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Ten Expert Tips for Raised Garden Beds and Planters

Pairing Plants

Part 2 of 2

6. Pair plants carefully.
Gardeners often notice that certain plants grow well when planted next to other specific plants. In the same way, some plants don’t grow well when paired with a particular plant family. This idea of companion planting has been around for some time, and gardeners like Arthur pay attention to both the anecdotes and the studies that tell us companion planting really works.
“We now know with all the new studies out there that things like beans and tomatoes not only don’t mix in the garden bed, they hold such a grudge against each other that they don’t want to be planted in the same spot even within two years…they’re the West Side Story of the garden.
“You can actually see when you put the right pairings together, how much happier the plants are. They’re perky, they’re lively, and they grow.”– Carson Arthur
In contrast, anything in the onion family loves to be paired with anything in the tomato family. “I love that combination,” Arthur says. “Whether it’s because the onions protect the tomatoes from insects, or that they just happily love to grow together, I always make sure that I’ve got some garlic or chives in with my tomatoes.” Arthur also recommends planting beans and broccoli (or any member of the cabbage family) together. “They’re a match made in heaven. You can actually see, when you put the right pairings together, how much happier the plants are. They’re perky, they’re lively, and they grow.”

7. Plant in rows to make weeding easier.

ARTICLE Tomato Row Edit

How should you plant your seeds when the time comes? Should you broadcast your seed across the bed to prevent weeds from sprouting, or buy one of those seeding squares from the local nursery to get the most from your space? With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know which way to turn.
According to Arthur, there’s only one way to go if streamlining your weeding time is your goal. “I like to weed in long swaths, so I like beds planted at least six inches apart in rows. That way I can run a hoe straight down the middle.”
And while he has tried seeding squares (which, he says, are great for small spaces) and broadcast seeding (which is good for production), nothing simplifies weeding like good old-fashioned rows. That’s because weeds will sprout no matter how you sow your crops. Gardening in rows means you don’t have to be a botanist to tell a weed from an edible garden seedling.

“I find if I don’t get to the weeds right at the beginning, my plants don’t even get established before the weeds take over,” Arthur says.

8. Get into xerophytic plants.
When considering what to plant in patio containers, think about how often you’ll have to water on a sunny day to keep your plants from shriveling up. Planters often sit on a sunny balcony or patio, since (as noted above) many plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight each day to grow. To make your life easier, Arthur suggests planting drought-tolerant plants in these locations, saving the high-needs plants for raised beds in the garden.  “I tend to put plants that are Mediterranean based [in pots on my deck], so a lot of the rosemary, the basils, a lot of the plants and herbs that come out of the Mediterranean, because they’re used to being hot and dry.” He’s also had great success with lavenders and winter and summer savory, along with many xerophytic plants (plants that have special adaptations to thrive in low water situations).

“Xerophytic plants tend to have gray leaves or a greyish sheen to the leaf. That’s a very good indicator that they can handle a hot dry situation.”

9. Make use of mulch.

ARTICLE Mulching a Edit

To conserve moisture and prevent weeds from growing, consider using mulch on your beds. Once a year in fall, Arthur covers all of his raised garden beds with newspaper. Then he buries the newspaper in composted amendments. “In my case, I’m adding things like composted chicken manure, any of the extra soil that I had leftover in bags…” The newspaper takes 4-6 months to decompose. In that process, it adds amendments to the soil and blocks weeds from coming up. “When I come to spring, I till everything in and away we go.” Tilling for Arthur involves a small and light hand-held tiller. “It’s about 8 inches wide, quick and easy and painless. And because it’s hand-held with a long handle, I’m not compacting the soil.” You can also mulch in season once your plants are established, taking care to leave enough space around each plant stem.

10. Just do it.
Whether you have a few hours a week or a whole lot more, gardening is possible for everyone. From raised beds to planters to a few pots on a window sill, you can grow food to eat in and around your home. Knowing the needs of your plants and the limitations of your location is key, but eventually, you have to take the leap. Using Arthur’s motto, RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE, you can buy seeds or seedlings that work with space where you plant them. And you can learn along the way.

“I really just want to instill that this book is designed for a new generation of gardeners…” Arthur says, adding that while gardening can be challenging at times, the rewards are well worth the effort.

An excerpt from the blog “Earth Easy” by Shannon Cowan. For the full article please visit: “10 Expert Tips for Raised Garden Beds and Planters.

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  • Earth Easy
    The blog editor at, Shannon lives on six acres of land with her husband, daughters, and backyard poultry flock.

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