One-Hour Vegetable Garden: Step-by-Step Guide
What can you do in an hour? Have your lunch break—or, make a place for growing your future lunches? We’ll show you how to install a new vegetable bed together, get it planted, and get you through those first nail-biting months!
Let’s Get Started!
Let’s get started with adding a raised bed to to the garden.
- Raised beds are just that: beds that raise the growing surface up above the surrounding ground level. What’s the point of that? Well, for a start the soil inside drains through and dries out quicker after a long, wet winter which leaves soggy soil. And drier soils tend to warm up a bit quicker in spring. Raised beds also look nice and neat!
- If you’re putting a raised bed garden on top of grass, you could just mow the grass right down, plonk the bed straight on top, then get filling with our compost. But if your soil is in any way weedy, put a layer of cardboard down first.
- Laying down plain sheets of cardboard (no staples or tape!) makes it a lot more difficult for anything to grow through. It’s an extra layer of resistance – a barrier – which in the vast majority of cases will stop weeds in their tracks. Ensure a good overlap – not so important here but essential if your ground is really weedy.
- The cardboard should stay intact for a couple of months – just long enough to exhaust most weeds. Some people use weed fabrics, but we’re as not keen as this is just more plastic which will just sit there indefinitely.
- If you have quite a few Amazon or post office deliveries, you can save up quite a bit of cardboard. If you don’t, try asking neighbors, local shops, or visit a recycling center.
- Place your raised bed in direct sunshine for your beds as it’s the Sun that powers growth. That said, you can still grow a lot in shady beds, such as leafier crops, like many of the salads.
- When positioning your bed, a little bit of a slope is okay, but bear in mind that water will run off if it’s too steep. If you only have a slope, level off the ground by simply digging out a cut into the slope of the hill to give a level planting surface once it’s filled. Alternatively you could, of course, build up the soil at one edge – any way to get a nice, even surface.
Adding the Raised Bed
- In this example, we’ll use small raised beds (3 feet by 4 feet) that are a convenient and manageable size. For example, you can source a pallet collar bed very cheaply. But if you want a different sized bed – perhaps one that’s a bit longer, for example, it’s very easy to make your own from lumber. As you’ll be growing edibles in the bed, use untreated, natural wood, as you don’t want nasty chemicals leaching into the soil.
- If you want to make your own bed like this, use wood that’s at least an inch or, preferably two inches thick. This will give a really solid, long-lasting bed.
- Just drill pilot holes close to the end of each plank and into the adjoining plank, then screw together using nice, long screws to ensure a properly secured finish. Overlap the planks like this: one over the other, all the way around.
If needed, see instructions on how to build a raised bed.
How to Fill Your Bed
The beauty of setting up a raised bed is that’s there’s no digging involved. It’s the plug-and-play way to get growing! Just fill your bed with your chosen growing medium, firm it down, and start planting!
- Let’s fill ours. You’d be surprised how much growing medium it takes to fill a bed. If you fill it entirely with compost, especially bags of potting mix like this, costs may quickly stack up. So try using what you’ve got around you instead.
- To start, how about dumping in some old prunings along the bottom, then stamping on them to squash and break them up a bit. Only do this if you have lots of sticks and branches around, and it will save a few pennies in the process! Don’t worry, they’ll break down over time, releasing their nutrients back into the surrounding soil; think of it as a bit like a slow-release fertilizer!
- Next, add in some compost. You could use your own garden-made compost, well-rotted manure, or even a purpose-sold topsoil mix. Also consider, mushroom compost!
- After filling the bed, tamp it down as you fill. Take great care to fill in the corners and pack them in. You want a really good fill, so don’t be afraid to pack it all in.
- If you’re only filling one or two beds you may find that a few bags of all-purpose compost, combined with a bottom layer of garden soil, may be enough to fill them but the unit cost for bulk bags can be cheaper.
Plant Your Bed
Planting up a bed is always the most exciting part.
- You can start crops like salads and greens from seed or, if you started indoors in plug trays, you’ll have a head start! You’ll find a really good selection of ready-to-plant plug plants available in most garden centers, especially during spring.
- For a spring bed, lettuces, radishes, and salad onions are good choices, along with some direct-sow some beets and some peas for shoots too. All will grow and establish quickly at this time of year. You’ll have harvests within four to six weeks from planting. A bed of fast-growing salads like this to get you motivated and encouraged for further plantings.
See the video for more ideas for other garden beds!
Protect and Nurture
When it’s still early in the growing season, we’re planting cold hardy vegetables, but to help ease the young plants into their new home, consider covering them with this fleecy row cover to protect against early pests: not just insect pests but also birds and small mammals. Pin down a row cover at both sides so it doesn’t blow away. Take it off in a couple weeks once the plants are a bit bigger.
Watering is necessary after planting if no rain is forecast. And you’ll need to water every few days initially if it’s dry. This isn’t a problem in some areas!
There’s absolutely no need to use raised beds if you don’t want to, of course. You can start new beds off directly in the ground.
- Just pop a few inches of compost onto cleared ground then get on and plant. Or, if the ground is a bit weedy or grassy, pop over your cardboard and then a slightly deeper layer of compost on top, similar to the raised bed.
- It may be easier to hem in the sides with old planks of wood, at least temporarily, to keep your compost in place and stop it creeping out.
- Standalone beds can serve as islands of veg, but if you want to pop in lots of beds, then you’ll of course need paths between them. Wood chips – again on top of an initial weed-smothering layer of cardboard – work well because they are clean and don’t need mowing. The chippings rot down and need topping up from time to time, but they contribute to the overall vitality of the entire vegetable garden. The roots of some of the bigger plants like, say squash, will reach out into the paths, so this is a far-from-wasted resource. Plus, it’s a boon for all sorts of beneficial bugs that love to hunker down among it.
And, of course, is you’re less mobile, you can go the other way: install taller raised beds, use planters raised up on legs, or grow in containers.
If you enjoyed this article (and video), check out the online Garden Planner which is how we plan out our garden on the computer. This amazing gardening tool saves us time and money by calculating our seed spacing, generating a customized planting and harvesting calendar, and much more.