Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening


Raised beds are a great option for most vegetable gardeners, especially if you only have a small amount of space for a garden. A raised bed is nothing more than a box or container with soil placed on top of the ground. Raised beds typically are more productive than in-ground beds because the soil is less compacted, has better drainage, and warms and dries earlier in the spring, allowing you to start gardening earlier in the season.

Raised beds are also often easier to maintain, particularly for gardeners with limited mobility, and generally have lower perennial weed pressure.  The main disadvantages of raised beds are that they tend to require more frequent irrigation and have a high initial cost of construction. The advantages, however, typically outweigh these disadvantages over the long term.


Design & Construction
Gardeners can purchase raised bed kits that require assembly, or you can build beds out of many different types of materials. Large containers such as livestock water troughs are popular right now for their industrial-chic appearance and these containers make excellent raised beds.

Most gardeners elect to build beds out of non-treated rot-resistant lumber such as cedar, oak, or locust. Bricks, rocks, and cinder blocks can also be used.  Gardeners should avoid the use of used railroad ties and tires as these items have the potential for leaching toxic materials into the soil.

Proper design and sizing of a raised bed is critical so that the gardener can easily accomplish all garden tasks while outside the bed, so beds should be no more than 3 or 4 feet wide, and even more narrow if young children will be gardening in the bed. While the length of the bed is less critical, many raised beds are designed to be a maximum of 8 feet in length.

Soil in raised beds should be a minimum of 6 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches is desirable.  Raised beds can be placed directly over existing sod or soil, and a barrier does not need to be placed under the raised bed.

Raised beds can also be elevated several feet off the ground to allow individuals with limited mobility or those confined to a wheelchair to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of gardening. Such beds should be designed to be a maximum of 24 inches wide to allow easy access to the entire bed.

One of the greatest benefits of gardening in raised beds is the ability to grow in lighter, less compacted soil with more pore space for air and water, so filling raised beds with native soil dug from existing in-ground growing spaces is not recommended. Ideally, raised beds should be filled with a mixture of quality garden soil and compost. Many garden centers sell bagged soil blended specifically for use in raised beds.

Like any vegetable garden, raised beds should be located in areas that receive a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Raised beds can be an option for utilizing sloped locations if the beds are terraced during construction.  Ideally, raised beds should be located close to a water source to facilitate frequent irrigation. If you build several raised beds be sure to allow for adequate space between beds to facilitate working in each bed as well as maintenance of the beds.

While a  raised bed won’t solve every problem a vegetable gardener might encounter during the growing season, it will provide an opportunity to produce more vegetables in a smaller space while reducing the labor involved with routine garden maintenance chores.

Mike Hogan, hogan.1@osu.edu
Extension Educator & Associate Professor,
Agriculture & Natural Resources
2019 Faculty Council Chair
OSU Extension, Franklin County
Past President, National Association of County Agricultural Agents


ODA And OSU Extension Kick Off 2021 Ohio Victory Gardens Program

It’s time to get your hands dirty and start growing! The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and OSU Extension Offices are kicking off the second year of the Victory Gardens Program. Due to high demand, the program is expanding to include 25 counties, up from 10 counties last year. Approximately 8,300 seed packets will be available free to the public to get people planting.

“We have seen a revived passion for planting through our Victory Gardens Program, which has expanded to 15 additional counties this year,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “Our Ohio Victory Gardens are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, from urban apartment dwellers, to those living in the country, and everyone in between. We hope this will inspire a new generation of gardeners who will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor for years to come.”

“We are excited to expand our partnership with ODA on the Victory Garden Program. Last year, we had an overwhelming positive response to the program, so this year, we will be expanding the seed distribution initiative to 25 Ohio State University Extension county offices,” said Dr. Cathann A. Kress, Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “No matter your level of gardening experience, our OSU Extension educators will provide expertise that will help your gardens thrive.”

Seeds will be available to pick up the first week of April at county OSU Extension Offices. Specific days and times for each office are available on the Ohio Victory Gardens website, as well as planting resources and information. The following counties are taking part in the program this year:

Athens Cuyahoga Hamilton Mahoning Stark
Butler Fairfield Jefferson Miami Summit
Clark Franklin Knox Montgomery Trumbull
Clinton Geauga Licking Seneca Union
Coshocton Greene Lucas Shelby Washington

Victory Gardens originated during World War I, an answer to a severe food shortage at the time. The idea was wildly successful, growing an army of amateur gardeners and serving to boost morale and patriotism. Although there’s no food shortage now, ODA and OSU Extension are reviving the effort and once again encouraging people to plant seeds, realize the fruits of their labor, and share with others if inspired.

The Victory Gardens Program offers a full website with details on seed distribution, advice, and resources on every aspect of planting and harvesting produce.


Media Contact:
Katie Boyer, 614.563.6974

WEBINAR: Starting Seeds for your Victory Garden

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 12:00 PM

The Seneca County Extension office is proud to offer a 1-hour webinar with Mackenzie Moyer to help you learn how to start your seeds before transplanting to your garden. This webinar will teach you all the beginner basics of starting seeds for a successful growing season.

Register here: https://go.osu.edu/startingseeds


Hallie Williams
Agricultural & Natural Resources Educator

Testing Old Seeds

Do you have old seeds? Unsure if they will germinate? Did you know you can test your seeds’ germination rate? Follow these steps:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

  • Water in a container (bowl)
  • Paper towels
  • Seeds
  • Ziploc bag or container with a clear lid.

Step 2: Moisten the Paper Towels

  • Dip the paper towel into the water.
  • Squeeze out the extra water.

Step 3: Seeds

  • Place seeds in the center of the paper towel.
  • Fold the paper towel over to cover the seeds.

Step 4: Seal

  • Write on the container the variety that you are testing.
  • Record the days of germination. This is found on the back of the seed packet.
  • Write the date that you started testing.

Step 5: Placing

  • Put the bag/container in indirect sunlight for the length of time the seeds require for germination.
  • You may be tempted to open your container up and look at the seeds. Don’t do it! You need to keep the seeds warm and moist.

Step 6: Calculating Germination Rate

  • Germination rate is a percentage based on the number of seeds that you tested.
    • If you tested 10 seeds and 6 germinated your seed germination rate is 60%.

Sabrina Schirtzinger, ANR Educator Knox County, can be reached at 740-397-0401 or Schirtzinger.55@osu.edu.

Seed Starting – The Very Basics – Let’s start with supplies

I have all my seeds on order and can’t wait to get some of them started indoors.

Starting seeds indoors requires light, water, a container and soil mix, and fertilizer.  In some cases, they need heat or warm soil to germinate – this depends on the seed variety.

Light is absolutely critical for success with seed starting.  Think about the plants that you are growing and their normal growing conditions.  Most of them thrive in full sun.

Now, think about the location in your house where you are going to start the seeds.  You may need to supply supplemental lighting in order to meet the needs of the seeds.  A bright west window is ok but still isn’t quite enough light for good growth.

Light needs to be available to the plant for at least 14-16 hours a day.  The light source needs to be close to the plants, no more than two inches above the top of the plant.  Light that is farther away leads to stretched plants.

You’ll see stretched plants if you are planting in a bright window without supplemental light.  The plant reaches for the light, therefore, stretches and become lanky.

Make sure the container has drainage holes

Containers are also critical for success.  No matter the container, make sure it has drainage holes to prevent accidental overwatering.

Gardeners use all types of containers, often recycling plastic take out and other containers.  Just be sure to poke holes in the bottom for good drainage.

The seed starting mix is also critical for success.  Garden soil is too heavy and usually leads to damping off or root rot because of poor drainage.

I purchase a soil mix that is labeled for seed starting.  It’s lightweight and well-drained.  I fill my flats and soak them with water to ensure that the soil is moist prior to seeding.

There are different methods to start the seeds.  I like to seed everything in one flat and then transplant them into their final container after they develop a few sets of true leaves.  Others like to directly sew them into their final container.

Watering is the most difficult task when it comes to plants.  Figure out the water requirements for the plants and the soil mix that you are using.  Pay close attention during the seedling stage to over- and underwatering.  Overwatering leads to almost certain death.  Err on the dry side, but don’t let the plants get to the wilting stage.

Fertilizer will be important a few weeks after seed starting and when the plants develop true leaves.  The first leaves that emerge are the cotyledon leaves and provide nutrients to the emerging plant.

Don’t forget to add labels to your seedlings

Once the true leaves develop, photosynthesis begins, and the plant needs additional nutrients.  Follow the directions on any liquid fertilizer for best success.

In terms of transplanting, as mentioned above, if you start the seeds with a seed starting mix, you may want to select a lightweight soilless mix for growing them on.  This mix will hold a little more moisture for the larger plant while providing good drainage to prevent overwatering.

Growing your plants indoors is fun and not all that expensive.  Give it a try!

Breaking News! Educational Opportunity – Learn about a plant-based diet

Ohio State University Extension’s Family and Consumer Science Educator, Shari Gallup will present a program about Nature and Nutrition on January 17, 2021 from3:00 – 4:00 p.m.   For more details, go to this link under the Cook ‘N Can It! tab.  [ https://u.osu.edu/ohiovictorygardens/cook-n-can-it/ ]


Sweet corn

Something Different – Try It!

Inside of watermelon radishes

Inside of watermelon radishes

I have been an avid vegetable gardener for many years and I love to try different vegetables along with the normal veggies in the garden.  This past season, for my fall Victory Garden, I planted watermelon radishes – I will be sure to plant them again next fall.  These are wonderful!

Turnip and watermelon radish

Turnip (left) and watermelon radish (right)

Watermelon radishes are much bigger than the normal red radishes that you find in seed packets.  I had some grow close to the size of a baseball.  The majority of them were about 2-3 inches in diameter.   The outside of the root has greenish colored shoulders and the interior flesh is a beautiful purple-rosy red.  It is an Asian heirloom and sometimes called Chinese red meat radish.  You can plant them in the very early spring, but keep in mind that they prefer cool weather.  I wait to plant them in September in central Ohio.

I harvested the last of them just before Thanksgiving and they are still in great shape, stored in my garage (cool temperatures).   They are beautiful when sliced and have a milder taste than most radishes.  Cooler temperatures and a frost actually gives them a sweeter flavor.

For Thanksgiving, I cut mine into smaller chunks and roasted them with garlic and sea salt.  They were absolutely incredible!  You can also slice them thinly or shred to add to salads.  Try them.

There are several seed companies who offer these:

Baker Heirloom Seed Co

Burpee Seeds

Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co.

Hudson Valley Seed Co

Renee’s Garden

It’s Time to Put the Vegetable Garden to Bed

Mike Hogan
Extension Educator and Associate Professor

With winter quickly approaching, it is time to complete some final steps this season to complete the 2020 garden season.  The weather this fall has been ideal for extending the season for both warm season vegetables as well as cool season ones.  Many Ohio gardeners this year harvested tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other warm season vegetables later into fall than is typical in Ohio, and the weather has also been ideal for planting and harvesting cool season vegetables such as lettuces and other greens, radishes, carrots, beets, and other root crops.

And while the glorious fall weather also has been ideal for working in the garden this fall without winter clothing, days are getting noticeably shorter now, soil temperatures are declining and it will not be long before we start using that dreaded four letter word—SNOW!

So take advantage of the Indian Summer weather we are experiencing in much of Ohio to complete the following tasks in the garden, which will prepare you to have a successful garden season in 2021:

  • Test your soil – fall is one of the best seasons to test soil and apply phosphorous and potassium as well as lime if ph needs to be adjusted. OSU Extension offices in most counties provide soil-testing services to assist with this task.
  • Remove dead crop residue– now is the time to remove any dead plant material or unharvested vegetables.  Pathogens can survive over winter in crop residues and can cause plant health issues in subsequent years. Crop residues which show evidence of disease should be discarded and not composted with other crop residues.
  • Control weeds – if you have a flush of winter annual weeds or perennial weeds such as dandelion or thistle in the garden, consider cultivating, pulling weeds by hand, or even the use of a contact herbicide on a warm day. Any mature weeds with seed heads in or around the garden should also be removed with care to avoid spreading seed.
  • Apply soil amendments – if you did not plant a cover crop, consider adding compost and mulch to keep the soil covered and add organic matter and a small amount of nutrients. Fallen leaves make an excellent winter mulch for garden beds. Straw and even shredded newspaper or cardboard can also be used as mulch.
  • Don’t trust your memory – be sure to make written (or electronic) notes of what was planted where in the garden, what worked well in the garden this year, and the name of that tomato variety that you simply must plant again in 2021!