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The best vegetables to grow in raised beds: A gardener’s crop choice guide
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Raised beds are ideal for growing many vegetables. They allow gardeners to create a great soil mix, let the sun warm the soil earlier than surrounding ground, and discourage foot traffic on growing areas. Here are 15 of the best vegetables to grow in raised beds.
Tomatoes are a top vegetable choice for a raised bed garden. The above-ground height allows the soil to warm up earlier in the season than in-ground garden beds. Even gardeners with large in-ground gardens often choose to grow their tomatoes in raised beds.
Further Reading: How to Grow Tomatoes
Carrots are one of the best vegetables to grow in raised beds. They are ideal for raised bed growing as they require light, fertile soil to grow straight and long. Carrots grown in the ground may encounter clay or pebbles, causing them to fork or twist. Raised beds allow for highly-controlled soil conditions (and carrots that are much easier to dice!). The elevated working space of raised beds also makes the job of weeding between the little seedlings much easier than if they were at ground level.
Spinach is a moisture-loving crop best suited to cold weather. In temperate areas, it can be grown in raised beds when the outdoor weather conditions are too cold for warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers. Raised beds also make the job of weeding and watering the baby spinach seedlings much easier (especially during the rainy seasons when spinach thrives).
Bell peppers are a heat-loving crop that grows best in raised beds. Peppers need well-draining soil, and the controlled environment of a raised garden bed makes that possible in any geographical area. And like tomatoes, the roots of the pepper plants will appreciate the warmer temperatures of the above-ground soil.
Arugula is a spicy salad green with a unique peppery taste. Arugula is very easy to grow from seed and tends to find a welcoming place in most raised bed gardens. While you may not need rows upon rows of this leafy green, a bit of it can liven up a salad, pasta, egg dish, or even a pizza! Yum!
Bulb onions are generally grown in raised beds from small baby onion bulbs called sets. Many gardeners like to grow their onions in a different raised bed each year to minimize transmission of some of the mildew and rot diseases that can affect onions. The well-drained soil of raised beds can also help keep rot diseases at bay. Look for onion sets locally that grow well in your area. Some favorites are:
- Walla Walla Onion
- Texas Super Sweet Onion
- Valencia Spanish Onion
- Southern Belle Red Onion
Kale is an easy and familiar crop to grow and thus finds a place in many raised bed gardens. Dwarf varieties are perfectly suited to small raised beds. The raised beds allow for close inspection for common kale troublemakers like cabbage moths and flies. Here is a video I made explaining 3 easy types of kale for beginners to grow.
“Although your plants will thrive in traditional, organically tended ground-level beds, they may do even better if you grow them in raised beds. Typically, raised beds have better aeration and drainage than ground-level beds because the soil is deeper, looser, and more fertile.”Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden, by Deborah L. Martin
Lettuce is a perfect leafy green for close-at-hand raised beds. Whether you’re growing soft butterhead lettuce, crisp romaine, or gourmet loose-leaf lettuce, you’ll always have a fresh salad ready nearby. In temperate areas, you may be able to grow your greens in a raised bed year-round with the help of a cold frame. The popularity and winter-hardy characteristics of lettuce make it one of the best vegetables to grow in raised beds.
Beets are easy to grow and are well suited to raised beds. Seeds are best planted directly in the garden, but the seeds germinate best when the soil is pre-warmed. Raised bed gardens allow for the sun to warm up the soil early in the season, encouraging germination. Soak the beet seeds for a few hours prior to planting to give them a heads-up that it’s time to start growing.
Radish is a quick-growing crop available in many unique varieties. Radish seedlings can be set out in the raised beds in mid-spring for an exceptionally early veggie harvest, or the seeds can be planted outdoors even before the first frost.
Garlic isn’t really a vegetable, but it sure is an excellent root crop to grow in raised beds. Garlic can be planted in autumn, and thus makes an excellent overwintering crop for raised bed space that would otherwise spend the winter unused. The garlic bulbs will thrive in the rich conditions of the raised bed and will be ready for harvest just as the true heat-loving crops are ready to take up their space in the raised beds.
12. Green Onions
Green onions are a mini type of onion harvested before their bulbs fully form. The light, well-drained soil conditions of raised beds make green onions an ideal crop for them. The elevated surface of the raised bed also helps keep an eye on the health of the young plants as they mature and are harvested. The short growing season and versatility of this crop makes green onions one of the best vegetable crops to grow in a raised bed garden.
“You can grow any vegetable in raised beds, as well as herbs, annual or perennial flowers, berry bushes, or even roses and other shrubs.”Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden, by Deborah L. Martin
Swiss chard is a member of the beet family grown for its leafy greens. This veggie is a favorite in home gardens due to its pretty, colorful stems and versatility in the kitchen. Swiss chard is best planted directly in the soil of raised beds, and can even be overwintered for an early spring crop.
Florence fennel is a vegetable fennel with a bulbous base of celery-like stems. Fennel is well-suited to growing in raised bed gardens as it thrives in well-drained, rich, soil. The elevated working space of the raised bed also makes it easier to hill soil up around the base of the stems to blanch them and help keep the plant upright.
Leeks are a member of the onion family which grows fat stems instead of rounded bulbs. Like with fennel, the soil is mounded up around the bottom of the stems to blanch them and support the plant. Leeks are also best kept in the ground until you’re ready to eat them, so the raised bed acts as a bit of a cool-weather pantry for them!
Off-season raised bed crops
If growing cold-hardy winter crops in your raised beds isn’t your thing, consider sowing a green manure crop during the off-season to help build healthy soil in preparation for the next main growing season!