Make your veg comfortable in raised beds
Raised beds are good for the soil, your back, and allow you to plant or harvest in just about any weather.
It seems that vegetables are happier off the ground in raised beds. Most of us are now aware that the no-dig regime seems to be beneficial to the soil.
By digging we are disturbing and disrupting that mammoth population of beneficial microorganisms, the fungi, bacteria and mini beasts that are essential to the soil’s vitality. No-dig, raised beds can be easy, beautiful and productive.
There are many ways to make raised beds depending on the depths of your pocket, skill levels and aesthetics. One of the first I made was at a garden in Inmarsh, near Seend. The soil was soggy, hence the name, and unpromising. But by making brick-surrounded raised beds and filling them with fabulous muck at the base and soil on top, they were hugely productive instantly. Brick or stone surrounds are the longest-lasting materials, but sadly the most expensive.
Most of my raised beds tend to be 1m (3.3ft) wide (the width I can comfortably stretch) by 2m-3m long. I like a few 1m x 1m beds too – for an interesting layout but also to house ornate cloches ideal for basil, coriander and other specials.
Every plot is different, so you need to devise the best layout for your needs. At home, I have 50 sq m (538 sq ft) of raised beds, which kept four of us almost self-sufficient. (John Seymour, the self-sufficiency guru, reckoned on 9 sq m/97 sq ft per person, though). Keeping them full, year-round, takes about four hours a week, maximum. We tend to pick/plant the veg, perching on the edge of the beds, chatting, weeding or thinning. It is not so much a labour of love as a very lazy labour.
The height of my beds are between 20cm (8in) railway sleepers) and 45cm (18in). Given time, I will adapt them so all are at least 30cm high (12in), easier on the back and more productive.
My beds are “fed” almost entirely with plug plants. Tomatoes, cucumber, yacon and aubergine are in plug trays on my kitchen window sills as we speak. In the cold greenhouse are my cabbages, leeks, Brussels, celeriac, onions, broad beans, salad leaves, beetroot, mangetout, cauliflower. I hate bare soil and shoe-horn in seedlings as old plants come out.
With well-designed raised beds you can plant or harvest pretty much whatever the weather. I add 5cm (2in) of compost a year.
The above was written by Bunny Guinness writing in the Telegraph