What is Raised Bed Gardening?

Simply put, this is planting your gardening in above ground level. This is one of my favorite forms of container gardening.  It is best if you have just a wee bit of land, although you can achieve great results if you only have a tiny piece of ground or a patio or a back porch.

This is usually achieved by building a structure such as a wooden frame and filling it with soil. You can also use concrete blocks, bricks, and many other materials to build your raised beds. You’re really only limited by the space you have in your yard, and your imagination. Raised beds are also available in kits.  Below is a picture of a Raised Bed Star Kit.

Above is my Spring Raised Bed Garden Planter and below is the Fall garden view.  I love the star shape.  The boards are a hard plastic so they will not rot.  The center of the star is two levels deep.  My only complaint is getting to the center of the star.   So I decided to plant Sweet Potatoes in the center portion.  I filled the star with a mixture of peat moss and organic soil.  When I began this project, I had no idea how many bags of soil mixture it would take to fill this baby up!  I lost count and then I had to fill the six star points.  It was worth it.  Now that I have the “Star” out of my system, I began planning other styles of raised bed gardens around the yard.

If you have poor soil or rock everywhere or uneven terrain, the raised bed gardens are the ideal choice for gardeners. Since the raised bed gardens are built above the ground, you have control of the soil and ingredients.

Advantages of Raised Bed Gardening

  • Simplicity
  • Better Drainage
  • Better root growth giving you higher yields
  • No wasted space between rows
  • Longer growing season as the soil warms quickly
  • Easier to Maintain
  • Use small spaces
  • Terrace hillsides
  • Dense foliage so shading slows down on the amount of weeds
  • Less labor
  • Less expensive
  • Stationary or Portable
  • Allows creative designs and landscaping options

 

Construction Materials

The sky’s the limit on your choice of construction materials that you can use for your raised bed garden.  Some examples are:

  • Treated landscape timbers
  • Used Railroad ties – go for old ties to make sure there is no creosote seeping out
  • Naturally rot resistant lumber like redwood or cedar
  • Cinder – concrete blocks, bricks, stones
  • Synthetic lumber – recycled plastic
  • Wooden half barrels

Construction Tips

You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to creating your raised bed gardens.  Here are a couple of guidelines to remember:

  1. The bed width should be no more than 3 feet if you only have access from one side or 4 feet if you have access from both sides.  These are comfortable widths most people can easily reach across to weed and care for your plants.  The length is as far as you have room.
  2. If you have several raised beds, make sure your walkway between them is wide enough for a wheelbarrow, cart, tools and room to work.  A good 2 feet is recommended.
  3. Place your beds in direct sunlight.
  4. Plan to have at least a 6″ depth to 12″ for optimum root development.  The deeper the better.
  5. Make sure you have easy access to a source of water.
  6. A 2 foot high raised garden bed is good for people with disabilities.  Benches or a board platform along the top edge gives you a chance to sit down and still work your garden or some peaceful times to just sit and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
  7. Over 2 foot heights will possibly need some sort of retaining wall.
  8. Early planting is possible by covering the top with a clear plastic for a greenhouse effect
  9. Think about mounting support poles and trellises on the raised bed frame.

Soil mix

Raised Bed Gardens are the perfect place to grow your organic plants.  Mix together Peat moss, compost and decomposed manures work well.

Many gardeners will take advantage of the soil base, working it up with a rototiller before adding the framework of their raised bed garden and then adding additional soil components to finish their project.

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square Foot Raised Bed Gardening is ideal for small spaces.  Block off the space into one or more square foot designs.  Plant the seeds in each square foot plot and after your harvest the crop, replant the square.

You can come up with all sorts of crazy Square Foot Garden designs either directly on the ground or above the ground sitting on a bottom layer and place your mini garden on patios, decks or porches, and even table tops.  You could build a 4′ X 4′ square raised bed garden plot and divide it off into 4 one foot squares.  Then plant each square with a different plant.

Maintenance of Raised Bed Gardens

The soil in a raised bed garden needs to be watched a little more closely than a regular in ground garden.  Since the raised bed soil warms up faster, it will dry out more quickly. This is a good thing during the spring and fall. But during the summer months, the high soil temperatures will dry out the soil in your raised bed faster and will require watching.  You should be prepared to water your raised bed garden once a day when the heat of summer dries out your garden more quickly.

I like to use of organic mulches, like straw, hay or mulch to help hold the moisture in the soil.  This will also help deter weeds from growing as quickly as they normally would under the warmer drier conditions.  Soaker hoses placed directly on the bed help you keep your plants nourished and the soil damp.

Raised Bed Gardening Ideas

  • The Black Gold of the Gardeners world is Compost.  Your plants will love you for it.  Plan to start making your own compost.  Try to locate your compost bin near the garden area so it is convenient for you when you need to deal with garden waste.  Using the compost in your raised garden beds will help provide all the nutrients your plants need.  Your plants will repay you with an abundant harvest.
  • Think and plan to help your plants using companion plants.  Many types of plants tend to repel pests or enrich soil.  There are several types of herbs and flowers that will help your plants fight off pesky bugs or attract bees for pollination.

I always include Marigolds in my gardens.  They are considered the wonder-drug of the companion plant world.  Plant them everywhere.  I always plant them by my tomatoes, peppers, squash, broccoli, cabbage and cucumbers.  Marigolds repel nematodes, beet leaf hoppers and other garden pests.