Skip These Common Raised Garden Bed Mistakes

raised garden bedsHow you build and maintain your growing space can affect your success. Here's what to avoid so you can boost your backyard bounty and make sure your outdoor space is as beautiful as possible.

5 Mistakes to Avoid when Building Raised Beds for Your Seattle Backyard

While the Seattle area may be known for rain, the lush landscape can also offer a fertile growing environment — assuming you avoid these mistakes.

1. Selecting the Wrong Location for Your Raised Garden Beds

You want your raised garden beds to get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. But it’s important to remember that the sunlight in your backyard will change as the season progresses. You want to consider how the surrounding trees will cast their shade during the spring, summer, and fall.

You also want to make sure you don’t pick a location where rainwater will collect — as being submerged in an excess of water can drown your plants. Typically, this means selecting a location that’s relatively flat and doesn’t bump up against a large hill.

Another consideration is how easy it will be to access all four edges of your raised garden bed. If you construct your bed along a fence, this can make it difficult to reach the back wall. This doesn’t necessarily make that a bad choice, but it should be something you consider.

2. Overlooking Water

While you don’t want to drown your plants, you don’t want them to be dehydrated either. Plants need a substantial amount of water to thrive. Make life easier on yourself and be sure to build your raised beds near a water source, such as an outdoor faucet. You could also install a drip irrigation system. This will help minimize water waste and further simplify the process.

3. Thinking Any Soil Will Do

Like fueling your body, how you fuel your plants has a direct impact on their health. Traditional topsoil is designed to be combined with in-ground soil to help fortify it with nutrient-rich components. Unfortunately, when it’s used in raised best it can become compacted and inhibit drainage. In order to make sure your plants have a healthy environment, make sure to select soil specifically designed for raised beds.

4. Going TOO Big with Your Plants

The size of your Seattle backyard will greatly impact how big your raised beds can be. While bigger isn’t necessarily better — as a bed that’s too big can make it difficult to weed the center area — one of the cardinal sins is over-planting.

When you put seeds or started in your bed they can seem small. But those babies will grow! Make sure to read the growing instructions and give each plant enough room to spread the roots and thrive.

If space is a concern, you may want to select dwarf varieties of your favorite veggies. These will take up less space, while still giving you a plentiful crop.

5. Thinking Mulch Doesn’t Matter

Think because your raised beds are off the ground you don’t need to worry about weeds? Wrong! Here in the Pacific Northwest, weeds will grow up through your raised beds in no time, edging out the plants you actually care about.

To protect your plants, make sure you add a layer of mulch to help keep the weeds at bay. You could also add a thick layer of weed cloth at the bottom of your raised bed when you are first constructing it.

6. Leaving Your Plants to Fend for Themselves

It probably doesn’t come as much surprise, but a raised bed isn’t enough to keep rabbits, chipmunks, deer and other critters from getting to your growing goodies. You can sprinkle odor-based repellent on the soil to help deter them. This will have to be reapplied regularly.

Fencing can also be a good call, but for deer it will need to be six to 10 feet tall. For rabbits and chipmunks, small chicken wire can help keep them out. But be warned, these little critters are sneaky. You may have to keep rejiggering your setup.