We are planning on growing vegetables in raised garden beds for folks in assisted living communities and would appreciate some advice on why type of vegetable plants we can grow. Our beds will be 12-18″ deep.
Answer: The depth of the boxes sounds just fine for most veggies, as long as they are well-draining containers. If these are self-contained (like large pots), not just frames on the ground, don’t over-plant them, and be sure to fertilize and water on a regular basis. If these are on the ground then the plants will extend their root systems into the ground if they need to, and therefore you might want to just loosen the soil in that area prior to building up the planters.
The biggest thing to look for when planning a contained garden is the mature size of the plants. With tomatoes, check for ones that are considered “determinate,” meaning they will reach a mature height and stop growing taller, thus keeping a more compact form. Some of the cherry and paste-style tomatoes will fall into the determinate category. An “indeterminate” plant will keep growing and growing.
The mature height for plants like peppers, eggplant, okra, and broccoli will be three to four feet, depending on the variety. For sweet peppers check out, California Wonder (the largest open-pollinated bell pepper) or maybe something a little different like our Merlot Sweet Pepper. Under the hot pepper category, try Garden Salsa, or Tabasco, or the customer favorite, Anaheim Chili Red Hot.
Onions, parsnips, and turnips don’t get tall but do require some room for the bulb to grow. To get “bunch” onions it is just a matter of maturity. Once the onions start to grow and at the point they require thinning, growers typically pull these, bundle in bunches and take to markets. Commercial growers use a white Lisbon onion but you could try our Yellow Granex or Texas 1015Y Super Sweet varieties or even Red Burgundy. For cabbages you might try the Fast Vantage, as it matures early, which is great for more northern gardens.
Strawberries have very particular needs and like to have room to send out runners to create new plants. They would need to have a space that is just for them. Read our information on the strawberry page before incorporating them into your garden.
You could incorporate a vertical element in the center of the beds by adding a bamboo and grips climbing frame or a ring, or use garden netting to grow beans and peas and surround the outside with low-growing plants like lettuce, spinach or herbs.
Good luck with the gardens. I am sure the residents will enjoy them, especially when harvest time rolls around. Karen