Reduce maintenance and increase success with self-watering gardens

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — Raised beds and containers expand planting options and provide an opportunity to grow edible and ornamental plants even where there is little or no gardening space available, bringing the garden to your back door.

Raised beds and containers can be used to make planting, tending and harvesting convenient and fill them with pollinator-friendly plants to enjoy the colorful hummingbirds and butterflies that visit and flit past the window, deck and balcony.

The need for frequent watering is one of the drawbacks in using raised beds, typically caused by limited soil mass and increased exposure to wind, heat and sunlight which makes for fast-draining potting mixes that dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens.

Self-watering raised gardens are now available and can make gardening a realistic option even for the busiest gardener. Consider one with a large built-in water reservoir, like “Gardener’s Corrugated Metal Self-Watering Raised Bed,” that extends time between watering.

Create mixed plantings of edibles and flowers for beautiful combinations in raised beds and include some edible flowers like nasturtiums, pansies and calendulas that hummingbirds, butterflies and humans will enjoy. Lettuce, parsley, kale, Swiss chard and red cabbage combine nicely with most flowers and chives and provide an edible vertical accent.

Woman tending to container garden | Photo courtesy of Melinda Myers LLC, St. George News

Select compact vegetable varieties like Patio Choice yellow cherry tomato, Patio Pride peas, Mascotte bush beans and Astia zucchini suited to container and raised bed culture. And if concerned about maintaining the integrity of the patio or deck surface, consider a “Patio Raised Bed with Base” that can be found at gardeners.com and is designed to protect the underlying surface.

Elevated gardens raise plantings to a comfortable height, requiring no bending or kneeling when planting or when harvesting. They are basically containers on legs. Additionally, many designs have wheels so they can be moved out of the way easily, or into the sunlight as needed.

Look for those with built-in trellises and supports when growing vines like cucumbers, pole beans and Malabar spinach, as well as tall plants, including tomatoes, dinner plate dahlias and cosmos. But like containers, they dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens and need frequent irrigation.

Look for easy care, self-watering containers like the “Self-Watering Standing Garden” with large reservoirs to maximize the time between watering and look for those with fill tubes and water-level indicators to water effectively. These features help keep the garden looking and producing its best, providing plenty of fresh greens for salads, herbs for seasoning drinks and meals and flowers to dress up your table.

For those who already have a raised bed or elevated garden that lacks these easy-care features, don’t fret. Do-it-yourself irrigation kits are available and easy to design for these types of gardens. Select systems that can be customized and fit the irrigation layout to that best suits specific gardening needs.

Further reduce maintenance by incorporating a slow release fertilizer at planting. These types of fertilizers release small amounts of nutrients over a longer period of time. No weekly mixing and applications needed, just give them a mid-season boost if needed and follow the directions on the fertilizer label.

Reducing ongoing maintenance of raised beds and container gardens makes it practical to expand any gardening space. Just be sure to fill them with a quality potting mix and plants suited to the growing conditions. In no time, you’ll be enjoying the flavor and beauty these gardens provide.

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