as much information as possibleabout growing in raised beds, in as little time as I can.

So without further ado, cultivate that Like button for Epicraised bed harvests and 20, 000 years of fertile soil.

And let's get into the video.

This is one of my favorite methods forfilling a large or tall raised bed with soil on the cheap and stillgetting high quality soil.

So this is one of the tallest andlargest beds that I personally have in my front yard here.

It's a cylindrical bed.

It's 30 inches tall, 38 inches in diameter.

So it's easy to work from, but there's also a lot ofsoil that needs to be filled, right? And so if we were to do that with thehighest quality mix that we either make or purchase, that's going to be a lot of money.

So what I've decided to do is borrow atechnique from the Germans called the Hugelkultur method, and sort of a hybridized Hugelkultur, where effectively what I'vedone is the bottom 60 to 70% of this bed has been filled with lumber, logs, nothing treated, nothing bad, just like old logs, old sticks and brush and twigs, grass clippings, unfinished compost, leaves, everything like that.

And you basically will go from the largermaterials to the smaller materials.

And then as you get up to about here, so the top 12 inches or so, I've filled with extremelyhigh quality mix.

And so that's the way I've saved themoney because unless I'm growing something absolutely insane with a really deeptaproot or really extensive root system, which I'm not in this bed, then I really don't need more thanabout 12 inches or so of high, high quality soil.

And the beauty of thismethod is number one, you've saved a lot of money.

So that's what I'm all about.

Save as much money as you can in thegarden and invest it where you want to.

And so what I'll do is as this grows, as I go season to season, as I go year to year, it's going to naturally settle, even if it was just all soil.

But it's especially going to settlebecause there's some larger material in here.

And then I can have a no dig raisedbed where all I do is harvest out.

I don't till it up.

I don't mix in any crazy amendments.

I just go ahead and top dress with acouple inches every single time of my personal compost right here.

And then that bed is just in production.

I've never disturbed the soil after thefirst time I created it and I've saved a lot of money in doing so.

So this is one of my best tips for savinga ton of money when creating a soil.

When it comes to watering a raised bed, the obvious first choicewould be to hand water, depending on the size of your garden, right? So I hand water, even though I have this drip irrigation, which we're going to talk about right now.

I still will hand waterbecause number one, you're out in the garden.

It means your eyes are open.

Your ears are open.

You can hear and see what'sgoing on in the garden, and then you can observeand make adjustments.

And so there's no bettercure than prevention.

And as you're out in the garden, that's a fantastic time to observe, say, oh, you know what I have alittle aphid problem here, or I see some powdery mildew coming on, and then you can make your adjustments.

So that's a fantasticreason to hand water.

And I still will handwater from time to time.

But that being said, I do have a drip irrigation system setup on every single one of my raised beds here and there are 14 in the front yard.

So every single one isset up on drip irrigation.

And what we've done here is I have aheader row that connects to the main line.

That's where all the water is coming from.

And then it goes into fourlines of drip per bed.

And then I just have a footer row here.

And that's mostly just to secure it.

There's no good reason to have it there, except for the fact that Ididn't want to have a spike, a spike, a spike holding it down.

I thought it might get a little bit messy.

And so the thing that I know, and the way that I designed this system, is based on the length of the tape andthe number of emitters on each of the lines.

I know that three gallons of waterevery 15 minutes is being applied to the bed.

And so, because all the beds areconnected I can tell a friend, let's say I'm on vacationor even just myself, I can say, okay, if I turn it on for 15 minutes, every bed in the front yard is goingto get roughly three gallons of water.

And so if I know that's how much isgoing into the system of each bed, then I know how to troubleshoot.

I know exactly how much to water.

I know if something's beenoverwatered or underwatered.

And it's just a very handy wayto keep your watering consistent.

Because I think a lot of us, when we're growing, if we're hand watering, sometimes our routines get thrown offand we don't water when we need to, or as the summer ramps up and you needto water multiple times a day perhaps, in your, in your climate, then that can get a little bit cumbersome.

And it's a lot easier to justgo turn it on and turn it off.

And so that's what I've done in my garden.

Now you can use drip tape, you can use drip line, you can use soaker hoses, and there are someunique benefits to each.

Soaker hoses put out waterconsistently across the entire length, which means it might be better fordirect sown seedlings because there's a consistent stream acrossthe entire length.

Now if you're transplanting in, like I do in my garden for 95% ofwhat I grow is transplanted in, started from seedlingsout in the backyard, then that's okay to use drip becausethe root systems are more established.

I can transplant in somewhat nearthe emitters and they're going to be completely fine.

And so there are someunique considerations there, but for the most part, drip is a fantastic wayto irrigate your garden.

Hands down one of the mostcommon questions you getwhen starting a raised bed garden is how tallshould my raised bed be? And the actual question youshould ask is how short can it be? The shortest you can really get a raisedbed is somewhere around six inches.

And this is what I learned when Iwas mentoring under Mel Bartholomew, who is the author ofSquare Foot Gardening, a really popular book that sold millionsof copies and taught many people how to garden.

And he did this experiment himself.

He figured out that six inches is justabout the shortest a raised bed can possibly be.

And the only reason he could evenmake that work is because of the soil mix he used.

He used a one third vermiculite, one third peat moss, and one third blended compost.

And he preferred to get his compostfrom at least five different sources.

And so because he hadsuch a perfect soil mix, which does tend to be somewhat costly, he could get away with abouta six inch tall raised bed.

Now you can see behind me, I don't have a six inch tall raised bed.

In fact, the shortest raised bedI have is this one here, which is 15 inches tall.

I also have beds that are 30 inches tall.

So I personally prefera taller raised bed.

But then that, that begs the question is therea benefit to a bed that tall? Now for me, a 15 inch tall bed is probablyideal for most applications.

And the reason why is because number one, it's a little bit easier to work in.

If you have a garden stool or something, you can kind of turn overand just easily work in it.

I'm relatively tall.

That helps me with myback and things like that.

Another reason is because you cangrow things that are deeper taprooted.

So like a 12 inch to 15 inch long carrot, a daikon radish.

Things that require a deep taprootare going to do quite well.

Things that have a large and extensiveand deep root system are also going to do really well in a, in a 15, 12, 15 inch tall bed.

So that is why I prefer 15 inches tall.

And generally 15 inches tall is enoughthat you're not going to break the bank filling it with soil.

It will still hurt a little bit.

Something like this will take around 15, 16 cubic feet of soil.

So yeah, if you are buying a bagged mix anddumping a bunch of bags in there, then yeah, that actually is goingto cost you a little bit.

Now, when you get into ataller than 15 inch bed, like a 30 inch tall bed, the real benefit for me thereis ease of use and workability.

And so for example, this bed right here, or the circular bed back there, is 30 inches tall, which means it's super, super easy to work in.

Again, I'm tall, I'm six foot four.

If I bend over, I can get a little sore.

And also, you know, I have a mom who's a disabled gardener.

And so for her being able to standand work in a tall bed is super, super helpful.

Okay.

Let's assume we havesome raised beds built.

And the question for most beginnergardeners is when do I plant and what do I plant? And when do I plant what? There's a lot of differentvariables at play there.

So I'm going to try to explain it fromthe most simple perspective that I can.

First of all, seasons, right? We all have seasons.

I'm in a zone where fortunately I don'thave as much of a season as many of you probably watching this video.

There's something calledthe USDA hardiness zones.

It goes from one all the way up to 13.

Most of us live somewherebetween four and 10.

I myself am in zone 10B.

The numbers correspond to an incrementof the average annual minimum temperature.

So for me, zone 10B means my average annualminimum temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

What that means is of course, it's below 32, I don't really get a freeze here.

It means I can grow year round.

So the first step for you when growingin raised beds or really growing in general, is to figure out what thatgrowing zone is for you.

You can just Google it.

You can say, you know, your zip code, hardiness zone, and you'll get a result.

And it'll tell you.

Now what that tells you, why is that important? That tells you when your seasoneffectively starts and stops on average, right? And so it'll tell you your lastfrost date and your first frost date.

Now these are sort of swappedas far as what they mean.

The last frost datemeans the end of winter, the beginning of spring, the last time you're going to geta freeze or a frost this season.

So if you know that, you know that anytime after that dateis generally safe to plant pretty much your spring, your summer and so on, right? Because you're not going to get somethingthat's going to kill the plants.

You're not getting a frost.

Your first frost date is thebeginning of the cold season, right? It's when temperatures start to drop, the days start to get shorter.

And that means that it'skind of your end window.

The door is shutting on the season.

So as soon as you know yourlast and first frost date, then you know roughly howlong your growing season is.

And what that tells you is that kind ofdefines what you can grow and when you can grow it.

So for most people, you're going to have a frost datethat ends somewhere in March, towards April.

That covers most people's zones.

And it begins somewherearound September to November.

So that's roughly six months of time.

So what you want to do whenyou're thinking of yourspring crops in the garden, this is why many gardeners myselfincluded like to start seeds indoors.

Cause if you're starting seeds indoors, what you get to do is youget to preempt the season.

So let's say your last frost date, just for example is April 1st, right? That means that if you plantseeds in the ground April 1st, then they need to comeup and they need to grow.

So a 30 day crop like a radishis going to be mature on May 1st, one month, right? Now, let's go ahead and imagine thatyou planted that radish indoors.

Now, most people don't plant radishes indoorsbecause it is a crop that does really well direct sowing.

But just for the sake of example, let's imagine that's what you did.

If you did that, so you planted it two weeksbefore your last frost.

You can't plant it in the groundbecause it's already frozen.

But if you plant it two weeks beforeand then transplant it in on the day of your last frost, then you've basically boughtyourself two weeks of time, right? So you've preempted the season.

So if you're someone who'sgrowing in a short growing season, like a zone four, a zone five, you don't have a lot of time.

It's really important to startyour seeds indoors and always be on top of it, right? So keep sowing.

Which actually brings us to our next tip.

When we're gardening in raised beds, or really in general, we want to make sure that we're gettingconsistent amounts of produce – healthy, nutritious produce out of our gardensand not just all of it at once.

So how do we actually manage that? Let's just say, I'm really ambitious.

I'm getting started in my garden and Iplant 25 heads of lettuce on April 1st.

It's a two month crop.

So right around June, we get our lettuce and wehave 25 heads at a time.

I'm probably not eating 25heads of lettuce in a week.

And you probably aren't either, right? So you're gonna either give thataway to friends or in the worst case, you might let it go to waste.

And we don't want that.

Right? We're not growing something to justthrow it away or give it to someone else.

There's nothing wrong with giving it away, but you just don't wantit all at the same time.

So how do we solve that? This is where something calledsuccession planting comes into play.

It's a really helpful technique, but I think a lot of beginner gardenersespecially can get confused by it because now you're working in thedimension of time and not just I plant the lettuce, 60 days later I have a lettuce.

You're trying to plantsomething consistent over time.

So let's change crops.

We're going to go to radishes becauseradish is around a one month crop, right? So let's say we wanted to plant a hundredradishes for our garden this year.

Well it would be a mistake, like I said, to plant them on April 1st, all hundred, because then May 1st you have a hundred.

And that's pretty much it.

That's your radish for the season.

There's still many monthsto go in the growing season.

So how do we staggerthis out a little bit? Let's imagine we wanted to harvest25 radish every single week.

Well, let's take this bed for example.

And let's divide this bed into four.

Let's imagine in this quadrant back here, we plant our first 25 radish.

Okay.

Then we wait a week.

After a week, we plant another bed of radishright here in this quadrant.

So now this is zero weeks old.

This is one week old, right? Okay.

Now we wait another week, we plant another one here.

We have zero weeks old, one week old, two weeks old.

Now we wait another weekand we plant one here.

So we have zero weeks, one week, two weeks and three weeks.

Then we wait a week.

Don't do anything.

We don't plant.

It's already full.

This is at four weeks old.

It's about a month.

You start pulling thoseradish and you plant in here, right? So now you have a crop ofradish and you plant here.

So now this one is zero weeks old.

This is three weeks old.

This is two.

And this is one.

And you can see how that works.

You're going to get whatever amountyou want to plant every single week.

And this math, it really just scales basedon what you want to do.

So if you want radish every two weeks, or if you want lettuce every two weeks, and depending on the amount youjust kind of play with the time.

So the real variables here, the things that you need to plan out, I know it can sound a littlecrazy and a little mathematical, but you know just a little bit of planningcan really help you get the most out of your garden.

And so what you want to play with is howlong it takes from a crop to be planted to being mature and how often you want it.

And then you just dothe math based on that.

And so as you can see here, I have some kale, I have some mustards, I have some beans, but really what I want to drawyour attention to is this lettuce.

Now back here, right around here where there's nothing, is where I just harvested some lettuce, right? This is lettuce thatwas about 55 days old.

As soon as I did that, I transplanted in.

You can see a small lettuce right here.

There's an even smaller one back here.

And so I have lettuceat about 15 days old, about 30 days old and about45 days old here in this bed.

So every single day, if I so choose, I can come out and justgrab a head of lettuce, use it in my salad.

And I'm not scared that I'm goingto use all the lettuce I have.

And I'm not scared that there's not morecoming because I always keep planting.

You can see down right here, I've planted some new lettuce as well.

So succession planting in a raised bed.

I think it's really nice because in araised bed what you can do is just really evenly divide your space.

And it just makes sense to the brain.

And so this is one of my best tips andit's a classic tried and true technique, it's not my technique, that will help you grow in a raisedbed and really get the most out of it.

How do we take a field of lettucejust like this and turn it into a bowl of lettuce day afterday for pretty much the entire year.

We're going to use something calledthe cut and come again method.

And there's two different ways to do it.

With cut and come again what you'retrying to do is preserve the growing tip of the plant, and for lettuce and many leafy greens, that is in the centerand we call it the crown.

And so what you're seeing medo here with this bibb lettuce, very standard classic type of lettuce, is come around the outsideand you can do it clockwise, counterclockwise.

But what you're trying to do here istake away those large mature leaves.

And I'm doing it here withthis merlot lettuce too, which is more of a frilly variety.

This one I'm going to take down prettyconsiderably just to show you a peek at what the inside really looks like.

Because if you do damage the crown, then your plant is done for good.

And so you really want to avoid that.

You're seeing me take awaythese outside leaves and look, there's just very small versionsof those leaves in here.

So if we dig in, we can see the future of this plant, basically.

These are four, five, maybe even six little leaves that arein development and in four or five days, you'll see those really start to come out.

And so you can do this withsomething like spinach too.

Come around, make sure that you're notchopping off that crown, get around the outside.

And you're going to get a lot more yieldout of this because you're taking off those mature leaves, letting them grow up andthen doing the same thing.

So we can see here, crown is the exact same.

Those baby lettuce leaves are coming out, sorry, those spinach leaves.

And now here is a different method.

This is a more efficient method.

So you can come in with a chef'sknife or something similar, make sure you know right about wherethe crown is so you don't chop off too much of it and then grab itlike a head of hair almost, and then just come through and slice.

And you're going to want areally sharp knife for this.

And so you've got a nice bunch of lettuce.

You've preserved the crown.

We can see I didn't chop thecrown off and there we go.

It's really that simple guys.

So the cut and come again methodexplained in about a minute or two.

Well there we have it, the cut and come again method very simple, explained.

You can get bowls of lettuce day afterday using this method as long as you're doing it the right way, but it does bring us toa couple of questions.

And the first question is how manytimes can I actually cut one of these plants before it actuallyis just done for good? Which is a great question.

So usually it depends on, really does depend on the type of plant, the type of lettuce or leafygreen that you're doing.

But for the most part, anywhere from three to fivecuts and that's about it.

So you know, it's not like the plants just goingto continue producing forever.

For something like, you know, this loose leaf lettuce right here, you're going to get three to five cutsbefore the quality of the leaf is going to start to degrade.

It won't be this big.

And it also won't taste that good.

And it's going to sort ofbe just a little bit uglier.

And just the plant is, is trying to bolt because it knows that, you know, its life is coming to an end, but you're not really giving it theenergy and the ability to do so.

So then you're in a bad spot.

So that's it, endless supply of lettuce.

I'm going to go and make a salad now.

Our next tip is interplanting.

When you're growing in a raised bed, you can see we have some onions here.

What I like to do, depending on the crop, is come through and strategicallyplant different crops throughout.

Now what's nice about onions is thatthey have this type of leaf structure, almost like a grassy type of look.

It's not a grass, but it grows in a similar manner, right? And the reason that that's nice is becausethen what you can do is you can come through and you can put differentcrops in that play nicely with that.

So I can throw some radishes in here, which is what we're goingto do in this video.

And we're going to getreally nice spacing.

We're going to get really nice yield.

Radishes turnover quickly.

So we'll probably get two, three crops of radish by the timethat these onions are actually done.

And they're very shallowrooted similar to the onion.

And so they're not going to reallyinterfere with the root structure of the onions as they're growing.

So effectively, because onions need this much spacebut they're young in their life, we can get a lot of extrayield out of the same bed.

You know, some people might just commit thisone bed to onions and that's fine.

That's well and good.

But I like to come through, especially in small spaces in raised bedswhen you're trying to squeeze as much production as you can, you might as well pepper ina couple of different crops.

So we have our onions here.

And what you'll notice right away isthey're really well spaced for onions.

I did a bit of a triangular style spacing, maybe four to five, maybe six inches apart.

But again, like I said, early on look what we do.

We'll just make littlebisections of these types of lines here.

And we can cram in some extra radishes.

And that's what I'm going to be puttingin from my little radish toolbox right here.

We'll talk about some of the varieties, but you can do this witha lot of different crops.

It's not just onions.

It's not just this type of setup.

For example, when you're growing andinterplanting tomatoes, what you can do is oncethe tomatoes grow up, you can prune off some of the lowergrowth and then you can grow an understory plant in your tomato beds.

So there's a lot ofdifferent ways to interplant, but right now I'm just goingto pepper in a few radishes.

No need to go insane here.

I don't need a massive crop of them, but I do want to just get, you know, a little bit of extraproduction out of this bed.

The radishes I've chosenare black Spanish radishes, really cool unique one.

And really that's all there is to it guys, just plant in just like this.

And at the end of the video, I'm going to give you a littlebonus interplanting tip.

So stay tuned.

Okay.

As we water in our newradish crop that's coming in, the extra intercroppingtips or innerplanting tips.

So the first thing to thinkabout is tall and small.

So let's say you have a bed of corn, right? Corn is a long season crop, and it's also a pretty tall plant, shallow roots.

So what you want to think about thereis potentially interplanting with something that's a fast growingcrop that grows low to the ground.

Because not only are you going to turnthat over and you're going to get that out of there before the corn comesmature and really needs to use all of the nutrition in that bed, but you're also going to protect the soil.

And so the soil is goingto stay nice and moist.

You have a living mulchbasically over the top of it, and it's really going to helpyour corn stay nice and moist.

You're not going to have thesecrazy shocks to the root system.

It's a really good way to think about it.

Then also think season to season, right? So let's imagine I have some tomatoesin here like I mentioned before.

Tomatoes is another good, tall and small.

But for example, if you're moving infrom summer into a fall, what you can do is as your tomatoes, by that point they're going tobe nice and bare on the bottom, and there's a lot of roomon the bare soil below.

What you can do is then plant in andstart your fall crops before your tomatoes are out of the ground.

And so you're getting this nice turnoverwhere there's no time left where the soil is bare and you're just squeezingthe most out of your garden both in terms of space and in terms of time.

Today we're learning how to replant araised bed after you've grown a massive crop in it.

So what you're looking at here is arugala, way too much arugola.

So what I'm doing is I'm choppingthis down right at the soil surface, clipping it down rightat the soil surface, but I'm leaving the roots in.

And we're to get intothat later in the video.

Why am I leaving the roots in, why am I not ripping those out? We're going to get into that.

But right now let's talk abouthow to then amend the soil.

Because remember everything you justsaw me take out of that bed was stolen in effect from the soil and the sun.

And so if we keep doing thatwithout adding more back, we are depleting our soil of nutrition.

I'm adding about two cupsof organic worm castings, super good all-purpose fertilizer.

I'm adding about a cup and ahalf of my Epic Soil Starter, which is an organic natural fertilizer.

And then I'm adding insome organic compost.

Now in a perfect world you're going tobe adding compost you've made yourself because that is fullof beneficial bacteria, fungi, microbes.

But I did not have some.

So I bought some.

Not the end of the world, but in a perfect world youwould be making your own.

Now just dump that outover the soil surface.

And this is about a half toone inch of total material, which is all you really need whenit comes to top dressing for a new, new planting.

And just smooth thatout and water that in.

What you're not seeing me do here is youare not seeing me dig in with a shovel, dig in with a trowel, break up the soil.

I'm not doing that because I practicethe no dig method in which I respect the soil life that's going onbelow the surface to do alot of my gardening work for me.

And why would I want to disrupt thatsoil life by breaking up the fungi down there, disrupting the bacteria.

There's no need.

I'm going to just go ahead andstick with that no dig method.

And now I am planting, right? I am replanting directly into thatamended compost mixture that I made.

I'm using the square footgardening method here.

So you can see this iscalled a seeding square.

It's just a planting templateand it will plant at either 16, nine, four or one per square foot spacings, depending on the type of plant.

So you saw me earlierjust put in some beans, those are about four per square foot.

And so I used the blue holes and Iput them in at four per square foot.

Now let's get back into whydo I not rip out the roots? Well, it's really the same reason that I don'tdig into the soil when I'm mixing in new organic matter.

What I'm trying to do is give everythingthat's in the soil that's alive more to work with.

So the root systems, obviously without the tops, are going to be struggling to survive, they will not survive.

So they'll start to die and decay.

They'll be starting toshred up by earthworms andbeetles and things like this, which increases the surfacearea of that organic matter, which makes it more available to bacteriaand fungi to break down even further.

And then I've got air pockets whereroots used to be that's aerating and breaking up my soil for me.

So a lot of nature is taking care of theprocesses we would normally do in the garden, which is why I leave in the roots.

Well there we have it.

Some awesome tips.

And of course, are there more details to include? Definitely.

And if you have any questions, drop them in the comments.

I try to take a look at as many as Ihumanly can to generate ideas for future videos.

Now, some of you are probably wondering whatthose metal raised beds are in the front yard.

Those are called Birdies Garden Beds.

They're from Australia.

They're actually the numberone raised bed in Australia.

And I love them so much.

I first tried them out maybe four yearsago and I kept bugging the company to sell them here in America.

And now I am a distributor ofthose beds here in America.

So if you want, you can go check those outat shop.

epicgardening.

com.

We have orders coming out for a late July, early August delivery.

Popular beds.

They're taking some time to actually getout to customers at this point in time.

But check those out if you want to.

Until next time, good luck in the gardenand keep on growing.

.

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