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

Chefs-in-Training

by Christine Kuhn, Co-Executive Director

We’re pretty sure that the only fool-proof way of getting kids to care about their food is to get them involved in growing and cooking it themselves!

 

We’ve seen this play out time and time again through our own Youth Education Programs. Right now, we’re in the middle of our After School Garden Club program at Riverwest and La Escuela Fratney Elementary Schools where we are working with youth every week in the classroom and their own school gardens. Each week, we focus on different topics such as how to make a healthy snacks, take care of their school gardens, compost, and other food system activities.  Without fail, the favorite part of the program for every kid is the cooking. When we walk through the door, the excitement is palpable and our educators get asked dozens of times as they walk down the hallway “Are we cooking today!?” “Will it be delicious?” “Do we get to use knives?” “Can I be first today?!”

 

 

We’ve dubbed our cooking activities the “Chef-in-Training” program and the youth love being given the responsibility of working with real cooking knives, stove tops, and kitchen equipment. We teach the kids not only about cooking healthy meals for themselves but about how cooking can be a real career and the youth delight in talking about what it would be like to work in a kitchen as a chef or to take the recipes home and teach it to their parents. 

 

 

 

Youth have been practicing their skills up to this point and learning to follow recipes. Pretty soon they will get to put their skills to the test by creating their own recipe, which is always a hoot! In this 3 part series, they learn about healthy smoothies, come up with their own recipes, and then put them to the test! The kids come up with amazing combinations and even more amazing names for their smoothies. It’s also a hilarious opportunity for our educators to get very literal and showcase the importance of clear instructions in recipe writing by throwing unpeeled bananas in that blender or teeny tiny amounts when they don’t give measurements! Hilarity always ensues. 

It’s crazy to think that the year is already half over! But our programs continue on into the summer at our own 1.5 acre Urban Farm in Harambee! We welcome schools and day cares from all over the city to our farm for field trips and welcome about 15-20 neighborhood kids to the farm all summer long to work in our kids’ garden. This summer, with our new Community Kitchen nearly finished, we look forward to expanding our Chef-in-Training program and having the kids experience harvesting produce from the farm and taking it right into the kitchen to learn how to cook it up!

For more information about our Youth Education Programs, check out our webpage here (https://victorygardeninitiative.org/education/) or contact our Youth Programs Coordinator at Jay.johnson@victorygardeninitiative.org!