Raised Garden Beds

16September 2021

Raised garden bed is any garden area that is elevated from soil level. That includes anything from a few inches to a few feet. It is framed in some way, like using lumber or by using an existing item like a barrel or metal watering trough.

There are some distinct advantages to using raised beds. The area is neater because the walls keep the soil in place. They warm quicker in the spring so you can plant sooner. It can improve drainage to prevent root rot. It helps define areas to prevent children and pets from stepping on plants. Taller raised beds are easier on backs and make it easier for disabled people to enjoy gardening.

You will need supplies and tools, which can become expensive. You will also need the skills necessary to construct a bed or muscle power to move large containers. For taller beds or containers, you will need to buy a lot of soil. Containers also need more watering. While it may improve drainage for the plants, it could create other issues in drainage around the yard, which can pose other problems.

raised flower beds
“Raised Garden Beds II” by starmist1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Lower Beds

These are the beds that can maximize space. You are taking advantage of the soil that is already in place. Construction is easy if you are able to make them the size of the lumber you buy, eight or twelve feet. If you build them four feet across, you can reach the center of the bed for planting, harvesting, and maintenance without having to walk and compress the soil around your plants. You should consider reinforcing the corners with a small block.

Just construct the frame, place it on the ground, and fill with good soil. Note that there is a difference between topsoil and potting soil. Use what is recommended for the type of plants you are going to put in the ground. Don’t try to save money using an off brand. You may find it will turn into a hard and unworkable mess after only a short time. Some large hardware stores offer kits.

Higher Beds

Some of the same principles apply. As you build the sides, you should consider offsetting the beams, which will involve cutting the lumber. You will have more stability. The finished product will look more like a mason has laid bricks. This will be considerably easier for someone with a bad back, replaced knees, or is confined to a wheelchair. These will be taller and take more soil.

Containers

This encompasses a large number of items from a four inch pot to an elevated planter to a metal stock tank. Rule number one: Make sure it has sufficient drainage holes. Without holes in the bottom, water will just accumulate and eventually rot the roots of your plant. The planter’s depth will dictate what you can plant in it. A tomato will need more soil for its roots than herbs will. Choose accordingly. Because these containers are off the ground, they will need more watering. This includes hanging plants.

Now that the weather is cooler many people are planning next spring’s garden and this may help you decide what to build and where to place it.

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