July raised garden preparation

(Question)

I am just digging up soil in the corner of my Brampton backyard to get a raised garden started.  The soil is full of roots of weeds of all sizes.  I am not sure how deep I should dig if my plan is to do a raised garden?  If I just add about 6 inches of topsoil on it with some compost, do you think that’s going to work?

Secondly, since it is early July already, will I be able to plant anything at all?  Can I sow seeds now or should I just wait for summer 2016?  I would love to plant veggies and Aloe Vera.

(Answer)

How exciting!  I prepared raised beds myself this year and am planning on planting some vegetables in August.

In preparing your raised beds it is worth taking the time the prepare the soil below the beds.  This preparation will enable the plants you grow to more easily access nutrients in the soil beneath.  However, it will also allow roots and other debris left in that soil to infiltrate the raised beds.  For that reason it is worth taking the time to dig out any existing weeds, stones, roots & rhizomes and loosen the existing soil to a depth of eight to 12 inches.  This can be done by digging & raking the area well.

If you are putting the raised bed in an area that has been covered with grass, you can bury the grass, turf side down, at the bottom of the beds.  It will decompose over time and enrich the area by releasing nutrients.  I suggest you mix the new topsoil & compost with the existing soil.  This will reduce the boundary between the two soil levels and improve drainage in the beds.  Also, plant roots often stop growing when they reach a soil boundary which can limit your harvest amount. You can do this in stages by adding 3 or 4 inches of top soil to a bed and digging it into the underlying soil, then adding another layer of top soil and digging it in.  Repeat this process until the bed is full.

Below is a link to a previous Toronto Master Gardener question on raised beds which you may find helpful.

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/community-garden-wooden-boards-for-soil-erosion-and-soil-for-raised-beds/

You do not need to wait for next spring to sow as there are a number of vegetables which can be planted in July and August in the Toronto area, for harvest this year.  Suitable vegetables are those which can take summer heat at the early stages of their growth, can tolerate some frost, or have a shorter growing time to maturity.  These include bush beans, kale, leaf lettuce, beets, radishes, parsnips, basil and swiss chard.

Here is a useful link to information on the University of Minnisota’s extention program on planting vegetables in mid-summer for fall harvest.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/planting-vegetables-midsummer-fall-harvest/

Note, while you can grow an Aloe Vera plant outside in our summers, you will need to move it inside for the winter, as it is not frost hardy in this area.