How to Rejuvenate an Old Raised Bed Garden?


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Are you moving into a new house with an old raised bed garden? Or, do you want to revive your old abandoned bed garden to plant new crops? Many farmers would ask how to revive an abandoned garden and forget to deal with plants left in the space.

Others only focus on removing the established weeds and planting new plants such as tomatoes, lettuce, and strawberries. However, is that the only way to deal with an old garden bed that has been tilled for years? 

Rejuvenating an old raised bed garden can be done by :

  1. Removing and Replace Old Wood or Any Furnishings
  2. Adding compost 
  3. Adding Manure Fertilizer
  4. Adding Soil Amendments 
  5. Mulching 
  6. Planting new plants 
  7. Cleaning The Area Surrounding the Raised Bed

Whether you are dealing with an abandoned or hoping to revive your long-used bed, you need some vital tips to maintain it. Raised bed gardens are somewhat like container farming. The soil nutrients need to be replaced once they are depleted after using the bed for a long time. 

Organic fertilizers are the best alternative to rejuvenate the old raised bed garden. However, it is not the final answer to revive the quality of your bed garden. 

Steps to Rejuvenate an Old Raised Bed Garden

Spreading soil

When you properly maintain your raised bed garden, you won’t need to replace or add more nutrients to the soil. In fact, you don’t need to rejuvenate your old raised garden unless the plants start showing signs of soil-borne diseases. 

You only need to maintain it by ensuring consistent watering and air circulation. However, if you need to see a clean and fresh raised bed garden throughout the season, here are some tips to rejuvenate it. 

  1. Removing and Replace Old Wood or Any Furnishings

    The most popular material for construction raised bed gardens is wood. Wood is the most available material and hence it is widely used. If your garden is constructed with wood or any other material the first step should be replacing the infrastructure.

    Older raised bed gardens make it easy for the wood or other material to be removed since the dirt is well formed and compacted from the plants and their roots.

    This prevents the dirt from falling apart when the wood siding is removed.

    The siding can now be replaced with the same wood or even a more durable material like galvanized sheets or even rubber siding.

    After replacement the siding should be painted to give it that extra shine and bring back some life to the garden bed.

Note: Beware of termites when removing old wood from a raised bed garden. However, termites can be controlled with simple methods which we discuss further in this in depth article..

  1. Adding compost to the bed garden 

    The easiest way to revive your old raised bed garden is by turning kitchen and yard waste into a fantastic soil amendment.

    Adding compost to an abandoned bed helps to rebuild its nutrient contents and water retention. You can make your compost easily at home or buy it at the local garden store.

    However, if you cannot make a full compost or afford to buy, you can use the common kitchen waste. Matters such as coffee grounds and eggshells boost plants and soil health impressively when added to the specific plants. 

    Compost addition is not necessarily vital in springs. Adding the composted matter on the beds in the fall is also a great way to end the season.

    Leaving it to sit on the bed garden throughout the winter does not need a fully broken compost. This is because the composting process will occur on the raised bed as it waits for the next gardening season. 

    Another way to effectively utilize compost is by cleaning up the yard of waste before compost addition.

    Spread the compost some inches on top of the bed garden and cover it with mulch. The mulch protects the compost and the soil from the harsh winter and retains the bed’s nutrients. 
  1. Adding Manure 

    Animal wastes may look unappealing, but they are the best when it comes to reviving your garden. Animal manure adds nutrients, builds organic matter, and rebuilds microbial action when added to the old raised bed garden.

    However, it would help if you used composted or aged manure since fresh manure is too hot and can burn the plants.

    Therefore, if when using fresh manure, ensure you add it in the fall and let it sit through winter.

    This gives it enough time to break down into more useful nutrients for the plants to use. 

    Here are some of the ordinary animal manure used to rejuvenate a dying raised bed garden; 
    1. Rabbit manure: Rabbit manure is considered cold manure and can be added directly to the bed garden without burning the plants. All you have to do is to grab some pellets and sprinkle them in the garden.

      The pellets will disintegrate slowly over time and release essential nutrients into the soil. 
    2. Cow manure: Of course, everybody knows about cow manure and soil nutrients. Cow manure is excellent multi-purpose manure that does not burn your crops when added to the garden.

      Additionally, cow manure promotes less weed growth than other manure like horse manure. 
    3. Horse manure: Horses poop a lot when reared on the farm. You can, therefore, use their manure to rejuvenate a dying raised bed garden.

      However, horse manure contains many weed seeds, which can be reduced when the compost pile reaches a high temperature.
    4.  Chicken manure: Chicken manure is highly rich in nitrogen but is among the hottest options. You need to leave it age before adding to your plants in the garden. 
    5. Goat and sheep manure: Goats and sheep also give drier manure with less smell and gentle to plants. Like rabbit manure, goats and sheep pellets are smaller and more comfortable to apply in the raised bed garden. 
  1. Adding Soil Amendments –

    An addition to  increasing soil fertility for a renewed raised bed garden you will also want to include some soil amendments to help with drainage and soil aeration. 

    While it is great in ensuring that the new soil has all the required nutrients for the plants, without proper aeration and drainage the new raised bed garden will ultimately fail if the proper soil amendments aren’t used.

    You may have heard of perlite and vermiculite. They are more pronounced in potting soil, and that is for good reason. They add good drainage and aeration to the soil which helps seedlings to success.

    The benefits in adding it to your raised bed garden is no different and will have great benefits to the plants or crops you will plant in the raised bed.

    Knowing the right mix of perlite and vermiculite to use when mixing them into the soil will go a long way with respect to soil properties and crop production.

    If you would like to know about these two amazing soil amendments you can see our article which compares both of them and how they benefit soil.
  1. Mulching 

    An old, raised bed garden that loses organic matter frequently needs a strategy to help protect nutrients after harvesting. 

    This strategy includes mulching, which holds the moisture and also adds nutrients as it breaks down. There is also the addition of worms to your garden when you use the deep mulching method to revive your abandoned garden. 

    Therefore, to benefit from this traditional method, you need to understand how to use the deep mulch method. 

    First, there is no right way to use deep mulch in your garden. You will meet many schools of thought, describing different ways to make and apply mulch to your garden. 

    However, it all depends on the type of soil and the climate. For that case, this particular method guaranteed positive outcomes in your garden. 

    Start by covering the old raised bed garden with a thin layer of compost and till it. After tilling, spread a thick layer of mulch, about 8-10 inches, and leave it to settle. 

    You can use hay, leaves, grass clipping, or straw, whatever is readily available in your location. 

    Avoid using plastic or fabric barriers because they do not decompose. One advantage of using organic mulches is that they also break down to add more soil nutrients. 

    Different mulches come with varied benefits, and you have room to test different mulches that best suits your garden.

    After spreading the layer of mulch, decide where to make rows. Part the mulch in those rows and leave an exposed strip of dirt. You can now plant your seeds or plants directly in the dirt.

    Once the seedlings pop up, pull the mulch around them to block the weeds and conserve water.
Planting new plants in raised bed garden
  1. Planting new plants 

    Growing new plants is one of the best strategies to feed your soil with fresh nutrients. It helps to build up the fertility of the soil and improve its structure every new season.

    Freshly dead cover crops give readily available nutrients to the soil microbes, which becomes food for plants. Additionally, the decaying roots’ opened channels allow the penetration of oxygen and water to the soil. 

    Planting new plants such as legumes is valuable because they fix nitrogen directly from the atmosphere into crop plants’ forms.

    Moreover, mixing different cover crops improves the soil structure and feeds the soil with essential nutrients and air. For example, mixing grass and legumes comes with double benefits. 

    In choosing the best cover crops, there are a few things to consider. First, you can opt for fast-growing grain grass like oats, rye, or barley in early springs.

    You can also choose cold-hardy legumes such as peas in late winter and allow them to grow two months longer. In warm weather, go for warm-weather legumes such as soybeans or cowpeas.

    These legumes help fertilize the soil before planting fall crops that need fertile soil, such as broccoli. 

    For the best quick-filler between springs and fall, go for buckwheat that grows for 30 days to the flowering stage. During winter, choose a mix of hairy vetch and rye or cereal rye.

    You can also mix oats and field pea or winter pea. Although these mixes are cold-hardy, they are reliably winter killing if your location experiences ground freezing. You can leave them as mulch and plant right into it in spring. 
  1. Cleaning The Surrounding Area

    After you have successfully spruced up your raised bed garden with newly painted furnishings, great soil and new plants the last thing to consider is bringing the entire area to life by cleaning the area around the garden bed.

    Lets face it, it makes no sense if you intend to rejuvenate your raised bed garden and the area around it is still bushy and a task to traverse. 

    You should now focus in cutting the grass or any bushy area around the raised bed garden for these reasons –
    1. Aesthetics –  the look of the surroundings would also bring value to your newly refurbished raised bed garden
    2. Clutter Free – To have a clean and free area to walk
    3. Pest Free – To ensure that there are no creepy crawlies lurking close by.

Reusing Dirt from An Old Raised Bed

Your old raised bed garden has a new face, and you are left thinking about where to dispose of the dirt. Worry not because there are various ways to reuse the dirt for the new garden.

You need to start a new season with a notable boost to your raised bed garden. Through a few amendments, you can transform the dirt into fertile soil for whatever you want to plant in it. 

However, does the dirt still contain nutrients? 

Yes, but not as many nutrients as fresh soil. This is because dirt is a mixture of clay, sand, and silt. It can also be rocky with no minerals, nutrients, or microbes in it.

However, this does not mean the dirt is useless. Since the dirt from the raised garden is made of decaying matter, soil, and weeds, it is likely to contain a small percentage of nutrients.

Therefore, for you to reuse the dirt, you have the following options to make it fertile. 

  1. Adding Fertilizer and Reusing It

The best way to reuse the dirt from the old raised bed garden is by adding fertilizers. Start by loosening the old dirt using a shovel or a spading fork.

Break up the large clumps of soils and remove dead plants and roots. Add about four inches of compost and mix it thoroughly with the soil. You can also perform a soil test to determine the soil pH and other nutrients needed. 

After testing for the soil pH and the needed nutrients, add the amendments and the slow-release fertilizer. Rake the soil to prepare it for the next planting.

You can add the dirt back to the rejuvenate garden or make a new raised bed garden. However, it is recommended not to use the dirt for a new garden to avoid pests and soil diseases to the revived garden. 

  1. Filling Up Other Areas for Landscaping

Is your home full of low spots, holes from animals’ digging, or varying levels? Do not struggle to look for new landscaping professionals to do the leveling for you.

You can use the dirt from the old raised bed garden to fill up these spaces. The dirt will smooth the soil in those holes and promote the growth of grass over the soil. 

Do not fill the dirt in the drainage swales that direct water out of your garden or home.

The dirt will block rainwater from backing up against your foundation and damage your home. When directed to your yard, rainwater will also chock your plants, leading to yellowing leaves. 

  1. Using It as A Bottom Soil for Your New Raised Bed Garden

If you plan for a new raised bed garden, you can use the dirt as a filler to your new garden bed. Dig out the extra garden soil to the compost pile. Add the dirt, dead roots, and weeds to the decomposing green matter.

After decomposition, mix the compost thoroughly and fill the bottom of the new bed. 

Do not use the dirt directly as a filler because it is likely to contain soil diseases and pests.

Allowing it to decompose before reusing kills the pests and weeds, improving the dirt’s soil structure. Moreover, do not fill a thick layer of bottom soil with dirt to allow root penetration. 

Disposing of the Dirt

If you think the dirt no longer fits your new raised bed garden or your lawn, the best thing is to give it away. There are various newspaper and online ads pursued by many gardeners. You can invite the gardener to haul away the entire dirt pile at an affordable cost. You can also ask if your neighbors plan to make new raised bed gardens and donate the dirt. Moreover, you can give the dirt away to the local community garden. 

The Takeaway 

Were you thinking about hauling off the dirt from the abandoned raised bed garden? Try the above techniques to rejuvenate the old raised bed garden and make it fertile once again. 

Remember, reviving your garden is much easier than getting into the stressful costs of hiring a roll off dumpster. 

All you need is to employ the helpful hacks from the professional gardeners and you would have a whole new raised bed garden and even if you have leftover soil, you can use it in other areas for landscaping or as bottom dirt to build up another raised bed garden.

Don’t forget to clean the surrounding areas as this would also help bring value to your newly refurbished raised bed garden.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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