Heavy rains are a fact of life in the Pacific Northwest spring. While plants need water to grow, too much of a good thing is still
too much, especially for young sprouts at the start of the growing season.
Gardening in raised beds offers several advantages over planting in the ground, but perhaps the best advantage is the improved drainage.
“Raised beds make it easier to manage floods because they drain off better,” said Beth Salas, garden consultant at Van Wingerden Garden Center in Blaine. “Drainage is important for young plants, and anything planted directly in the ground usually gets drowned by spring rains.”
Other advantages of raised beds include warmer soil and higher crop yields in a smaller space. Because the soil is raised out of the ground, it warms up earlier in the spring, which is important because many plants can’t survive the cooler temperatures of spring nights. Salas suggested combining raised beds with sheets of
clear plastic tented over them to protect plants from spring frost.
To get started, first determine how big of a garden you would like. For the beginner, a 4' x 8' plot is a good place to start.
Then, stake out a spot in your yard that receives a good deal of sun throughout the day. For a lot of plants, especially tomatoes and cucumbers, it’s important to get full sun so that they can reach their growing potential.
Next, head over to your local hardware store and pick up a few pieces of lumber, some quality drain cloth to keep the weeds at bay, and a few bags of topsoil. Google “perfect raised bed” to find a plan from Sunset Magazine.
Once everything is in place, start planning what you want to grow in your garden. There are plenty of gardening books geared
to the Pacific Northwest gardener that will help you plan.
Van Wingerden has a variety of vegetable starts in stock, and Salas said people are already buying them to plant in raised beds.
“Now is a good time to begin planting early vegetables in raised beds,” Salas said. “We have a lot of veggie starts that are ready to go, including broccoli, lettuce, peas, onions, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage and cauliflower.”