As I walk around the hobby farm assessing what needs to be done heading into the growing season, I realized even though we had a mild winter here in Connecticut, the raised garden beds needed some work.
It got me thinking about what else needs to get done for Spring. Ideally, you want to do this before anything is planted. Or if you are like me, you are behind from the start!
Being a wife, mom of two babies, and having a career is definitely a challenge when it comes to being on time with things, but what it also does is makes me think about the whole picture, so I don’t miss a beat, as my time is very limited.
This list of Top 6 things to do with Garden Bed Maintenance in the springtime will work for everyone, whether you are planning ahead, or behind the eight ball. My advice to you is to make a plan and get started right away!
1. Structural Damage
It’s very important to assess your raised garden beds for structural damage which may have occurred over the winter months.
You would think nothing could or would happen to them, especially if you just built them like I did last year, but guess again! The pressure of the dirt, mixed with the moisture from rain can put a toll on them.
My suggestion to you is to get some general tools, for instance, a screw gun or hammer, which you would find helpful for your particular raised bed style.
Take a slow walk around all for sides of each and every one of them, pulling on the sides, looking at every corner. Add a screw or two to secure the boards if they are loose.
You can certainly use nails; however, in my experience screws are stronger and less apt to pop out with the temperature changes, which causes the wood to shrink unless you use twisted nails, they shouldn’t pop out.
2. Clear Debris
Life gets crazy and we all know the end of the season sometimes means we let things go and we don’t finish cleaning out the raised beds.
If this is the case, now is the time to clean them out so they are nice and fresh. If you have a lot of trees or wind in your garden location you might have sticks/branches to clean up along with leaves.
It’s important to clear out the beds the best you possibly can get down to fresh soil. Sometimes mold will form under and on top of the decayed plant matter. You want to make sure all of that is removed.
Ultimately, it is better for you to clear the bulk of your plant debris out in the fall, but as I said life gets crazy and I certainly get it!
3. Turn the Soil
Turning your soil is important because it rotates fresh nutrients up from the soil below.
It also makes it easier to plant either seeds, seedlings, or plants, whichever you choose.
This makes it so it is easier for the roots to develop and spread throughout the soil giving it the proper amount of root space. I like to use both a hoe and a rake to do this task because it makes it so much easier than just using one tool.
On the hobby farm, my raised beds are 18” deep with about 15” of soil. I like to manually till down approximately half the soil depth.
4. Crop Rotation
Over the years I have discovered most people forget about crop rotation. It is important to rotate your crops to a different bed each year.
For instance, move your peas from one bed to the next and so on. Crop rotation is important for various reasons.
The biggest reason is to help prevent disease pathogens that build up along with insects. Experts say raised garden beds should be on a 5-7 year rotation. I recommend you rotate the best you can.
If you have only 3 garden beds, well that wouldn’t work, but you can do a 3-year rotation. If you have 10 garden beds, you might want to just do a 10-year rotation to make it easier on you.
I recommend just moving your crops one bed over to make it simple. Remember it’s not rocket science don’t overthink it!
I have a notebook in which I draw the boxes to resemble the layout of the garden and plan out exactly what is going where.
I do this as different crops get planted at different times throughout the season, and it keeps it organized and you don’t have to think back through your memory bank.
5. Soil Testing
I recommend soil testing to determine if the nutrients and composition levels are where they should be in your raised bed including the PH and acidity level.
I do have to say, I am not faithful at doing this every year. Your vegetables will still grow without soil testing; however, the yield of your harvest won’t be as good as if you did get it tested.
There are different ways to test the soil. You can purchase a simple soil kit anywhere they sell garden supplies or order on amazon.
You can also send a sample of your soil away to a local University or agriculture station for testing. They will send you a soil kit, you will then fill out the information and mail it back to them or drop it off.
Once you get your results you can adjust the levels as necessary if you feel the need.
6. Additional Soil or Compost
Adding additional soil or compost is important to bring your raised bed back up to the level it was originally.
Over the course of the year between rain washing soil out or raking it out when cleaning the beds you end up needing a little more.
I recommend adding an additional 2” of compost with nutrients to your soil as needed. You might be able to go a season without doing that, but I don’t recommend going more than one especially if you have not as a secure bed and it gets washed out easily.
In the picture shown, I had an instance where there were rodents who dug tunnels through my raised bed pushing the soil into the chicken pen. I need about 6”-8” replaced here. Finally, I was able to stop the problem, thank goodness for that!
If you have a situation like this, you want to make sure you blend your topsoil & compost ratio the way you would if you were starting a new raised bed.
I hope you find these helpful tips useful in maintaining your raised garden beds in the springtime! Happy Planting!