Mistakes are often the best teacher, but learn from others’ raised bed garden mistakes instead of making your own. Starting a raised bed garden can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Still, there are common mistakes even experienced gardeners can make. Before planting, here are five raised bed garden mistakes to avoid so your gardening journey is successful.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.
Raised bed garden mistake #1: Not having an overall plan for your space
I’m a big fan of starting small when you start a garden. However, it’s essential to consider the entire space before you install the first raised bed. You don’t need to install all the raised beds at once, but do have a plan for where they will be placed. Raised beds are difficult, if not impossible, to move.
Use the guidelines for designing a raised bed garden and map out where each bed will be before you put the first one in place. Beginning with the end in mind will help ensure your space is as productive and efficient as possible.
Thinking about adding a raised bed? I love my metal garden bed (it comes with watering grids!) from Garden in Minutes.
If you’re looking for cedar beds, I love these Deep Root Cedar Beds from Gardener’s Supply.
In this blog post, learn more about how to design a raised bed garden.
If you aren’t sure where you want to put your garden beds, consider gardening in grow bags for the first season. Grow bags are an inexpensive way to begin gardening as you determine the best location for your raised bed garden.
This blog post shares how to get started with grow bag gardening.
Raised bed garden mistake #2: Not making a plan for how you will water your garden
Many problems in the garden can be traced back to incorrect watering: too much, too little, or inconsistent watering. Irregular watering causes seeds and seedlings to dry out, and it stresses established plants inviting pests and diseases.
Consider how you will water the garden beds as part of your raised bed garden plan.
Some type of automatic watering system is the best way to water raised beds. Timers can be adjusted to water daily during the warmest months or less often, depending on rain and other weather conditions.
My favorite drip-line irrigation system is the Garden Grid from Garden In Minutes. I’ve used them since 2017 and added them to all my garden’s raised beds.
Learn more about watering principles for raised bed gardens in this post.
Raised bed garden mistake #3: Not making beds deep enough or not using all of the space in the beds
Raised beds should be at least 12 inches deep; 18 inches is even better. The amount of soil in the raised beds limits plant roots. Fill the beds all the way up with the best soil possible (see mistake #4).
For beds deeper than 18 inches, filling up the bottom part of the bed with dried leaves, compost, or other organic matter (Hügelkultur style) is okay, but ensure at least the top 12″-18” is soil.
Filling beds up only halfway causes more temperature fluctuations, which is also stressful for plants.
Raised bed garden mistake #4: Not focusing on your soil
Soil is the most crucial factor in your garden’s success. Healthy soil is rich with oxygen, light, fluffy, friable, and porous.
Soil that is full of life (fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and earthworms) provides the nutrients that feed the roots of the plants in your garden. As you care for it, good soil will improve over time.
This post shows you more about the best soil for raised beds. I use the raised bed mix from Arizona Worm Farm to fill up all my beds.
Regularly adding compost to your garden beds makes any soil better. Compost is loaded with vital nutrients that are released slowly into the soil. Other benefits of compost include stimulating growth, moderating soil pH, disease protection, improved soil structure, and water retention.
Using in-bed vermicomposting buckets is another way to improve your soil dramatically. The worms break down scraps and make castings right in the beds. Worm castings are a powerhouse of nutrients with minerals and good microorganisms that improve plant growth as well as pest and disease resistance.
In this post, learn more about adding in-bed worm composting to your raised bed garden.
Raised bed garden mistake #5: Planting at the wrong time
Part of learning to garden is learning the characteristics of the plants you want to grow. Vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers have preferred growing temperatures.
- Cool-season crops include lettuce, onions, broccoli, beets, radishes, spinach, and cauliflower.
- Warm-season crops include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, squash, eggplant, and sweet potato.
Plants are happiest and grow best when planted at the ideal soil temperature and growing conditions.
The best time to plant varies significantly by region. Therefore, a big part of gardening success is learning the unique growing conditions of your area.
Understand your current climate’s challenges and maximize your climate’s benefits.
To learn the best time to plant, ask experienced gardeners in your area, or contact your local extension office. In addition, local nurseries can be an excellent resource for planting dates and information.
Learn more about finding a planting guide for your area in this post.
If you live in the low desert of Arizona, my blog (you’re reading it right now) is full of resources to help you determine the best time to plant.
Visual planting guides for vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers & vines.
I’ve also created perpetual planting calendars and seed labels with planting and seed starting dates for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
Flowers to Plant Outside & Seeds to Start Indoors Each Month in the Low Desert of Arizona.
• PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists annual flowers and bulbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
• BLOOMING GUIDE: Photos show what may be in bloom that month.
Seed Box Labels with planting dates for vegetables and flowers
Starting a raised bed garden doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. If you take the time to plan, you can avoid costly mistakes. Ensure that your beds are deep enough and use the space available. Focus on soil health and learn the best planting times. Now is the perfect time to begin. You’ve got this!
Monday 24th of April 2023
Hi Angela - I've started gardening in my backyard in Mesa and your blog has so far been indispensable. So far, I've only bought cedar raised beds, but I want to add some 2x8 beds and am considering the metal beds you've recommended from Garden in Minutes. The only thing giving me pause is that I want to use them to grow summer crops, and I'm worried the metal (and subsequently the soil) will get too hot (the area I'd put them in would get unobstructed sun basically all day). Have you had a problem with this? What do you recommend?
Friday 28th of April 2023
I haven't noticed that being a problem with my other metal beds. I do plan on taking temp readings throughout the summer in the different types of beds to see if it's an issue.