September is a great month for building framed beds to grow cool-season vegetables like lettuce and broccoli. Raised, or framed, beds are ideal for vegetables because they allow you to control the soil quality, don’t require much digging and make it easy to care for plants. Here are five tips to get you started:
1. Build the frames.
Size your beds so that you can reach the center easily without stepping into the bed. A soil depth of 10 to 20
inches will grow most garden plants. And there are plenty of choices in material for framing: cement blocks or stones offer longevity; moisture-resistant wood (sustainably harvested cypress or cedar and plain pine boards) is long-lasting.
2. Good soil is the secret to success.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in the garden is planting in poor soil. Healthy soil equals happy, productive and low-maintenance plants. Fill your bed with a blend of half garden soil, one-quarter well-rotted manure and one-quarter compost or humus.
3. Make watering easy.
Vegetable gardens need constant moisture to be productive. This task can quickly become a chore if you don’t set up a system that’s easy to manage. There are many DIY drip irrigation options that are super simple to install. Add a timer to the faucet and you take out all the work of watering. Remember to mulch, mulch, mulch to conserve moisture once your soil has sufficiently warmed.
4. Insects and wildlife love vegetables too.
Simple chicken-wire covers over hoops can keep bunnies from nibbling on your lettuce and the neighbor’s cat from using your garden as a litter box. Add an insect row cover to keep insects and moths from laying eggs that hatch into hornworms, cabbage worms and squash bugs.
5. Extend the growing season.
Small “hoop-houses” made with concrete reinforcing wire or PVC hoops and covered with a sheet of plastic or a frost blanket will warm beds in early spring, protect plants from late-spring frosts and allow a final late harvest after the first fall frost.