Here's how to raise the bar on raised garden beds

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The flowering diversity of raisded beds is only limited by your imagination. (SMGC photo)

SPRINGVALE - Southern Maine Garden Club met recently at the Springvale Library for a lesson in the benefits of raised garden beds from Master Gardener, Ron Vincent, from Sanford.

Before his program began, Vincent sang the praises of the Master Gardener program through the Maine Cooperative Extension ( where he participated in the certificate training program and now is performing his 40 hours of volunteering for gardening projects for the first year and then 20 hours per year after that.

Vincent gave a slide presentation and showed examples of raised beds. He gave a list of material that can be used in their construction - logs, railroad ties, concrete blocks, paver stones, bricks, metal, recycled material - you are limited by your imagination and skill level.

He recommended that raised beds shouldn't be more than 3' to 4' wide so gardeners can easily reach across to either side of the bed. The beds should be 8" to 12" deep and contain topsoil, fertilizer and organic matter. He advised to aerate the soil - good airflow is critical. Monitor for pests but ensure that pollinators can get in. Raised beds can dry out easier than in ground plantings so it is important to have a good water source near the beds. He also recommends using soaker hoses to wet the soil.

Diversity of the plantings will promote a more stable ecosystem. Ron suggested utilizing trellises or wooden structures in the garden beds to illustrate a vertical, more three-dimensional garden. As always a light layer of mulch will help preserve moisture in the soil; and organic mulch can improve soil nutrients.

In addition to his program, Vincent briefly touched on the importance of soil testing in order to learn about any deficiencies your soil may have; and ultimately amend the soil with the nutrients that are missing. He distributed forms and mailer cardboard cartons for members to easily take samples of their soil from various locations in their gardens and then bag up the soil, complete the from and mail to the U Maine Soil Testing Service and await their diagnostic testing.

SMGC meets at the Springvale Library on the third Wednesday of every month beginning at 6:30 PM (unless otherwise noted). The public is invited to attend to sample our meetings to see if you would like to join us. The May meeting will be on Wednesday, May 17, at the Springvale Library; and the topic will be on growing fruit trees by gardening expert Deb Bedard. FMI please contact in ME - Paula Frodyma at 207-475-8142or in NH - Donna Claveau at 603-332-4860.

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