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Use raised-bed planters for a summer garden at home

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Raised-bed planters can help keep weeds and certain pests away. Photo courtesy of Olive PR Solutions

Raised-bed planters are like concentrated mini-gardens where you can focus your time, resources and gardening energy.

Garden guru and host of KPBS’ “A Growing Passion,” Nan Sterman has some recommendations for the best building and planting practices for San Diego gardeners.

·Think long-term when selecting building materials for your beds. Use rot-resistant lumber, such as cedar or redwood, timbers recycled from soda bottles and sawdust or other waste products, or old brick, pieces of broken concrete, even rock.

·For easy access, make the beds 28 to 30 inches high -- working in them means less stress on your back.

·The length of a raised bed doesn’t matter but the width does. Adults can easily reach the center of a bed no more than 4 feet wide. For children, beds are best 3 or 3 ½ feet wide.

·If you are plagued with rabbits in your garden, build a fence around the garden at least 3 feet tall. Line it with narrow mesh wire fencing, buried a foot or so below the soil surface since rabbits like to dig.

·Line the bottom of each bed with quarter-inch hardware cloth to keep out gophers.

·Space the beds at least 3 feet apart to allow a wheelbarrow or wheelchair to pass between them easily.

·Install irrigation before filling the beds. The best irrigation is quarter-inch diameter in-line drip lines. Add a shut-off valve to each box.

·Fill the bed with topsoil, preferably a 40/60 mix (40 percent organic matter, 60 percent dirt). Add some worm castings to jumpstart beneficial soil microbes and organic vegetable fertilizer. Water well before planting.

·Plant your raised beds with summer edibles such as tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and basil.

·There’s no reason to set plants in rows in a raised bed. Instead, plant in blocks, and set plants about 20 percent closer than you would if you were planting rows.

·After you plant, mulch beds with straw (not hay) to reduce weeds and hold in moisture.

·Provide strong supports for beans, cucumbers, and other vining plants. Trellises work well.

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