During spring and summer months local grocery store and nursery gardening aisles are brimming with so many choices of plant starts and seed. You may feel overwhelmed. What are the best vegetables to grow in raised beds?
How do you even know where to start!? It’s not as hard as you might think. And starting a garden with easy to grow vegetables in raised beds is an easy first step.
Benefits of growing vegetables in raised garden beds
Aside from the nice clean look that a raised garden bed provides, it offers a lot of flexibility in growing. Raised beds come in all shapes and sizes. And most yards, balconies or decks can accommodate a raised bed of some size.
Growing vegetables in raised beds levels the playing field for adults and kids alike, making gardening a fun activity that everyone can enjoy. They place the veggies at arms length for planting and picking.
With raised bed growing, you’re starting with fresh, new soil primed for planting and growing. It’s flexible and forgivable-try a vegetable and realize it gets too big or it doesn’t get enough sun, you can easily experiment with something else.
Raised beds allow for good drainage and keep your veggies elevated from garden critters.
How to choose the best vegetables to grow in raised beds:
One of the easiest ways to jump in and get started is to take a look in your fridge or shopping cart. What vegetables do you tend to purchase every week, the things that you really enjoy eating? When you’re at a farmer’s market, what unique vegetables do you want to try?
Make a quick list.
Likely, some of the more popular veggies are on your list–tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, radish, onion and broccoli.
Accounting for raised bed space and growing time
Next, look at the space you have in your raised bed. It’s easy to get carried away picking up veggie starts and seeds because the plants are so small to start, but you do need to account for how big they’ll get and how much space they need to stay healthy and productive.
Another consideration is how quickly the seeds germinate and how long it takes the plants to reach full maturity and production. For those starting out, you should start with some quick fast growing veggies and then a couple that you really love to eat.
Some veggies are best started from seed while others should be started as plant starts, outside and when the temperature is warmer. Finding a balance between cool and warm weather vegetables helps you have a garden that produces early in the spring all the way through late fall.
The best part of gardening is when those first veggies start breaking through the ground or start forming on the vine…the less time you have to wait to taste them, the better!
Easiest vegetables to grow in raised beds
Sowing radish from seed right after the danger of frost has passed and again when the weather cools in the late summer. This will result in seedlings bursting through the soil around 4-6 days and fully mature radishes about 25 days after planting.
While these are fast growing, you can quickly end up with quite a few radish all at once. And you want to pick them at their peak before they become too woody or pithy.
Be creative in how you serve radish, from fresh cut on a salad, to roasted and salted with olive oil, fresh radish will be a hit at any meal.
Lettuce is considered a “care-free” crop given its high productivity and resistance to pests. Seeds can be sown straight into the soil in the early spring, since lettuce doesn’t mind cooler temperatures.
As the soil and weather get warmer, the seeds will germinate more quickly. You’ll have full grown plants within 45-55 days, though some varieties take longer. Starting with some starts as well as sowing seeds can help you balance out your lettuce production through the summer. This works best f you continue to sow seeds in 2 week intervals throughout the growing season.
But keep in mind that lettuce seeds won’t germinate when soil reaches 80 degrees F or more. You can harvest full leaves, or cut the plant at the soil line.
With so many varieties, you can’t lose and you can try multiple varieties throughout the growing season.
Check out a great recipe from a fellow dietitian for anti inflammatory salad that you can make with greens from your garden.
3. Bush Peas
Growing peas up a pole or trellis creates a fun garden feature. However, if you’re pressed for space or growing vegetables in raised beds, bush peas can be a great alternative.
They require minimal staking when they reach their maximum height of two feet. Peas can be started from seed or seedlings. But typically sowing seeds directly is more effective since seedlings often don’t withstand transplanting.
Peas should be planted early in the spring so they have time to reach maturity before the heat of summer hits. Typically seedlings emerge within 7-14 days of planting. You should read the seed packets for harvesting tips for the variety you choose.
And do your best to keep up with harvesting as frequent harvesting increases the yields. There’s nothing like the taste of a fresh, crisp snap pea plucked right from the vine.
And on to hot weather loving vegetables to grow in raised beds…
Tomatoes take the prize for most gardens. Nothing beats the flavor of a sun ripened tomato fresh from the vine, and one that you’ve grown yourself.
With so many varieties-shapes, sizes, color and flavor profile, you’ll just have to pick a few and try others next time.
In most areas, tomatoes are best started outside as vegetable starts, and must be protected from temperatures below 50 degrees F. Most nurseries sell options for protecting tomatoes from the danger of late frost, and also have multiple tomato cage and staking selections as heavy large tomatoes can weigh down the plant.
Tomatoes have two distinct types of growth habits: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate may be a better option for smaller raised garden vegetable garden as they have a stocky, sturdy main stem unlike the indeterminate that keep growing through the growing season.
Determinate reach a certain height and produce the majority of their fruit within a month or two and don’t produce again. On the other hand, indeterminate continue producing throughout the summer. For new gardeners, you may want to try growing both types to see what works best for your space.
Harvest time varies depending on the variety and size of the tomato but most varieties reach maturity around 60-80 days.
Another summer crowd pleaser is cucumbers. Planted in a sunny, warm spot, the vines will be prolific and grow easily. Cucumber seeds can be sown when soil temperatures reach 60 degrees F and danger of frost has passed. Seedlings begin to emerge within 7-14 days. It’s best to space the plants around 20 inches apart to allow for space and growth.
In raised beds or where space is a premium, cucumbers can be trained on trellis, fences or tomato cages. This could free up space underneath to plant radish or other compact herbs, radish or flowers that require a little shade.
You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood and make some new friends when you share the bounty from your new raised bed garden. Get planting! And learn more in our other gardening posts!