Vegetables for Raised Beds- Our Top Ten!

Raised beds are a great way to plant your garden.  The soil isn’t compressed by people walking on it, that nice fluffy soil can be adjusted easily with compost or manure, watering is efficient with drip lines, they warm up earlier in spring, they’re neat and contained and look great with bark or gravel pathways between them! (All this is true for containers as well….though you’ll do better with barrels or containers holding 5 gals or so of soil. Tiny pots are just too much work to keep evenly moist)

I’m asked over and over which vegetables are the best for the somewhat limited space in my 7 2×8 ft. raised beds. So, here are my “Top Ten”  favorites.  Can you grow other things? Of course! After a few years you will develop your own top 10 according to what your family will eat… Eggplant looks lovely in a raised bed but no one in my family will touch it, so it didn’t make it into our top ten!

1. Lettuce
Each spring I plant lettuce and we harvest nice heads through May or June when the weather puts an end to lettuce and opens the space for something else that prefers warmer days. Leaf lettuce does better in home gardens than head lettuce like Iceberg, and it’s healthier. I love Garden Babies Butterhead and Stardom Mix leaf lettuce, both from Renee’s Garden. Garden Babies produce a smaller version of the wonderful tasting butter lettuce you buy at the store!

Here's a nice head of Stardom Mix ...I share it with my chickens as well!

Here’s a nice head of Stardom Mix …I share it with my chickens as well!

2. Carrots
I’ve tried many kinds of carrots and any “short” carrots will do well in raised beds. Just check out the length of the carrots you chose and make sure you have deep enough soil in your beds.  One year I had shallow 8″ beds and when the long carrots I planted hit the hard adobe under the beds they corkscrewed into an interesting shape to say the least! My favorite at the moment and a carrot that produced perfect little specimens for us this year is “Babbette” available from Renee’s Garden seeds. If you don’t see something you like on the racks at your garden center I encourage you to go online to Park Seed, Burpee Seed  or Renee’s Garden. and check out all the different offerings found there!

Picked at 4-6" long these were great even though I didn't thin them as well as I should have!

Picked at 4-6″ long these Babbettes were great even though I didn’t thin them as well as I should have!

3. Peas
Though you will need to attach some kind of trellis for peas, it’s worth it to plant the tall kind rather than the bush peas for a good harvest.  After watching my little granddaughter squeal with delight while picking peas and opening them to find the tiny treasures inside, I will never go without peas in my spring garden! The trellis we made this year couldn’t stand up to the strong winds that knocked the plants down and pulled them away from the chicken wire we used, so we’ll have a new design next time around…but the crop was fantastic and we’re still harvesting crunchy Super Sugar Snap peas for eating fresh, cutting up in a salad or steaming!

They look great here but a stiff wind knocked them over! We'll have a new trellis design next year!

They look great here but a stiff wind knocked them over! We’ll have a new trellis design next year!

4. Green Onions
Green onions are so good picked fresh and sliced for a salad! You can plant them from seeds planted in early spring or from onion “sets”. Sets are easier since they’re little “bulbs” and easier to space than the tiny seeds. You can sow onions successively right up until warm weather. I plant them around our tomato plants where the last few are being pulled this week just as the tomatoes spread over their spot! I don’t have a favorite but buy whatever I happen to see at the nursery.IMG_5820 IMG_9417

5. Beets
Beets are a real treat fresh from the garden.  They don’t take much room and they are an early season crop so you can rotate in a squash or other summer vegetable when they’re harvested.  I planted Gourmet Beets, Golden from Renee’s Seeds alongside Tall Top Early Wonder from Ferry-Morse. Dicing them and steaming them together made a lovely and tasty side dish! Even my husband, who doesn’t really like beets, pronounced them “not bad”! While beet greens are delicious, I can never deal with the leaf miners that tunnel through the leaves so I usually feed them to my chickens.IMG_8674adj

6. Radish
Now this might seem weird since the blog is called the Radish Patch but, I do not like radishes at all. However, since my husband does all the building and heavy lifting in the garden I plant them for him! This year I planted Rainbow Radishes, Easter Egg II from Renee’s Garden. The varied colors are nice, they grow quickly which is satisfying and makes them perfect for kids. But, radishes are just too hot for me.  Must be me since hubby can’t understand what I’m talking about when he tastes them!

Aren't the colors nice?

Aren’t the colors nice?

7. Beans
As a child, green beans, specifically “yard long beans”, were the first vegetable I remember picking in my grandmother’s garden. I’ve had them in every garden I’ve grown since! My favorite is “Royal Burgundy” available from a number of seed companies. An older variety, they’ll always have a place in my garden since I love to share them with children.  On the plant they’re beautiful purple… as the cooking water heats up…..they turn bright green right before your eyes! And, they’re tender and taste wonderful.IMG_7762 adj

See the color changing?

See the color changing?

While there are 17 different cucumbers listed in the Park Seed catalog, and you may try any of them, I love, love, love, Armenian cucumbers! They are long, slender, thin skinned and mild tasting with few seeds. You can buy them at most garden centers or seed catalogs.  I found plants at Imwalle’s Nursery and fruit stand in Santa Rosa and bought seeds from Renee’s Garden. If you love cucumbers look through the catalogs from Park Seed and Burpee’s and find those that are good for containers and small spaces to use in your raised beds. I always have a trellis for them to climb.  Favorite summer snack: slices of  Armenian cucumber topped with a small square of Jack cheese on the end of a tooth pick…really good!

No need to peel since the skin is thin and edible!

No need to peel since the skin is thin and edible!

9. Zucchini
Does anyone grow a summer garden and not grow Zucchini? No one I know! While you can plant multiple seeds in hills in the open garden, plant three seeds and thin to only 1 plant about every  two to three feet in your raised bed.  I’m trying three Zucchini new to me this year: Sure Thing Summer Squash from Burpee Seeds, an Heirloom French Zucchini, Ronde de Nice  and  Italian Zucchini, Romanesco from Renee’s Garden. Talk to nursery personnel in your area about which variety is best for small spaces and look through seed catalogs for unusual varieties.

Place zucchini carefully, they can overtake your beds and flow out into the walkways making it hard to get around the garden!

Place zucchini carefully, they can overtake your beds and flow out into the walkways making it hard to get around the garden!

10. Tomatoes!
I saved the best and biggest for the last.  Last year I planted three tomato plants in a 2×8 foot bed and they took over and grew way outside the boundary I set for them. This year I planted three tomatoes in the same size bed but instead of indeterminate (the kind that grow and bear over a long season until cut down by frost) I sought out three determinate types which will grow to a set height and produce most of their fruit at that point. Searching Home Depot, Lowe’s and a few garden centers I came up with Husky Red, Patio and Better Bush. I’m excited to see how each produces and how much space they take.  Because I love Brushetta I had to have one Roma tomato as well, along with a nice Yellow Pear for color contrast.  Since they are indeterminate and sprawl I planted them in a bed by themselves and staked them! Last year Big Boy was my absolute favorite but it took so much space I decided to experiment with smaller types this year so we’ll see how it works out. Whatever variety you love tomatoes are a must in any garden, raised beds or not!

Can't wait to see how these smaller varieties do!

Can’t wait to see how these smaller varieties do!

What are your favorite garden veggies? Any small varieties to suggest for raised beds? If so please share!

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