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

New Generation of Gardeners

Every year, VGI welcomes new youth and young adult interns onto our farm to learn about growing food in urban spaces. These interns come from all walks of life. Some are college students looking for credits towards their degree. Some are youth getting their first job experience. Others are dedicated volunteers hoping to learn more about growing food. Each one is unique and brings fresh life onto the farm! We love to share what we have learned on our 1.5 acre plot over the last 9 years, hoping that their experience here will spark in them a joy for growing delicious, healthy food and caring for the environment. Here are the 2019 farm interns!

 



Lamontia Powell

Hey everyone! My name is Lamontia and I’m an Earn & Learn Youth Intern working on the farm through a program called Employ Milwaukee. My brother, Emanuel, also is working at VGI along side me. In my free time I enjoy reading, taking photographs, and learning more about psychology. I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C and Chicago, but I’d love to visit London someday! I’m going into my last year of high school this fall. Afterwards, I’d like to enroll in college at MATC, and then eventually transfer to UW-Milwaukee. Working on the farm has been really enjoyable this summer and I’m happy about the experiences I’ve had so far.

 


Emanuel Powell

My name is Emmanuel and I work at Victory Garden Initiative through the Earn & Learn program. I’m 15 years old going on 20. I like to play basketball and hang out with my brother. I try different kinds of veggies like carrots and cucumbers. I love helping people on the farm. My favorite activities have been helping with the kids and harvesting veggies. During my time so far, I have learned how to plant fruits and vegetables, how to harvest vegetables and pull all of the nasty weeds. I am looking forward to starting a garden of my own.

 


Jordan Steiner

Hi, I”m Jordan! I’m a farm intern at Victory Gardens Initiative. My favorite part about working on the farm is finding and identifying new insects, as well as learning skills for a self sustaining lifestyle! In my free time I like to hike, read in my hammock and cook some good food!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Logan Klug

Hi! My name is Logan and I’m a farm intern here at the Victory Garden Initiative. I’m a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where I study Conservation and Environmental Science and German. I am trying to find my niche in the field of my study right now; gaining more experience and trying different aspects of conservation to see what I want to do with my degree once I graduate. Sustainability and protecting the environment are fundamental aspects of my studies and personally important. I’ve found this internship to be incredibly rewarding because I see these values in action everyday on the farm. We grow organically, provide food locally, and bring these values to our community as well.

Working in the garden and seeing so many different faces, working the Farmstand on Tuesdays and seeing everyone pick up their boxes as well as neighbors in the community stop by the stand is a heartwarming experience for me. Food is such a genuine tool in bringing community closer. Even just working in the dirt and getting my hands dirty is so therapeutic. I have very fond memories of gardening with my grandma when I was young and through this internship, I’ve started to garden at my own home again. Outside of the garden I love to travel and cook with my fiancé. I’m also a passionate Game of Thrones fan, and have a long list of books I’m reading through.


Nathaniel Wurzer

My name is Nathaniel. When I’m not at the Victory Garden learning about plants or farming procedures/techniques I usually am a self-employed house painter. Here are a couple random statements about my daily life: I stoke my caffeine addiction while I wake up. Habitual teeth brushing. Gotta have freshly ground black pepper. Bible? Try Joy of Cooking. My dog takes me out for walks. That just about sums it up!