The first rule of thumb is just because it has rained a little today does not mean that your plants got enough water. My husband (love him dearly) but he just did not understand this concept the first year we used the raised beds. The beds drain continually, unlike the ground they will not become to saturated UNLESS you have 5 foot of dirt top to bottom in your planter. I truly wish I had more raised beds, because I still utilize the ground for about half of our garden crops. Some things are just easier to grow in the ground so I plot and plan my year round gardening with which is easier to pick on the ground.
The next rule of thumb is to mix up a good sandy loam soil during the fall / winter. We have a LOT of sand with very little top soil. We improvised by cleaning out our neighbors barn and mixing it in our planters with the sand. Layering it with your grass clippings and leaves, even newspapers, egg shells & coffee filters are all very nutritional and a great value in creating a lush bed for your plants. Water it real good at least once per week so it will break down. By Early spring your bed is ready to start a wonderful adventure. Of course you can fast forward this process just by simply cleaning out a barn and mixing it about 1/2 & 1/2 with your dirt and planting immediatly in it. When I do this I also make sure to add a couple of cups of good potting soil / top soil mix directly where my transplants are going.
Now for feeding your plants. Every time it rains and you water your garden the nutrients from the composted manure feeds your plants :) Now that is easy.
For my tomatoes I use a little extra help to fight off bottom rot which is caused by lack of calcium in the soil...... my secret ingredient? Milk - when planting your tomatoes take a 1/2 cup of powdered milk and mix in with the immediate area of soil. As you can see by the picture my tomatoes get so big it is hard to keep up with staking them!
Magnesium is another magic ingredient which many acidic fruits love, it helps them to take up the nutrients and water from the soil... You probably already have some in your first aid kit - It is called Epsom salt. I sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of espsom salt around my tomato plants and grape vines they LOVE the stuff.
My personal preference for the beds is my tomato plants, hot - sweet & bell peppers, Cukes, Zuchinni, yellow squash, eggplant, lettuces, turnips, carrots & strawberries, cantaloupes....
by then I am out of room and I plant in the ground:
Red, White & Sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage, okra, corn, 2nd Crop of tomatoes, 2nd crop of lettuces.
The one advantage of planting your vines in the raised planters is that they can drape down the sides and eventually hit the ground reroot and you get a lot more fruits to bear, not to mention it is easier on your back to pick them and see them :) This is a change that we can all live (and eat) with!
My next project I REALLY want to do is a greenhouse.... however with year round growing possible here.... I keep asking myself why LOL ~ maybe I should just start on a new chicken coop and make my little brown ladies happy ;0)