What Are Raised Beds? A raised bed is any elevated growing area used to grow plants in soil. You can grow vegetables, flowers, herbs or small fruits like strawberries in a raised garden. The bed’s construction can be from a variety of materials and be of just about any size and shape that suits the whim of the gardener.
Why Garden in Raised Beds? Gardening in a raised bed presents many advantages over standard row gardening. These advantages include:
- Planting, weeding and maintaining the elevated beds is easier.
- Since they are not applied to the walking paths, soil amendments go further.
- Closer spacing of plants increases yields and decreases weeds.
- The bed frame confines the soil to the bed, increasing the attractiveness of the garden area.
- Reduced soil compaction allows the plant’s roots to grow unimpeded.
- Irrigation is easier.
- Since you hand cultivate the garden beds heavy garden equipment is not needed.
Disadvantages of Garden Beds Elevated beds need more irrigation Some crops, like sweet corn and potatoes, may not lend themselves to raised beds well.
Construction Material to Build Elevated Gardens Many materials are good candidates for constructing a raised bed garden. Concrete retaining wall blocks provide a long lasting, attractive raised bed. Solid block are best as hollow concrete blocks can provide a place for mice, slugs, snails and other vermin to hide. Redwood and cedar are two attractive wood products that can last a long time. Many gardeners use pressure treated lumber to construct beds. There are concerns about arsenic leaching into the soil from this material. Here is an article in Fine Gardening Magazine that can help you make up your mind about using pressure treated wood.
Best Size and Shape for a Garden Frame Raised garden beds for vegetables are usually rectangular in shape, but they do not have to be. If you have an odd shaped area in the yard you want to use for a garden, feel free to construct it to conform to the shape of the area. It is best not to make the bed more than four to five feet in width because it can be difficult to reach into the middle of the bed.
Irrigating the Raised Bed Garden These beds do need more irrigation than a standard row garden. You can use a watering can or hose to water, or install a drip irrigation system in the beds. It is convenient to use a water timer to control the amount of time that the system operates. Or place water filled plastic jugs placed around the garden with small holes in the bottom allow the water inside to leak out slowly. This allows the water to soak the ground around it.
A raised bed garden can provide a haven of beauty in the backyard if planted with flowers and small shrubs. It can also be a cornucopia of fresh foods for your table, or a little of both. With a little effort and ingenuity just about any sunny spot in the yard can be home to a raised garden bed. For insight into the construction of a raised bed garden, visit the author’s website, Abe’s Beer Garden.