6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

Written by: Angela Gates

Sitting inside, pouring over gardening magazines, and dreaming about my spring garden, I envision acres of land covered in lush, green plants. Each row is teeming with fruits or vegetables, and my family is awed by the bounty of supplies that our garden provides.

When I step outside and face the reality of my yard, however, reality comes crashing back. I don’t have acres of land to work with, and my expanse of lawn is stopped abruptly by the fence that divides my yard from my neighbors (all three of them). To make matters worse, the “dirt” in my yard is more accurately called sand and doesn’t seem to want to grow more than weeds. How can I still achieve the garden of my dreams? With raised beds.Using raised beds, I can still have rows of plants; they’re just contained in smaller areas.

Here are six ways to maximize your raised bed garden this year:

1. Shapes matter

To maximize the space, think rectangle instead of square. Using long, rectangular boxes allows you to easily reach all the plants without having to leave pathways for walking. The benefit? You can fit more plants in your box. Use raised beds that are no more than three feet wide for maximum gardening ease.

2. Location, location, location

If you live in an area where good soil is hard to come by, raised beds allow you to grow plants anywhere. By mixing your own soil, you can grow a bountiful garden in your yard, on concrete patios or elsewhere. Place your raised bed in an area that receives full sun, has easy access to water and is safe from outside forces such as pets, running children or lawn mowers.

3. Spacing

Instead of long rows of plants with spaces in between, stagger your planting rows. A traditional garden uses planting squares to help guide your planning. In your raised bed garden, think triangles. Stagger the rows so that the plants in the second row are in between the plants in the first and third rows, forming triangles. This creates a fuller garden, giving you more production capacity.

4. Companion planting

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

Image source: Pixabay.com

As you’re developing your garden plan, follow the lead of Native Americans and use “sister” crops. Planting corn, beans and squash together allows the cornstalks to support the beans, while the squash grow happily in the shade provided. Find other compatible plants to group together to provide an assortment of produce. Some other “sisters” are: tomato, basil and onion; carrots, onions and radishes; celery and beets.

5. Succession planting

Want the benefits of your garden to last all season? Plant in cycles. You can capitalize on fast-producers like lettuce by planting a new crop after your harvest. Replace the lettuce with peppers to keep your garden producing longer.

For even more production, stagger plant dates by using transplants. Grow seedlings by starting them indoors at varying dates. Add plants to your raised bed at two or three week intervals to ensure a continuous supply of produce.

6. Think vertical

Even if you don’t have a large area of ground, your garden can still produce an abundance of food. Just grow up instead of out. Train cucumber and squash to grow up on stakes or trellises. Plant vining crops along one side of your raised bed with sturdy poles, or in the middle using trellises to provide shade or support to other plants.

Are you planning your spring garden? Maybe you’ve decided to try a raised garden bed this year, or you’ve done raised bed gardening in the past, but haven’t been happy with the results. Using these simple tips can help you maximize your raised bed, giving you and your family a rich harvest that can last year-round.

Camarao na Moranga

Shrimp in a Pumpkin – or Camarão na Moranga, in Portuguese – is a traditional Brazilian recipe that can add a pretty cool twist to your dinner table!

Serves 8


  • 1 medium pumpkin (Sugar Pie Pumpkin or Cinderella work best)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails-off
  • ¼ cup Cognac (Brandy or Bourbon also work great)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 cherry peppers (or other variety of hot pepper, such as habanero, chili or jalapeno), minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) Catupiry (if unavailable use cream cheese or mascarpone)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the top of the pumpkin and remove all seeds. Wrap it in aluminum foil and place on a large shallow ovenproof pan, cut-off side down. Bake it until nearly soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and unwrap from foil. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat until it starts shimmering. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Sauté shrimp in the hot oil until it turns pink and starts to curl, 1 minute. Add Cognac and cook another 30 seconds (most likely it will flame, so be careful). Remove from heat and transfer shrimp and its liquids to a plate.

To the same skillet, add the remaining olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 minutes. Add hot pepper and garlic and cook an additional minute. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft and a thick sauce has formed; 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in shimp, cilantro and scallions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a large spoon, spread the Catupiry into the pumpkin. Pour shrimp sauce into pumpkin and return to the oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cheese melts and pumpkin is soft and heated through. Remove from oven and serve immediately, with jasmine rice on the side.

Starting Your Plants Indoors

If you are like me, you’re probably itching to get your hands dirty.  You can begin the garden season (even if you’re knee deep in snow); by starting your plants indoors and then transplanting them to the garden once the danger of frost has passed.

Common plants that you can start are tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.  If you are interested in cold-hardy vegetables, you can start plants such as onions and leeks.

If you are new to starting plants indoors, here’s a basic list to help you get going:

  • Plastic trays (or you can use recycled egg cartons or any type of cup you may have laying around the house)
  • Plastic Labels & Markers
  • Potting mix
  • Heirloom Seeds
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Watering Can

To make the process as easy as possible, determine how many plants you want to start of each variety.  Fill the allotted number of trays or pots that you want to start with soil.  Plant 2-3 seeds in each pot, ¼ to ½ inch deep.  Lightly cover up with soil, to a depth equal to three times their size.  Label each plant accordingly (do this immediately so you don’t get the plants mixed up).  Lightly mist the plants.  Cover with plastic wrap.

Set the plants in a warm area and check daily.  Continue to mist the plants, making sure the soil is damp.  When you see the seed start to sprout make sure you move to a spot with bright light.  You can use white fluorescent tubes for lighting.

Basic guidelines for the following:

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