Tips on a Raised Garden Bed
Traditional gardens are great, but there's something to be said for raised bed gardens—it allows you to grow more food in less space, tailor the soil precisely to your needs, and decreases the amount of space for weeds to grow wild. Plus, the soil in raised bed warms and dries out earlier in the spring than regular garden beds, so you can get planting sooner. They allow you to garden without fighting stones and roots, and the soil in them stays perfectly fluffy since it doesn't get walked on.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks to raised bed gardens. In hot dry weather, they tend to dry out quickly. Roaming cats may find the nice, fluffy soil attractive for their own reasons. However, these few drawbacks are easy to avoid with a little planning and prevention.
Don't Walk on the Soil
The biggest advantage of raised bed gardening is the light, fluffy, absolutely perfect soil. When you build your raised beds, build them so that you're able to reach every part of the bed without having to stand in it. If you already have a raised bed and find that you have to walk on parts of it, consider installing strategically placed patio pavers or boards, and only step on those rather than on the soil.
Mulch After Planting
Mulch with straw, grass clippings, leaves, or wood chips after planting your garden. This will reduce the amount of weeding you'll have to do and keep the soil moist.
Plan Your Irrigation System
Soaker hose and drip irrigation are the two best ways to irrigate a raised bed. If you plan it ahead of time and install your irrigation system before planting, you can save yourself a lot of work and time spent standing around with a hose later on.
Top-Dress Annually with Compost
Gardening in a raised bed is, essentially, like gardening in a really, really large container. As with any container garden, the soil will settle and deplete as time goes on. You can mitigate this by adding a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost or composted manure each spring before you start planting.
Fluff the Soil as Needed
To lighten compacted soil in your raised bed, simply stick a garden fork as deeply into the soil as possible and wiggle it back and forth. Do that in 8- to 12-inch intervals all over the bed, and your soil will be nicely loosened without a lot of backbreaking work.
Cover up Your Soil, Even When You're Not Gardening
Add a layer of organic mulch or plant a cover crop at the end of your growing season. Soil that is exposed to harsh winter weather can break down and compact much faster than protected soil.