There are some areas of the country such as the midwest where I am originally from that has good garden soil available. However, many other areas of the country have poor soil which may be too sandy or have too much clay. Too much sand prevents the soil from absorbing water, too much clay prevents water from sinking into the soil and the soil is too hard for many plants.
If you have poor soil you can quickly improve it by using raised beds. Raised beds are basically boxes without a bottom. Building these boxes allows you to add soil and compost to an area without it being washed off by rain. You can either mix compost, leaves, grass clippings with the native soil or simply add the new soil on top of the poor soil without mixing.
Besides allowing you to quickly improve the soil using raised beds keeps you off the actual growing area of the garden. The soil stays loose and allows you to get a higher yield out of a small area than with a regular garden.
Obviously the most work on a raised bed garden occurs the first year. The first time you make a raised bed garden you will need to build the boxes. If you are planning on mixing the existing soil with compost, leaves and grass clippings you will initially put the sides up and use a tiller to mix the existing soil with the additional compost. This can be done with a shovel if you desire.
The boxes can be purchased at many locations on the internet or you can make your own. You can use cement, wood (untreated is much safer than treated) or cinder blocks to make the sides. If you want to go the cheap route you can use 2″ x 4″ or 2″ x 6″ boards as your sides. Cut sections of untreated 4″ x 4″ poles so that 6″ is below the starting soil level, then have the pole stick above the soil level as much as the width of your board. For most vegetables 4″ or 6″ is deep enough. For growing potatoes 8″ is better. For growing sweet potatoes or carrots 12″ deep is best. I normally make my beds 3′ wide. Anything larger than this can become difficult to weed. Allow about 18″ between beds to walk in.
If you are looking to plant particular vegetables you can calculate the area required in your bed. As an example I plant onion plants for large onions 6″ apart in each direction. In a 3′ wide area I can place six onion plants. Using the same spacing I can plant two rows per one foot length of bed. So, that is 12 onions per foot of bed. If I want 48 onions that would require 4′ of bed which is three feet wide. Herbs can generally be planted about 18″ inches apart. So you could plant two basil plants in one row and 18″ from that you could plant two Cilantro plants.
Potatoes are a great crop to grow using raised beds. You can purchase seed potatoes at garden stores or from catalogs such as henryfields.com. Plant the potato eyes 18″ apart in the row and 8″ apart. In a 3′ section of bed you can have eight potato plants growing. In this area you can grow as much as 50 pounds of potatoes.
Vegetables such as lettuce, green onions, radishes, herbs, carrots and more can be packed together closely in a raised bed area to improve your yield. I have many beds with onions, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce, squash, strawberries which I will specifically discuss in the near future.
It is important to mention here is that the chosen place has to be extremely fertile where the vegetables can get adequate sunlight and have to be watered regularly as well.
Have a great day, I will have more articles coming up soon