Raised bed vegetable gardening in the UK

Raised bed vegetable gardening in the UK

UK Vegetable Gardening In Raised Bed Kits

Raised bed vegetable gardening in the UK is becoming more popular than ever before with increasing numbers of people growing their own food, especially in urban vegetable gardens. Raised beds lend themselves particularly well to the UK climate which, as we well know, can be rather inclement at times! Using planters raised above the level of the surrounding soil allows them to drain much better which is important in Northern Europe areas with high rainfall can be a problem.

A well drained vegetable plot has a number of advantages particularly in the early and late ends of the season and for over Winter growing. Saturated soil should not be worked as structure is damaged; this is often the case in early Spring when you want to work amendments like manure into the soil. The improved drainage in a raised bed garden means your soil will remain workable for a longer period than traditional vegetable plots.

Basket of garlic cloves

Drainage is also a consideration when growing overwintering crops like garlic or winter onions as a wet soil will cause them to rot in the ground. A drained raised planter will also give you more options for leaving root crops in the ground over Winter and allows you to harvest when needed; this is especially handy for crops like parsnips which become sweeter if exposed to frost.

There are a number of reasons why raised vegetable beds are so popular but I think the main one has to be that they are so much easier to manage for someone trying to fit vegetable growing into a busy schedule. Using a raised bed liner will help prolong the life of the timber. Here are a number of reasons why we like raised garden beds so much:

They Protect your soil from traffic Raised bed kits ensure the soil doesn't get compacted by walking on the soil. A light, friable soil is easy for roots to grow into resulting in bigger root systems and stronger vegetable plants. Sowing and planting is easier with quicker plant establishment while weeding your beds is less work as weed roots are easily removed in the loose earth.

Young lettuce plants in a timber raised bed

You Choose your soil. Many gardens have shallow soil of poor quality which won't be sufficient to feed demanding vegetable plants. Vegetable gardening requires a very fertile soil which can be built using garden compost, manure and other organic additives which can be used very efficiently in the enclosed space of a raised bed.

They Are Easier to manage. You'll have less trouble with encroaching weeds and slugs from the surrounding area especially if using a gravel surround. The extra height also makes weeding a raised bed much more comfortable as bending is reduced. If you are someone with reduced mobility the extra height of the beds also makes vegetable gardening accessible especially with our waist high vegtrug or vegi-table wooden planters.

Raised garden beds

They are Neat and Tidy. If you're growing in your back garden you don't want to ruin your view with an untidy plot. Raised vegetable beds create a neat and easy to manage growing area. A raised bed garden looks fantastic when fully planted while producing lots of delicious vegetables and is a great addition to your garden design.

They Warm Quicker in Spring. Raised beds will warm quicker than the surrounding soil in Springtime from the heat of the sun on the sides of the bed. This allows you to get going a little earlier as growing depends more on soil temperature in the bed than the air temperature outside. Early Spring warming is especially important in the UK where the weather can be against us in the early part of the year.

Raised Beds Aid Growth. The rich deep soil means you will get more vigorous growth from your vegetable plants and in many cases can plant at closer spacings making a small area more productive. Closer planting also means weeds are suppressed and moisture is conserved as less soil is exposed to the sun which also reduces evaporation.

Close up of young lettuce plants

Raised beds are Ideally Suited to Square Foot Vegetable Gardening Square foot gardening is a technique made popular by American engineer Mel Bartholomew in the 1980's and revolves around splitting your growing space into a grid of 1 square foot blocks. You plant a certain number of each vegetable in your blocks depending on the planting distance required. Square foot gardening is well suited to UK urban areas where space is at a premium due its intensive nature.

Raised vegetable beds are a key component of the SFG system as you need a deep bed of very fertile soil to support such intensive planting . Also the grid system is much easier to implement when the sides of the bed (recommended to be 4ft bx 4ft or 6ft x 4ft) are fixed and rigid. Grids can then be made using garden twine or timber laths.

Click to see Quickcrop raised vegetable beds

Why We Supply and Use Wooden Raised beds In Our Vegetable Garden We prefer using timber raised beds for vegetables as the wooden sides give a more natural look than plastic and are quicker and more cost effective than building raised beds from brick or block. Our Quickcrop wooden beds come in a range of thicknesses, styles and sizes to suit any garden from a functional allotment setting to a manicured potager style display garden.

All our timber planters are treated with the new safe form of Tanalith E timber preservative which does NOT contain arsenic (as older preservatives did) so certified for organic vegetable growing. You can see the full range of Quickcrop raised bed kits by clicking here. When you compare our quality and price with the competition you'll see we have the best value timber beds in the UK.

Sunlight shining through fresh garden peas

Where to place Your Timber Raised Vegetable beds If you have decided raised vegetable beds are for you and are new to vegetable growing it's worth taking some time to work out the best place to put your new garden.

The ideal is a South facing garden with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to grow the broadest variety of crops but we understand that this is not always possible, especially in urban gardens. Don't worry if you don't have the full 6 hours of sun as you can still grow plenty of fresh vegetables, you will just need to be more select with your choices.

Before you place your vegetable planters keep an eye on your garden for a couple of days to get an idea of how much sunlight the garden gets during the day. The part that gets the most sun is the best place for growing vegetables.

Mix of salad leaves

LESS SUN (at least 3 – 4 hours a day)
Most leafy crops:
Lettuce, rocket & other salads
Pak choi & stir fry greens
Mint, parsley, coriander, chives
Woodland fruits: Blueberries & blackcurrants

Mange tout peas

MORE SUN (5- 6 hours - nearly ½ day)
Peas, beans and root crops:
Runner & French beans

Cherry tomato

LOTS OF SUN (6 hours - over ½ day)
Fruiting crops:
Courgettes or squash

Preparing the Site for Raised Garden Beds We are often asked should liners be used for raised beds and in most cases the answer is no. If your bed is placed on a hard surface like concrete or tarmac a liner is handy to prevent any soil particles or run off from escaping around the base of the planter but is not necessary on open ground.

Invert grass sod to create riased bed

If you are placing your bed on grass or soil we don't recommend using a liner as deep rooted crops should be allowed access to the soil below the bed. Also, earthworms are our best friends in the garden as they feed and aerate the soil so should be allowed to enter the bed from below.

To prepare the ground before placing the bed on grass dig and invert the sod so the grass faces down and the roots up. This will kill off the grass and prevent it growing up through the bed.

If you have a site with deep rooted perennial weeds like dock leaves or dandelions you can place a thick layer of newspaper in the base of the bed (at least 2 full issues thick) to prevent them growing through into your vegetable bed. The newspaper will rot down over time allowing root and worm traffic through but by that time the weeds will have been killed off.

Compost Mix

Soil/Compost Mix for Raised Vegetable Planters Raised beds are great because we can achieve bumper harvests from a small space but we need a very fertile soil for plant to thrive. At Quickcrop we don't like to use man made fertilizers as they don't benefit your soil and produce crops with reduced health benefits; after all the whole point in growing your own is producing the healthiest food so let's feed our plants in the most natural way we can.

The best place to start is filling your bed with a soil with a high organic compost content. When we say compost I mean composted green material rather than peat as this improves the structure of the soil and feeds your plants. I would also highly recommend using a natural seaweed and free range chicken manure pellet feed like our 'Seamungus' as a boost mixed in to the top few inches of soil. The poultry manure is an excellent source of nitrogen while the composted seaweed adds a whole host of trace elements and minerals.

Open slatted wooden compost bin design

Remember nutrients taken of the soil by your plants always need to be replenished so now is the time to start your composting regime and recycle vegetable waste and kitchen scraps into plant food which will be added to your raised beds. We would recommend adding a mulch of 2-3 inches of compost every year to the surface of your beds to keep the soil fertile. There are many different types of compost bin available but we find and open slatted compost bin the most forgiving as regards your green and brown material mix because of the excellent airflow through the heap.

I hope this doesn't sound to complicated, it's easy really! Remember were always happy to give you any help and advice you might need either by phone or email using the details at the bottom of the page. Happy Vegetable Growing!