Please join us for an information packed workshop Saturday May 5th at 11am. Sue Lavalee, of Coast of Maine, will review methods and importance of topdressing and incorporating compost into your garden beds every year, the no-till method of gardening, the importance of organic gardening practices and the Soil Food Web. She will focus on the subject of raised bed gardening and discuss the following topics:

  • Getting the pre-planning process on paper

  • Options for building materials, which materials are unhealthy to use

  • Choosing your location

  • Determining the size

  • Calculating the volume of soil and what type you'll need to fill the beds

  • Planting, the importance of timing and pre-warming the soil

  • Proper watering techniques

  • Fertilizing guidelines

  • Seasonal maintenance of the beds

  • And lots of other helpful gardening tips!

Sue Lavalee , Coast of Maine

Sue Lavalee joined Coast of Maine Organic Products family in 2013 and has worked in the horticultural industry since the mid-eighties. A passionate gardener, she puts a lot of effort into organic fruit, vegetable and herb gardening. Because a lot of the harvest is preserved, she can enjoy cooking with it year-round. An avid birder and naturalist, she is most at home when enjoying the outdoors, whether it's kayaking, beach combing or hiking through her Connecticut woodland.

Why garden in raised beds? There are so many benefits!

  • You don't need a large patch of fertile land and no sod removal needed

  • Better control of your soil composition, healthy and fertile

  • No root rot issues and less fungal diseases affecting the roots

  • Easier to weed (soil not compacted)

  • Raised gardens can be built to suit any height needed

  • Raised gardens make it easy to adapt the square foot gardening method because it eliminates single row gardening (waste of space)

  • Soil warms up more quickly, can plant earlier (no more waiting until "the soil is workable"

  • Easy to add cold frames, row covers, bird netting, trellises

  • Less work, no turning of the soil needed and reduces the amount of bending

  • You can have different types of soil for different beds

  • You can take advantage of vertical gardening. Climbing peas, beans and cucumbers

  • No more damage from burrowing animals like moles and voles

  • No compaction of soil because there's no foot traffic = healthier roots

  • No muddy shoes

  • Less competition for nutrients and water from tree roots

  • Raised beds are aesthetically pleasing

RAISED BEDS REQUIRES CAREFUL PLANNING. Follow these helpful instructions to get your raised bed gardening underway.


1. Start with making a LIST OF CROPS you'd like to grow and how much your household will need. Keep in mind:

  • Spacing requirements

  • Days to harvest (succession planting)

  • Seasonality

  • Are you preserving the harvest?

  • Flowers for pollinators and edible blossoms (Viola, Calendula, Nasturtium, Chives)

  • Perennial herbs?

  • Patio Varieties as space savers

  • Vertical crops


  • Sun requirements = at least 6-8 hours a day

  • How close to a faucet?

  • How close to a tool shed?

  • Correct layout - rows going from E to W

  • Need to fence off the perimeter?

  • Wire mesh?

  • 25 year landscape fabric?

  • Level ground. Mow closely and put down 6-10 sheets of newspaper before wire mesh


  • Kits available. Gronomics - USA Western Red Cedar w/ 5yr warranty. Retail for $119 for a 4x4 ground level frame to $299 for a 34"x48"x32" elevated garden box. A raised bed frame 34"x95" is $259 and has an optional trellis kit sold separately for $139

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • Durablity

  • Cost

  • Use Organic (pressure-treated wood leaches copper and/or arsenic). Wood planks (cedar, cypress, locust & redwood = rot resistant but costly), sawmill slabs, garden ties (warp), tree logs (landscape fabric needed), natural stone (hold the warmth in at night), loose stacked stone pavers & bricks (frost heaves will elevate the pH), straw bales, railroad ties (leach creosote)


  • The best design is to have the raised bed small enough to ensure that your hands can reach everywhere without the need to stand on the soil or walk on it.

  • Size of pathways (just foot traffic or wheelbarrows / garden carts)

  • Height of beds


  • Sprinkler system?

  • Drip irrigation with emitters?

  • Soaker hoses?

  • Timers?


  • Loose fertile and living

  • The futility of putting a $5 plant in a 5cent hole. Soil food web.

  • Topdress beds 1 inch per year with compost. A 1 cu. ft. bag will cover about 10 sq.ft. at 1 inch deep

  • Pore space (porosity) allows water and air to reach the roots easily and fosters a healthy population of beneficial micro-organisms

  • Calculate the volume. A 4' x 4' x 12" bed= 48"x 48" x 12"= 27,648 cu. in. divided by 1,728" (a cubic foot is 12'x12'x12")= 16 cft = .5926 cubic yards

  • Don't fill the beds right to the top, leave a few inches for mulch

  • Cover soil immediately (even if you haven't planted yet) with 2-3 inches of mulch (hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, bark mulch, landscape fabric, newspaper, plastic). Uncovered soil results in erosion, compaction, drying out, weed seed germination


  • Last frost date usually coincides with the full moon in May

  • Plants started indoors need hardening off prior

  • Direct seeding (get your info on seed packets, books, internet). Warm weather crops (soil temp = 60-70 degrees) vs. cool weather crops (45-50 degrees)

  • Pre-warming the soil

  • Transplanting on cloudy, non-windy cool days are best

  • Mulch or row cover (garden fabric)


  • 1 inch per week. Exceptions to this rule. Rain gauge

  • Water in the morning. Never at night (invites fungal diseases and powdery mildew)

  • Never let the soil dry out completely. If delicate root hairs die back, the plant must direct its energy to re-growing them, rather than to producing or sizing up fruit. Water stressed plants can also become bitter and tough


  • Soil test. pH level

  • N-P-K-C

  • Eggshells

  • Micronutrients (kelp)

  • Timing - a week after planting and a mid summer application (or halfway through the life cycle of the crop)

  • Organic vs synthetic / chemical fertilizers