Jim McCausland

Rich soil in raised beds sustains veggies in mild-winter areas

Jim McCausland,  – November 10, 2004

Raised beds filled with rich soil provide ideal growing conditions for cool-season-crops. In the wood-framed beds pictured here, a Seattle family of six harvests vegetables, herbs, fruits, and cut flowers year-round. Altogether, the family maintains four 4- by 8-foot beds and one 4- by 4- foot bed. They’ve found a number of ways to get the most crops and color out of their beds.

Grow ornamental edibles. Red and green-leafed lettuces are clustered by color for a showy look.   You can achieve a similar effect with red and green varieties of kale or mustard.

Grow crops vertically to save space. Along the back of a bed (left), edible pole peas will twine up a framework of 5-foot bamboo stakes inserted into the soil in a crisscross pattern. Sweet peas planted at the base of a wood obelisk will climb the sides, leaving plenty of room for strawberries to fill the rest of the bed.

More tips

Plant cut-and-come-again vegetables that can be harvested a few leaves, sprigs, or stems at a time. Leaf lettuce, for example, will keep forming new leaves if you harvest mature leaves one at a time from the outside of the plant. Swiss chard can keep producing leaves for a couple of years. Grow curly parsley as a garnish and Italian flat-leaf parsley for cooking or salads. Japanese bunching onions yield a steady supply of stems you can use like scallions.

Choose long-bearing or multipurpose vegetable varieties when possible. Everbearing strawberries yield fruit from spring through fall. If you plant bulbing onions at 2-inch intervals, you can thin them in the green stage for scallions, then pick mature bulbs next summer.

Interplant herbs with vegetables. Set oregano, thyme, and prostrate rosemary along the edges of raised beds and let them spill over the sides. Tuck a few pansies into the beds; use their edible flowers to garnish salads.

More: See what you can grow in just 4 square feet