Raised Bed Gardening

Why Raised Bed Gardening?

large raised garden beds planted with rows of vegetables
Raised Garden Beds with Vegetables

Raised garden beds have many advantages you might want to consider. And, they can help you solve some of the problems you might have if you were gardening on the ground.

  • Raised beds are the solution for you if your back hurts, and you don’t want to get down on your knees to work in your garden.
  • You can grow a garden anywhere with a raised bed. Raised beds are the answer If you only have a concrete slab, if your soil is hard-packed clay, or it’s somehow contaminated.
  • Garden without bending down or kneeling on the ground. They might be a godsend if you’re a person with back or knee problems!
  • Manage garden pests and weeds more easily than ground gardening. Even bunnies can’t get in to chew the goodies.
  • Add temporary greenhouse hoops to the bed structure for longer growing seasons. Think early spring planting and late fall crops.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

What are Raised Beds Anyway?

raised garden beds with trellis and plants growing
Raised Garden Beds

A raised bed garden is a garden planted within a box that is above the ground.

  • The box is filled with amended soil.
  • Your plants grow in the box and never in the ground itself.
  • Typically constructed with wood, raised beds can be made using various materials like wood or metal. A corrugated livestock tank can even be used for a raised bed!
  • The beds can be any size you want.
  • You can put them anywhere you want.
  • Almost anything can successfully grow in them.

You’ll love your raised garden beds! So, let’s discover more about them.

Advantages of Raised Beds

raised garden bed made with wood that is in sections planted
Shaped Raised Bed

Raised beds can solve all kinds of problems for gardeners.

  • They offer efficient use of space
  • You make the beds in any size or shape, to fit in any space
  • Raise them to any height you need
  • Construct them anywhere
  • Made from friendly materials, they’re earth-friendly

1. Start With Improved Soil

two earthworms in soil in a farmer's hand love coffee grounds
Feed the Worms!
  • Fill the raised beds with high-quality gardening soil
  • Escape issues like packed clay or nutrient-poor dirt
  • The soil is never walked upon, so it’s loose and not compacted.
  • Air and water are allowed to move more readily.
  • Roots can spread out and find the needed nutrition to grow and fruit.
  • The soil in the raised bed can be amended easier than the hard ground can.

2. Improved Drainage

  • Mix the soil to your specifications. Get what you want.
  • Add more sand if you want to increase drainage.

3. Easy Access

  • Raised beds are accessible, easy to care for, and simple to harvest your crops from.

4. Increased Yield

  • Raised beds give higher crop yields.
  • They are an effective use of space for dense planting. You can plant more densely with more plants and get more yield.
  • A raised bed warms up more quickly than the surrounding soil. Allows you to start planting your veggies earlier in the spring, and have multiple plantings.
  • Traditional gardens have the plants placed in narrow rows with wide pathways between them.
    • Raised beds are enclosed, wide rows with narrower paths between them.
    • So raised beds give you more garden space to grow things in instead of more paths to walk on.

5. Simplifies Weed Control

  • The dense planting crowds weeds out.
  • The raised bed walls block many blowing seeds and most plants with rhizomes.
  • Raised beds can be built on top of landscape cloth, which helps block out roots.
  • Plant sequential plantings and use cover crops (green manure) in the non-growing season to prevent weeds growing.
  • You can also use cover crops between veggie rows in the summer to help retain moisture. Cover crops keep weeds down and also return nitrogen to the soil.

6. Helps Control Garden Pests

Slugs and Lettuce
Slugs Can Destroy a Garden
  • Keep pests out or raised beds. Build the planters with hardware screen on the bottom to prevent burrowing. Use nets or row covers to prevent birds from diving into the garden and eating.
  • Rabbits don’t look up over 18” so raised beds will help keep them out of the garden. If you have a lower raised bed, put a wire fence around it.
  • Slugs and snails won’t usually climb. But if they do, they can be easily seen and removed.

7. Easy Access

man in wheelchair is able to work in the raised garden bed
Accessible Raised Garden Bed
  • Those with back problems, bad knees, other physical limitations. Raised beds can make a difference between gardening and not gardening.
  • Gardening from a wheelchair is possible. Build the raised beds at two feet high and three feet wide.
  • Build with large timbers or add a capstone to provide room to sit down by the growing space and work.
  • No kneeling, squatting, wear and tear on knees and other joints.

Building Your Raised Beds

Raised beds are a simple construction project, but you do have to make them before you can plant your gardens.

Start with the planning, the size, and location of your new beds.

* Planning Your Raised Garden Beds *

When planning your raised beds, think about the finished size and placement.

  • Try to make them no wider than four feet so that you can reach across them.
  • The ideal height is one to two feet high. Any higher, and your cost of materials will increase.
  • Leave at least two feet between the beds if you want access for a wheelbarrow, a lawnmower, or a garden cart.
  • Place the bed in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight every day. Make sure the site is flat and level. Clear the location of any grass and weeds.

* How to Build a Raised Bed? It’s Easy! *

  • You can purchase raised bed kits via Amazon or at most home improvement stores. The packages will include the hardware and materials that you will need to create the bed. Follow the instructions, and in a flash, you’re ready to garden!
  • Corrugated livestock tanks are perfect if you want a ready-to-go planter bed, corrugated livestock tanks are perfect. Some even come with the bottom missing, so you don’t have to drill drainage holes in them.
  • You could even use containers as your planting pots if you want to.
  • If you want to build a raised bed yourself, imagine you are making a wooden frame with an empty inside. You can find plans and step-by-step instructions on Pinterest or other DIY sites.

* Build a Frame That Will Last *

livestock tank turned into a gardening bed with plants in it
Stock Tank Garden Bed

You can create raised beds using many different materials like wood, corrugated metal, concrete blocks, bricks, and even composite decking materials.

  • If you are going to use wood, use untreated lumber for your raised garden beds to be completely safe. Cedar, cypress, and redwood are rot-resistant woods and will last 10-20 years. Pine is more affordable but will last only about 5-7 years.
  • Pressure-treated wood sold in the United States is considered safe for food crops. Steer clear of treated timber that is toxic like creosote-treated railroad ties which are treated with creosote.
  • Use galvanized or stainless-steel hardware so it won’t rust.
  • Use screws or bolts as they are easier to use than nails are and will hold the box together better.

* Assembling Your Raised Garden Beds *

raised garden bed that was just built filled with dirt
New Raised Bed

Assemble the bed on-site or where you can readily move it to the final location once assembled.

  • Use inside posts on all corners to make the beds sturdier. 
  • Depending on the size of the bed, consider putting an inside post or stake in the middle of the long sides to help keep them from bowing out when filled with dirt.
  • If you have burrowing pests like moles, tack hardware cloth or screen to the bottom of the bed to prevent them from burrowing into your garden.
  • You can use landscape cloth to line the bottom of the beds if desired. It will add some weed prevention, but it might inhibit drainage.
  • Move the assembled frame where you want the garden to be. Check to be sure the bed is level and make any needed adjustments.
  • Fill the frame with good-quality garden soil. Your landscape supply center can recommend the blend that will perform best for your area. You need garden topsoil, not fill dirt. Be sure to specify that with the supplier.
  • We used four-way topsoil from our local supplier for our beds. Four-way topsoil is a premium product made better soils, added compost, sandy loams, and silts/organic materials.

* Consistent Watering *

Your raised garden beds will need regular watering as they tend to heat up quickly. Be sure to have a close water source.

  • You can water them by hand or set up a sprinkler system to ensure consistent watering.
  • We set up a drip system to try to prevent mildew and blight on the leaves.
  • Water early in the morning and you will have less evaporation and resist disease like powdery mildew.

* Taking Care of a Raised Bed *

a garden with several raised garden beds and greenhouse hoops
Raised Garden Beds with Greenhouse Hoops

You take care of the raised garden bed just like any garden. In fact, it might be easier to care for with fewer weeds and pests.

  • You’ve already filled the bed with amended soil. All you need to do is till the ground a bit to loosen the dirt before planting seeds or seedlings
  • Pull weeds if you see any start to grow.
  • Trim your plants if needed.
  • Harvest the crops when they’re ready. Feast!
  • Pull the plants that are at their end of producing and put them into the compost pile.

* End of Season Preparation *

two raised garden beds in the winter covered with snow
Snowy Raised Bed

At the end of the season, you can leave the beds in place and use them again next year.

  • If you’re not going to plant fall/winter crops, cover them with a tarp or plant a cover crop. You could also use a mulch to cover the beds.
  • If you want to have cool month crops, consider arugula, cabbage, kale, lettuce, radishes or spinach as they have short growing needs.
  • If you need to disassemble it for some reason, save the parts for next year’s planting.

Conclusion

raised garden bed with corrugated steel and wood
Corrugated Raised Garden Bed

There you have it!

Raised beds are so simple to build and maintain, and tend to. No trying to till hard-packed clay dirt!

You can plant anything you want in a raised bed. Just think of the possibilities: tomatoes, arugula, radishes, cabbage, cutting flowers, pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers. The sky’s the limit.

We planted tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, corn, squash, pumpkins, tomatillos, radishes, onions, carrots, arugula and lettuce in our raised garden beds this year.

Next year, we are still dreaming of what to plant.

Think of all the money you can save by eating the produce you will get to harvest.

And think of all the fun you can have with your raised garden beds!

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