Harvesting early salad crops and show time for raised beds

By Andy McIndoe


A few weeks ago I built a small raised bed on my vegetable plot. Although I have well-drained sandy soil, which should be good for growing fast-maturing crops I struggle to get salad leaves to germinate well early in the year. I also have problems with root crops such as radishes and carrots; they often get nibbled and germination is poor; maybe because the surface of the soil dries out after sowing. So I built a small raised bed by WoodblocX. This is their smallest kit which is sold as a herb bed; a sturdy well-designed system that is really built to last.

I filled the bed with multi-purpose growing medium containing loam; a medium that is suitable for seed sowing, some are not. I am really pleased with the results; germination is really good and I’ve harvested plenty of radishes. As soon as I started to sow I wish I had gone for a larger kit at the outset. Rule number one: always go for the largest raised bed you can accommodate or afford, you will never have enough space for what you want to grow. Rule number two: site the bed in an open sunny position; nearly all vegetable crops grow best with at least four hours of direct light during the day, ideally more.


I sowed a row of Lettuce ‘Red Little Gem’, a red-leaved form of the popular dense-headed little cos lettuce. I had intended to transplant these to space them when the radishes were harvested, I can also plant some out on the vegetable plot. Although I sowed thinly I know I’ve got too many plants and the radishes won’t all be used by the time I need to transplant the lettuces. I warn people about oversowing, but can still make the same mistake myself. If you cover a small coin with a single layer of lettuce seeds, that’s about 100 – 200 lettuce seeds. Before you sow ask yourself: “are ever likely to need that many lettuces all ready at the same time?”

Red Little Gem seedlings

In a small raised bed like the WoodblocX herb bed there is a lot to say for starting with plants; either ones you have bought or ones you have started in cell trays or pots, that way you have the right number at the outset. That’s what I did with parsley; I bought a couple of plants and planted them in a corner. Growing them in the raised bed keeps the foliage clean and avoids all that gritty soil getting caught up in the leaves; often a problem with curly parsley. Ideally buy plants from a garden centre or nursery, however you could plant out pots of parley bought from the supermarket as long as they are in good condition.

Parsley plants

My carrots have germinated well and are growing away nicely, certainly much better than they would have if sown in the ground. Carrots take time and I don’t imagine I will be harvesting any before midsummer; however I’m looking forward to having some decent ones fresh from the garden.

WoodblocX will be exhibiting at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show in the summer. More and more visitors to these major flower shows go to look at equipment and accessories that they can use in their own gardens, as well as to see the floral exhibits and show gardens. With continuing interest in grow-your-own raised bed systems and other ways of growing fruit and vegetables in gardens of all sizes is high on the agenda of many people.

WoodblocX at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The great thing about the WoodblocX system is its versatility and appearance. In small gardens, where everything is very visible a raised bed needs to look good as well as being productive. If it can have another function as well then so much the better: WoodblocX can be used to build retaining walls, ponds, seats, steps and a host of other landscaping features. This seat incorporates raised beds that can be used to grow a variety of herbs, flowers and vegetables. I certainly makes a nice place to sit amongst fragrant foliage and blooms.

Chelsea Pensioner

WoodblocX offer a whole range of different kits or you can design your own and buy the components to build it. Check out their website for details and lots of information about the system. If you are visiting any flower shows this summer take a look at what’s around and what’s new in the world of gardening. Even at shows like RHS Chelsea it’s not all about expensive garden furniture and extravagant garden buildings. There are lots of great ideas to help all gardeners get the best from their gardens.


Andy McIndoe

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