Vegetable Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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After you determine the best spot for your vegetable garden, sketch a plan and decide the planting method: rows, hills or raised garden beds. These basic garden layouts have different advantages and uses:

  • In rows: Any vegetable can be planted in straight rows, but this arrangement works best with types that need quite a bit of room, such as tomatoes, beans, cabbages, corn, potatoes, peppers, and summer squash.

  • In hills: Hills are typically used for vining crops. Create a 1-foot-wide, flat-topped mound (or a circle at ground level for sandy soil). Surround the soil with a moatlike ring. Grow two or three evenly spaced plants on each hill.

  • In raised beds: Make your bed at least 2 feet wide and raised at least 6 inches high. Almost any vegetable benefits from a raised bed, but smaller vegetables and root crops, such as lettuce, beets, carrots, onions, spinach, and radishes, really thrive with this type planting.

    A raised bed can be a temporary bed with the soil piled 5 or 6 inches high. Or you can build a permanent raised bed.

    Make raised beds with soil, or wood, stone, or masonry sides.
    Make raised beds with soil, or wood, stone, or masonry sides.

Raised beds have several advantages, including the following:

  • They solve soil problems: If you have bad soil or poor drainage, you can amend the garden soil in the raised bed with compost. And because you don't step on the beds as you work, the soil stays light and fluffy, providing the perfect conditions for root growth — especially for root crops such as carrots and beets.

  • They warm up quickly: Because more of the soil in raised beds is exposed to the sun, the soil warms faster, allowing for early planting.

    If you're in a hot climate and have sandy soil, raised beds may dry out and heat up too much.

  • They reduce your work: By growing your vegetables in raised beds, you can maximize your fertilizing and watering so that more nutrients and water are actually used by the plants rather than wasted in the pathways.

  • They're easy on your back and knees: If you design beds 18 to 24 inches high and no wider than 4 feet, you can sit on the edge and reach into the bed to weed or harvest.

  • They're attractive: You can make raised beds in almost any shape you like — rectangle, square, triangle, circle. Your garden can take on a whimsical design with a little creativity.

Wooden raised beds should be made of rot-resistant woods, such as redwood or cedar, or recycled plastic timbers. Some gardeners use pressure-treated wood or creosote-treated railroad ties to construct raised beds. Although these materials last a long time, these chemicals leach into the soil and can adversely affect your plants.

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The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational organization in the United States. Visit http//

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun, and accessible to everyone.

The National Gardening Association offers plant-based education in schools, communities, and backyards across the United States, through the award-winning websites and

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