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By Allen Wilson
Published: April 17, 2021, 6: 00am
Rows of green vegetables grow a community garden. (iStock.com)
Do you think raised grow boxes are a good approach for growing vegetables in our area?
I think raised grow boxes for vegetables are especially adapted to Northwest growing conditions.
Grow boxes improve vegetable production for several reasons:
Raised beds, with or without side supports or boxes, warm up faster. Seeds sprout quicker and plants grow faster in warmer soil.
Raised beds drain water faster, which is important in our high rainfall climate. With better drainage vegetables can be planted sooner.
Soil in beds is not compacted by walking on it. Therefore the soil has more and larger pores which improves root growth.
An improved soil mix should be put into the boxes, which further improves growth.
Rows are spaced closer together because there is no need to walk between them.
Fewer weeds are easier to control.
Grow boxes can be made in any shape or size to fit the design or space available. Typically they are a maximum width of 4 feet so you can easily reach in from both sides. A 2-foot aisle or walkway is a minimum between boxes. They can be made any height, but 1 foot is typical. Raising boxes to knee or waist height makes them easier to work, especially for older or handicapped. Sides can be made of long-lasting cedar lumber or many other materials. Boxes can be purchased in stores. Some lumber companies will build cedar boxes to order.
Soil mix is typically one-third builder’s sand and two-thirds organic matter such as bark dust, compost, peat moss and vermiculite. Mixes for grow boxes are available from local nurseries and garden stores. A bulk purchase to be picked up or delivered is cheaper than bagged mixes. A 4-by-8-by-1-foot grow box requires about 1 cubic yard of soil mix.
One of the most popular approaches to grow box gardening is “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. This approach encourages small repeat plantings, which spreads the harvest over the whole garden season.
Grow boxes are best suited to smaller vegetables, but larger ones like tomatoes can be accommodated with supports. Some of the vining vegetables like cucumbers and melons can be supported on a trellis at one end of a box.
Sweet corn is one vegetable that does not fit grow boxes unless you devote a whole box to it. Corn should be planted in at least three multiple rows with 2 foot spacing between rows for adequate wind pollination.
I have a leaflet on vegetable gardening for our area. Send your request to [email protected] and I will email you a free copy.
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