where to build a Victory Garden raised bed

4 Steps to Choosing the Best Spot for Your Raised Bed Victory Garden

 

So, you’ve been dreaming about installing a Victory Garden in your yard but you aren’t sure where exactly to put it. Maybe you’re a novice gardener and just have no clue how to get started. Or maybe you’ve been gardening since you were little but your new home doesn’t have a garden and you’ve never had to install one before.

No worries! Where to put a raised bed is the number one question we get as we gear up for our own garden building program here in Milwaukee every spring. It’s an important question and we want to be sure that every gardener gets off to the best possible start, so we’ve assembled the top 4 most important things you should consider when picking a spot to place your new garden bed!

 

1. Here Comes the Sun!

Victory Garden raised bed filled with sunflowersThe most important thing is to make sure your garden will get plenty of sunlight! While some crops will tolerate shade better than others, most vegetable plants will need a good 8 hours of sunlight to grow strong and healthy. You’ll get the best results if your garden faces east, south, or west here in Wisconsin to capture that sunlight. North-facing gardens will be best for leafy greens, beets, carrots, and other shade-tolerant crops.

You’ll also want to consider where the shadows fall in your yard as well. With all the tree-lined streets and multiple-story structures in the city, sunlight patterns can drastically change throughout the day. So take note throughout the year where those fall so you can plan your garden accordingly.

 

2. Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

Water is a delicate thing to balance in a garden. On those long, hot summer days your plants are going to need some extra water to stay healthy. But, on the flip side, you don’t want to have your plants flooded. So find a spot where the rain can reach your garden but be sure that there are no gutters that empty right into bed that will bowl over your delicate plants and wash your topsoil away. 

Convenience is also a factor here. You will probably have to manually water your garden a lot throughout the growing season when it doesn’t rain enough. So make sure you have a plan for that beforehand! Will you be using a hose or watering by hand? Either way, you want to be as close as possible to your water source so it isn’t a hassle to do it! You won’t want to be lugging cans of water across a huge lawn or rolling up long hoses to mow your lawn. 

 

3. All About That Base!

Victory Garden Beds being built in front yardThere are a couple of things to consider in regards to the ground you want to put your bed on. First and foremost, you’re going to want to pick the most level spot you can!  This is the path of least resistance. You CAN certainly garden on a slope but then you have to pay more attention to rainwater runoff and may have to spend more time and money to build special frames to keep the bed in place. 

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you are building on top of soil or concrete. There are pros and cons to both. When you put a bed on concrete you don’t have to worry about a weed barrier, removing turf grass, or laying down a weed barrier. You also don’t have potentially contaminated soil to deal with from whatever the prior use of the land is. But, you can only grow crops with shallow root systems. Whereas when you grow on top of soil, you can grow crops with deep roots (think potatoes, daikon radishes, corn, tomatoes, and more!). In either case, be sure to add great soil to your raised beds with lots of compost amendments! 

 

4. It’s Alright! Take It Easy!

Victory Garden Raised Bed in front yardThis last one is all about convenience. Ideally, you want to place your bed somewhere you can access all four sides of the bed. That way you don’t have to try to reach all the way across over top other plants to tend to them or harvest and risk damaging those crops. Prioritize sun, water, and level ground first though! You can always add a nice trellis to the backside of a bed to make it easier to access those crops when you can’t get around to all four sides. People also forget about mowing their lawn! If you need to mow, make sure you can fit your mower of choice around the bed or you’ll be sad later!

Finally, another thing people forget to consider is just the convenience factor of placing your bed somewhere you and your family frequently hang out! While you don’t want your bed to displace your family’s barbecue area or become a tripping hazard when playing games, you also might not want it to be tucked in some far-flung corner of your yard no one ever goes to. While that might be a good use of the space, it will only work out if you remember to care for it! Some busy families find that they forget to water or weed or harvest if the bed isn’t clearly visible and accessible from the main areas you already use. If that won’t be a problem, go ahead and use those obscure spots though!


That was a lot of information! We know it sounds complicated, but just take a moment to skim the tips again and remember that it all boils down to four things: Sun, Water, Level Ground, and Easy Access. Go take a look at your yard and we bet you’ll find several spots that would be a great place to build a garden! Honestly, once you get started gardening you’re going to find that you need more than one raised bed anyway!

Now, if you are ready to put in a garden but don’t want to do all the heavy lifting, check out the Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz! We’ve built over 5,000 raised garden beds across Milwaukee County, so we’re pretty much experts at this by now! We’ll come out to your yard with all the supplies to build your bed in the perfect spot you selected, fill it up with organic soil, and drop off a welcome kit with seeds and other garden goodies!

ORDER YOUR BLITZ GARDEN AND SOIL HERE

Christine Kuhn laying in raised garden bed

Why We Blitz

by Christine Noelle, Director of Operations & Development

Christine Noelle laying in raised garden bed
Christine Noelle in a freshly installed Blitz bed during the 2019 Blitz

This will be my 6th time Blitzing with VGI, my 4th as an employee. I look forward to the Blitz more than I have any other task I have ever done professionally. The Blitz has a special kind of energy about it. Every time you come to a build site or to our staging area, you can feel the sense of purpose in the air. Everyone who works the Blitz believes so passionately in our vision: to build a community with a strong, vibrant, sustainable, ethical local food system. To make it so that every family has access to affordable, nutritious food.

Since the first Blitz in 2008, we have faced many challenges and have always come together stronger than ever. We’ve learned how to deal with late snowstorms, broken down trailers, keys locked in trucks, no-show volunteer crews, website registration form crashes, thrown out backs, and so so much more. Covid-19 was really a curve ball though. We had to change everything about the way we Blitz, systems that we had perfected over 11 years were suddenly useless! And yet we managed to pull it off because everyone involved believed SO passionately in the importance of the work. It took a toll on us, that is for sure. But it wasn’t the physical changes to how we did things that were hardest, it was the emotional toll it took on us. It was hearing the stories from garden recipients about not being able to find food at the grocery store and about being excited to have something, anything to do that was safely outdoors.

This is why we are once again Blitzing again this year.

I was listening to NPR on my way to the office the other week and they were covering the devastation down in Texas. It hurt my heart to hear about people literally freezing to death in their own homes. There are so many stories of grief from that natural disaster. But while the cold temps have moved on and with it most of the national news coverage from our radios and newsfeeds, there are other tragedies yet to come that you probably won’t hear about. News that NEVER seems to take front and center: the food insecurity that will result from this natural disaster. So many farms were left wasted from the cold temps. Livestock froze to death in their barns when generators went down and crops rotted in warehouses, unable to be shipped or processed. The people of Texas are not out of the woods just because it got warm again and the power came back on. There will be continued food shortages. There will be more families relying on emergency food provisions and subsidy programs like WIC and SNAP. Farmers and processors will lose their entire business from this.  And this is on TOP of the havoc and stress that Covid-19 had already put on their lives.

There is so much more I could say about the stresses on the American food system over the past year. Not just in Texas, but all over the country for many, many different reasons. But the point is:

THIS is why we Blitz.

THIS is why I, and everyone here at VGI, believes so passionately in the Victory Garden Blitz and our mission as a whole. Because the Western industrialized American food system is simply not equipped to provide for us during times of disaster. (I would argue that it is NEVER really equipped to provide for us, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post for another day!) Every day in this country, people go hungry. And every year we see the holes in the food system grow. The Flint water crisis. California wild fires. Bee colony collapses. Hurricanes. Droughts. Floods. Covid19. Each time, people are left with an uncertain food supply.

The Blitz absolutely will NOT solve this. There is so much that needs to change in our food system and the way we grow, buy, sell, and produce food in this country to have a truly stable food system. But the Blitz can help families weather the literal and figurative storms better. The Blitz is part of a larger movement to return to a food system where people have power over their food supply. Where food is grown to feed families and not refined into unhealthy additives to fill the cookie aisles at the grocery store. Where people of all ages come together to share their knowledge of growing, cooking, and preserving food and pass that along to the next generation. Through the Blitz, we help to give more people in Milwaukee access to local food and connect people to a network of support, education, skill-sharing, and hope.

 

MY hope today is that you will join us. I hope you’ll buy a bed! I hope I’ll see you out on a crew helping to build a bed! I hope you’ll come to community dinner. I hope to see you at our farm, picking berries to take home. I hope you’ll share our social media posts. I hope you’ll donate some tools, time, or money to help us build this vision of a nutritious, socially just, environmentally sustainable local food system for ALL.

To buy a bed: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/blitz-registration/

To volunteer: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/blitz-volunteer-registration-hide/

To sponsor a bed: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/sponsor-a-blitz-garden/

To donate to VGI: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/donate/

To give an item from our wish list: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/wish-list/

To sign up for our newsletter: https://victorygardeninitiative.org/subscribe/

To follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VictoryGardenMKE

To follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victorygardeni/?hl=en

 

I’m usually the one behind the camera, but I’ve been caught is a few Blitz pics over the years and it brings joy to my heart to look back at it all 🙂