How to Prepare a Raised Vegetable Bed for Planting

1. Begin with an area four feet by sixteen feet.

2. Remove all sod from the bed and pile it into a corner of your yard for later use. In about six weeks, this sod should be sufficiently decomposed for use as compost. At that time, place the composted material over the bed.

3. Test the pH of the soil. Soil is best for a vegetable bed when it has a neutral pH. To test the soil, you can either purchase a kit at your local garden center or you may use the services provided by your state’s agricultural extension services. When obtaining a soil sample, take a tablespoon of soil from each third of the bed and mix the samples together to get an average pH for the entire bed.

4. Divide the bed into one-foot blocks. Remove all the dirt from the first block down to a depth of about 20 inches. Leave the first hole empty and go to the second block. Take the second block of dirt and place it upside down in the empty hole. Repeat this process with each block of soil, making sure that you have aerated the soil sufficiently until you have finished the entire bed.

5. Mix the soil with peat moss, rotted manure, and compost. Make sure that you use the rotted manure since fresh manure will kill plants. The proper mixture of peat moss is six cubic feet of peat moss for every eight linear feet in the garden bed. The proper mixture of compost is six cubic feet of compost for the entire four feet by sixteen feet vegetable bed.

6. If you find that your soil is extra sandy, add more organic matter. If the soil is clay like, add sand as well as peat moss and compost. Be sure to use a building sand (rough grade) not beach sand. The acid content of your soil can be adjusted by adding ash and lime to increase acidity.

7. Mix the peat moss, manure, and compost with the soil to a level which raises the height of the bed six inches higher than that of the surrounding lawn area.

8. Dig a shallow (four inches) trench around the bed to help catch rainfall runoff from the vegetable bed. This will give additional irrigation to your bed.

9. You are now prepared to place your plants in the vegetable bed.

This method is known as the French Intensive Method of gardening. It is designed so that you get the best yield from a small area, or the maximum yield from the minimum amount of ground. It is an ideal setting for standard garden vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage.

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