PART 4 of 4: Today is the 4th and final post of our four-part series, Planting A Simple Garden Using Raised Row Beds. If you missed any of the the previous weeks (part 1,2 or 3) – you can click on the highlighted text below to view.
1. Growing Simple – Raised Row Gardening –  Click Here For Part 1 
2. Preparing And Planting The Garden – Click Here For Part 2 
3. Planting And Maintaining Your Garden – Click Here For Part 3
4. Keeping Your Beds Productive – Today’s Post

Keeping Your Beds Productive:

Whether you have a raised row bed garden, a sizeable garden patch, or plant your garden in containers – keeping your soil productive and full of life is the key to good yields year in and year out.  With a few simple steps, you can have great fresh vegetables every summer.  Here are 3 ways to keep that garden soil working for you!

1.COVER CROPS:

Cover Cropping
Cover crops add organic matter to your soil and keep valuable topsoil from eroding over the winter months

In the fall, after your plants have run their course and the last of the harvest has been brought in – it’s time to really increase your soil’s vitality.  Cover crops are really the key to a long-term garden’s success – and they are easy to plant!  They add back tons of nutrients to the soil, keep other weeds from getting established in your rows, and help keep soil erosion to a minimum.  No need to till your soil – just rake out your rows, existing garden, or your raised beds in the fall after harvest – and scatter the seeds (annual rye is a great choice) as if you were throwing grass seed on your lawn.  Next, just gently rake it over and you’re done!  It’s okay if you still see seeds on top – they will sprout soon enough and you will have a great cover crop growing!  Early next Spring, simply dig it under and plant your garden.  We don’t use a tiller at all in our raised row beds – just a pitchfork to turn it over, and we are ready to plant.  We actually have a complete tutorial dedicated to cover crop benefits that you can check out here :  Planting Cover Crops

2. Add Organic Matter Any Chance You Get:

Organic matter makes the difference - especially when it comes to making and adding compost.
Organic matter makes the difference – especially when it comes to making and adding compost.

In addition to using cover crops – adding even more organic matter to your garden will pay huge dividends.  One of the great advantages to the raised row system is that you can conserve by adding available materials to only areas you grow your crops in – not wasting it in the walking rows.

What can I add?  Leaves, Grass Clippings and Compost!

If you have access to extra leaves or clippings in the fall and spring – you can add directly to the rows – and let them decompose right in the soil as your plants or cover crops grow.    Make a small 6″ trench in the middle of each row and bury a 3 to 5 inch layer of the shredded material, then cover back up with soil. You can do this in the fall before you plant your cover crops, or in the spring before you plant your beds.  This is also a great way to add compost to your rows if you have a lot of it available.  We also use generous amounts of compost in every planting hole and as a mulch and side dressing for plants to keep enriching our soil.

If you don’t currently compost – get started now! Compost is the key to long-term healthy plants, soil and gardening – and without having to use expensive and soil damaging fertilizers! We have written several articles on composting  – but here is one that really sums it all up for those that want to get started: Composting 101

3.Rotate Your Crops:

Rotating what you grow and where will help to keep your plants and healthy and soil borne diseases at bay.
Rotating what you grow and where will help to keep your plants and healthy and soil borne diseases at bay.

It’s so important to practice crop rotation – even on a small-scale garden basis.  If you keep planting tomatoes in the same spot – you won’t keep getting the same results.  Different plants require different nutrients – and soil begins to lose those nutrients if the same crops keep going into the same place.  In addition – soil borne diseases that can wreak havoc on garden plants can take hold easier if the same soil and plants are together year after year.  So make sure you plan out different spaces for plants in your garden plan each year to rotate those crops.

So there you have it!  The end of our four-part series on Raised Row Gardening!  Make sure to look for more posts in the coming months about gardening, DIY and more.  If you would like to follow along through the coming year and receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Posts – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column.

Shared On Gnowfglins, Transformation Thursdays

Salad Straight From The Garden
Salad Straight From The Garden

8 thoughts on “3 Steps To Keeping Your Garden Beds Productive

  • February 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm
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    This is my first year planting a garden by myself. My dad just recently passed away and I want to continue the garden in his honor as he loved gardening. I hope i do it justice. Your 4 part series helps alot. We use to do raised garden beds and so I want to try it this year. Thank you for the super great information. Happy Planting.

  • May 2, 2015 at 12:16 am
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    Hello! I’m quite excited to try raised row gardening this year and see the positive differences it makes. No more rototilling in my garden! I’m not sure I would be able to successfully grow a cover crop due having a very short growing season. So rather than rake all the rows out, would I just leave them intact and add fresh compost on top the following season? At some point I imagine the straw and soil would have broken down enough that I would have to start from square one with freshly built rows though, yes? Thanks! And thanks also for the super information shared here…I refer back to this blog so often for many things.

  • April 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm
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    Hi Jim – I am just starting a vegetable garden and I came across these articles and got really interested! I was just about to start following the advice I got to rototill soil amendments into the soil, based on what the government soil test center recommended. There are no beds at all yet. Just a grassy field. So my question is, if I follow your methods instead and don’t rototill, do I not need to concern myself with the soil amendments either? (Lime to raise pH, and some organic fertilizer)? I.e., does it matter if the underlying soil is not quite up to what it should be because I would be adding top soil and compost? Or do I still need to add the lime and fertilizer to underlying soil? (And if so, how, if I am to avoid rototilling?)
    Thanks!
    Jennifer

  • March 23, 2014 at 10:03 am
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    Hi Jim & Mary. We started our raised row garden last spring due to finding your site. It was great fun and produced well. I am wondering if I need to “rebuild” the rows this year or just add compost down the center of the raised beds. I did not do a cover crop, although I think I will do so this fall. Thanks so much! Jean

    • March 23, 2014 at 10:13 am
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      Hi Jean – Glad to hear your raised rows did well last year! No need to completely rebuild – and yes – just add compost to the rows, especially in and around where you will plant. A good fall cover crop this fall will be really good as well. Good luck!

  • February 9, 2013 at 8:11 am
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    Hey folks. Just ran across your website, and great work to “y’all”. My wife and I have a small “hobby farm” in Oklahoma, with chickens, meat sheep, and the occasional pigs. Jim&E Farms. We also try to reuse everything for either composting or animals. A local food pantry throws out expired food, and we collect some of it for the animals. Breads, old produce, etc. Last two years, the heat killed us. The plants in our 50×60 garden would not even set blooms due to the high temperatures. (100-110 daily). I had automated watering, but to no avail. I have always thought that the slow direct watering was the best, but how did you guys do it? I didn’t see any irrigation stuff in your pictures, so I was curious. I used to set mine to come on in the early morning via water sprinkler timer and electric valves for zonal control. The soil was never dry, just ambient heat was the issue. Can’t fight mother nature. Anyway, love your work!

    • February 27, 2013 at 9:34 am
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      Jim – so sorry – I somehow missed your comment until today! Glad you found us and it sounds like you have a neat set-up and love all you do too! Jim

  • December 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm
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    How timely! I just got finished amending my raised bed soil with a layer of fall leaves, coffee grounds from Starbucks, and composted leaf mulch. The garden is all tucked in now for winter!
    Thanks for a great post!

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