An above ground garden is one of my favorite recommendations for folks who want to start gardening but aren’t sure where to begin. For one thing, gardening can be tricky if you don’t have the right space for it and some folks don’t have a large yard to work with. Others may have poor soil quality on their property. Many people have mobility issues preventing them from getting on their hands and knees, and still others can’t keep up with the weeds and pests pervasive at the ground level.
An above ground garden removes all of those obstacles and is a great option for home-grown fruits and vegetables. There are so many crop combinations to choose from. Here are some tips for preparing an above ground garden and strategies for effective weed control.
Build, Buy, or Both!
I’m one of those people who feels confident enough to put something together if you give me instructions and materials, so for me, I like the DIY kits you can buy at home and garden stores. But there are options on both sides of the spectrum from using found material in your yard (like stone and pressure treated lumber) to ordering something completely prefabricated. The key is to use water-resistant and rot-resistant materials.
Location: Sun, Wind, and Water
Most vegetables need lots of sunlight, so it’s important to build your above ground garden in a sun-soaked area of your yard. Wind can be a real threat to raised beds, so building your above ground garden next to a house or fence will go a long way in protecting your veggies from harsh winds. You’ll want to be close enough to a water source to make regular waterings easy to do, but you don’t want to be too close to downspouts or other rain run-off areas that will make your garden too soggy.
Once you’ve planned and prepared your above ground garden, it’s time to focus on weed control. Here are a few of my favorite strategies.
Install a soil barrier.
Line the bottom of your above ground garden with landscape fabric or newspaper and cardboard. Landscaping fabric will last a few years or until it is dug up.
Mulch can come in many forms, including wood chips, pebbles, grass clippings and straw. Two to three inches is best and the type of mulch used depends on the type of crop you plant.
Consider drip irrigation.
Stop weeds from growing by cutting off their water supplies. Rather than watering your garden by spraying the surface, set up a drip irrigation system that will get water to your crops and not to the surface weeds.
Reduce crop spacing.
Keeping some of your crops close together can prevent weeds from having space to grow. It’s a delicate balance, though, and you have to avoid overcrowding certain vegetables.
Use a simple, non-toxic weed killer like vinegar.
You can use household vinegar or gardening vinegar (a bit more acidic) to spray onto weeds to kill them. It’s important to only spray weeds with vinegar as it will also kill your vegetable crops if you’re not careful.
Spend a few minutes a day plucking the early weeds.
I know it’s easy to say, but I promise, if you can commit five to ten minutes a day, you’ll be in the best position to stop weeds before they become pervasive. And that will save you a ton of time in the long run.
What is your favorite crop to plant in your above ground garden? I’d love to hear about your raised garden beds, and any tricks you’ve used for weed prevention.