By definition, organic raised beds, are those that don’t use sprays, pesticides or chemical additives whatsoever, in other words everything that we have planted in these is grown naturally. Periodically, we may use some organic fertiliser but this has been certified not to contain any harmful ingredients and is deemed fit for use with our vegetables, herbs and or salads. There is so much written and said nowadays about all the harmful chemical sprays, that we may use for the elimination of pests and insects in the growing of our vegetables, that as a result, we are not that sure if it is even safe to purchase and consume supermarket veggies at all. That said, if we have our own organic raised bed gardens out in our back yards or back gardens and we sow and tend to them ourselves, then we can eliminate all those worries and fears.
Preparation of an organic bed;
As soon as we have completed and assembled the raised bed frame, the next step is to dig and prepare the soil within, add a good grade of ordinary topsoil, then add some peat, some old, aged and composted material like leaves, hedge trimmings and some aged farmyard manure. I would not add lawn grass cuttings as this material contains a lot of nitrogen and therefore is not considered beneficial for organic gardening purposes. An ideal time to prepare these beds is around the fall or autumn time, we leave all the materials to breakdown over winter, just leave nature do its thing. Come springtime the soil is fresh, rejuvenated and fertile and thus we are now ready for planting.
If we cannot get our hands on this material, the other alternative of preparing our raised beds is to add some bone meal or fish meal into the soil, both of which are made from natural ingredients and will suffice just as well in the preparation of our beds for vegetable planting.
What to plant:
When we talk of organic gardening, we tend to speak about vegetables primarily but we can include salads and herbs in this discussion also. Practically all types of veggies can be planted and grown in these conditions, preparation is key and once that has been taken care of, the rest is easy. To categorise every vegetable separately would require a library of detail, however, we can source any information which we may require online and this information in book or kindle format, is also available for purchase over the internet. Our local garden centre will always provide the advice on what is best to plant and sow. A lot will depend on where we reside and what the prevailing climate is like, ie, how early we can begin to plant these vegetables. I would begin with onions, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, and lettuces and cabbages maybe strawberries, tomatoes and peas also. As these are easy to grow and will produce a yield earlier if grown in raised beds then the following year we could expand some more, in order to accommodate other household favourites.
Advantages and maintenance:
The greatest advantage we have in using our own organic raised bed method is, that we have healthy wholesome produce, ready for consumption when needed and no worries about the amount of airmiles travelled etc. The other important and more pressing concern is, we know ourselves what we used to grow these and we can be reassured in the knowledge, that no harmful sprays were used in the growing of our vegetables. By using the composted materials we have mentioned above allows for moisture to be retained for longer in the bed frames.
When our plants become established, we can mulch around them with bark cuttings, leaves and perhaps some straw also, which will suppress any weeds. The maintenance is reduced considerably by using the raised bed system and thus makes our gardening jobs more enjoyable and much more fun. When the growing season is over all we need is to add some composted material and more farmyard manure, fork in well so as it will integrate with the existing bed soil and leave over winter to breakdown again. This will ensure that our raised bed will be organic in nature going forward.
Fertilizing organic raised beds;
This is where we need to be extra careful and need to give due diligence to what we will use for fertilising our raised beds, so that they remain organic in name and in nature. Once again our local garden centre will give freeily their expert advise as to what gardening supplements are safe and advisable to use. These products are slightly more expensive than the norm and would carry or have the ‘certified organic’ in their ingredients list. Staying with the organic trend and if we are concientiously intending to be organically inclined, why not produce our own homemade liquid fertilizer, which will be 100% organic.
We would be mildly surprised as to how easy this is achieved. There are two ingredients that are considered as weeds and are definitely not a gardeners best friend. These two plants are more widly known as the common nettle and comfrey. They grow wild in our gardens and throughout the countryside. It’s really simple to make this fertiliser from these weeds, just cut and place into a container like a barrel or water tank, then add water and cover. Leave for about 2 weeks approx and that will give us mineral and amendment rich liquid fertilizer. Do each seperately and stir vigourously with a stick about once a week. The mixing rate is rather simple, ie, for one packed bucket of nettles just add one bucket of water and do the same for the comfrey. Do not use the seed heads, flowers or roots of these plants in our mixture. One word of caution however and that is, the smell from this mixture is very pungent and rancid. We just apply with a watering can or bucket container and that will enhance and improve the quality and quantity of our vegetables. Apply at a ratio of approx 1:10, ie one part solution to 10 parts of water.
I hope that the above article is useful and informative and if so, always remember that we are a sociable and interactive gang here at buildingraisedbeds.com. If you have any questions or queries, please use the comments box down below and we will reply in due course.
Happy gardening once again,
Cheers Phil Browne.
” The gardener cultivates wildness,
but he does so
carefully and respectfully,
in full recognition of its mystery “
― Michael Pollan