How to start a raised vegetable garden mid-August in the Northeast?
July 20, 2016 9:11 AM   Subscribe

My wife's birthday is mid-August. I want to give her the gift of a raised vegetable garden bed in our yard. I'm not sure how to put together the specific details in order to make this work.

I imagine the gift will include something along the lines of the following:

a. Set of lumber or a garden bed kit (preferably in a box, gift wrapped)
b. Set of seeds packaged in a gift bag
c. Gift certificate to local garden store for various accessories (soil, tools, etc)
d. Custom IOU certificate from me to her for my ongoing garden labor

The problem: I have ABSOLUTELY no idea about how to arrange the specifics of the above.

Questions: What specific products should I consider in order to successfully achieve these things? I would like to do things as inexpensively as possible and I'm not averse to a minimal level of DIY bed construction, but if there is a quality product at a reasonable price-point (<$100) that will save me a lot of tinkering I'd be inclined to go in that direction. Searching Amazon turns up a lot of garden bed kits but it's hard for me to understand what would work best.

I also realize it is late in the growing season. Is there anything we can plant mid-August in New England. that will grow this season? Is it possible that instead of seeds I can/should start with plants at a garden store that are already in-progress?

We have a great location in our yard that gets a lot of sun.

Anything else in the "I don't know what I don't know" category that I should be thinking about in order to make this a nice gift?
posted by TurkishGolds to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Look up Square Foot Gardening and do a bit of reading. I bought the book and read the essentials in an hour or so.

I'd say just get the raised bed kit that is just corners and get a gift card to Home Depot (or such) for the lumber. Find a local bulk soil depot that sells soil mixes by the dump truck-full (we have a couple companies near me but I don't know if this is a thing everywhere). Buying all your soul components at the Big Orange Box will be expensive. I don't know your zone, as I'm in Florida, so I cannot help with seed choices.

Square Foot Gardening. Totally newbie proof.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:18 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

This week (outside of Boston) I planted peas, spinach, beets, and lettuce (seeds). You can probably also buy some leafy vegetables at the garden center.

I would say start small (like 4x4 or 2x6), because a raised bed contains a really shocking amount of soil/potting mix, and potting mix is much more expensive than I realized.
posted by mskyle at 9:19 AM on July 20, 2016

Look up soil suppliers in your area, the ones who deliver it by the square yard. Buying potting soil by the bag at hardware stores is shockingly expensive, and you don't want the cheapest kind (avoid that terrible kind in the red-white striped bags that calls itself organic, above all!) Costco has the best price on a good product if you are stuck buying by the bag, but they only sell it in early spring as far as I know.

Think about how you will vermin-proof. I'm having a hell of a time with my zucchini now because I built a "square foot" bed, and the zucchini plants are long and they're going off the sides and onto the ground and critters are eating the zucchinis. It's too low to the ground to net it effectively. Building it higher would have been better, even if one square foot of depth is technically enough for the plant.

Buy some Neem oil spray, you'll need it for pests.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:36 AM on July 20, 2016

I would also think about watering, and how you are going to do that. I started a bunch of containers on my back porch, and it was a pain to water them until I got the right equipment.

Also, seeds can take forever - some need to be started inside, some don't transplant well - you may want to get plants to start with, and then do seeds for the spring. You could still do the seeds in a gift bag, I think, just for the spring.
posted by needlegrrl at 9:46 AM on July 20, 2016

Check out Gardener's Supply for raised bed kits. You buy just the corner hardware; get the boards at a building supply place, for the most economical approach.
posted by beagle at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here is a plan from Ask This Old House.
posted by H21 at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2016

Lettuce and radishes are quick and prefer the slightly cooler weather. Also fall gourds will go gangbusters and are fun because of all the crazy shapes even if not edible. Very satisfying because they grow like crazy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2016

Here is a page with some good information about figuring out planting dates for fall harvest and some suggested crops. Radishes and greens are probably your safest bets.

I've made simple, inexpensive raised bed frames by getting 2 12-ft long pine boards (6-10 inches wide, depending on how high you want the sides), cutting each one into a long piece (8 1/2 ft) and a short piece (3 1/2 ft), then using wood screws to fasten the 4 pieces together. (No power tools needed, just a screwdriver.) That works fine if you don't need your bed to be attractive, high enough to reach into without bending over, or impossible for weeds to grow into. But you may be looking for something fancier.

Oh, and make sure you have a hose long enough to reach the bed.
posted by Redstart at 11:40 AM on July 20, 2016

Remember to make the long axis of the bed level so it's easier to water.
posted by clew at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2016

Buy some Neem oil spray, you'll need it for pests.

I would not do this. Hopefully you will want to be as organic as possible. The most organic thing you can do (and part of the fun of having a garden) is to hand pick problem pests off your plants. Just randomly using chemicals, even chemicals derived from plants, can cause way more problems than it solves. If you really get a pest problem that you can not solve with hand picking (mites or something) there are plenty of sollutions to try first before dousing plants with Neem. Healthy plants are rarely susuptible to serious pest infestations.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:23 PM on July 21, 2016

« Older How serious is this challenge to the validity of...   |   Can you find me a picture of a particular type of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.