Starting a Raised Garden - Knowledgebase Question

Winnipeg, MB
Question by crystalf
July 25, 1999
There is no garden plot in the backyard of our new home and we would love to have a vegetable garden. We would like to make a raised garden (due to the many tree roots in the ground). Do we need to kill the grass first, rototill it, or lay down plastic/landscape fabric; or a combination of the above? Any hints would be appreciated.

Answer from NGA
July 25, 1999


First of all, if there are lots of tree roots....are there lots of trees? Remember that for best production, a vegetable garden should be in full sun; that is, it should get at least 6 hours of full sun, preferably more.

If the tree roots are from living trees, and not stumps, I would not disturb them by rototilling. In fact, be aware that covering a large percentage of a tree's roots with extra soil can weaken and even kill it. (That's why it's not a good idea to spread extra soil under a tree to cover surface roots.)

That said, I would leave the ground as is, build your raised beds, and fill them with topsoil or a topsoil/compost mix. This will smother any grass underneath, so don't worry about killing it first. I would not cover the grass with plastic, as this might inhibit drainage.

You might want to have two types of beds. Shallow beds (6-10" deep) can be used for small, shallow-rooted crops like lettuce, spinach, beets, radishes, etc. If you want to grow larger plants like tomatoes, or plants with elongated taproots like carrots, you'll need deeper beds (12+ inches deep).

Hope this helps get you started!

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