Spring Gardening Tips: Raised Beds, Weed Control, Garden Design, Prepare Your Spot

By Crystal Stevens

Building raised beds:
Simple raised beds can be built using pallets. Pallets are typically free. Local businesses such as warehouses and shipping facilities with pallets out back will typically be glad to give away pallets because it often times saves them money. But it is best to ask the business owner directly for permission. Get the ones labeled HT, which means they have been heat-treated.

Simple raised beds can be built with scrap wood or pallets, a hammer, and some weatherproof nails. Fill the bed frame with equal parts topsoil and compost.
Stay ahead of the weeds!

Free mulch for garden beds:

  • Black & white newspaper (no color/glossy ink)
  • Leaves/leaf litter from your or neighbor’s yard
  • Grass clippings
  • Weeds (as you weed your garden, lay the pulled weeds down flat around each plant to act both as green manure and to also help suppress the growth of more weeds. This does not work for invasive weeds. Add a layer of newspaper between the soil and the pulled weeds to prevent them from rooting back into the ground.
  • Burlap coffee bags
  • Sketch out your garden design. Incorporate companion planting into your design. Have a separate bed for perennials. Be sure to include flowers and herbs into your garden to attract pollinators.

Prepare your garden spot
In an area of your front or back yard, find a somewhat level spot that gets full sun for at least six hours per day. Mark out a 10×10 plot using a few stones or pieces of scrap wood.
Two weeks before you turn under the area your garden will be, spray a mixture of one part vinegar (white vinegar is the cheapest) to two parts water on the plot you wish to start your garden. This will act as a prevention measure for managing weeds as well as insects.

Using a potato fork, turn under the soil, using your foot to press the fork halfway into the ground. Use leverage to turn under the soil. Once all of the soil in the 10×10 plot is turned up, use the potato fork to break up large clumps of soil.

Let the plot sit for a day or two so that the weeds die back. Use the fork again to break up the soil to create a finer dirt.

Spread a bag (or wheel barrow full) of compost over the plot. Work the compost into the soil until an even consistency is achieved. St. Louis composting is a good resource.
Plant your garden with season appropriate seeds or plant starts. For instance: greens do well in cooler weather and tomatoes and peppers do well in hot weather. May is a good month to sow carrots, beets, turnips, lettuces, kale, chard, onions, scallions and herbs from seed. Transplant established plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and melons around Mother’s Day.

Mulch established plants with straw or whatever mulch you have on hand.
Plant the vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs that you enjoy eating and cooking with.
Buy plant starts from a local garden store or farmers market. Share & exchange the harvest with friends and neighbors.

Crystal Stevens is a regular contributor to The Healthy Planet magazine and a farmer at LaVista CSA Farm. www.LaVistaCSA.org.