Is a Raised Garden Bed Right for You?
A raised garden bed extends the planting season, offers versatility to the gardener and helps protect the knees by bringing plants up from a level position on the ground. Also known as garden boxes, raised garden beds are ideal for growing flowers and vegetables virtually anywhere. Knowing how to build them, how to use them and how to maximize the rewards you get from them is critical.
7 Key Benefits to Raised Garden Beds
As easy as they are to position and use, raised garden beds can do a great deal for the user. The following are 7 reasons you need a raised garden bed.
1. They provide good drainage to your plants. This keeps plants healthy.
2. They prevent the soil from compacting too much, therefore encouraging the growth of roots.
3. Raised garden beds also keep pathway weeds from entering into the soil, therefore reducing the amount of work you need to do to keep weeds out of your garden.
4. They allow you to add the type of soil you want, including organic soil and compost soil, without having roots enter into deeper, less healthy soil.
5. It is easier for many people to tend to plants in a raised garden bed than on a flat surface. You can sit on the edge and weed the garden bed.
6. The garden’s bedsides create a barrier from many pests. With added fencing along the top, you can even keep out the deer and larger animals.
7. They are incredibly versatile. When you build raised garden beds, you do so in the size, shape and overall structure right for your space.
For many people, this type of gardening is the best possible solution because it creates a surface that is ideal for planting and makes the gardener’s job far easier. If you think garden beds like these are going to be a good fit for you, the first step is selecting a place to put your bed and understanding how to build a garden box like this.
The Makeup of a Raised Garden Bed
Before you select any materials or head out into the yard to get the soil tended, you will first need to understand what makes up a raised garden bed. Generally, the most basic box is a garden planter. It contains elevated sides that allow the box to extend a foot, two feet or more up off the ground. You can design these to be several feet high, which allows you to have more elevation from the colder ground, pests and improved height for ease of clearing.
Most raised garden beds have an open bottom. Instead of building a base or a total box with a bottom, you can build just the exterior walls. This allows your plants to reach deeper and to access the nutrient rich soil under the actual mound of soil you will fill the box with. On the other hand, it is also possible to create a slatted bottom, which creates more structure. If you add a semi permeable cloth barrier to the base, this will allow for drainage while still allowing soil to remain in place in the box. It is most common, though, to have open bottoms with raised garden beds.
The Wood That Makes Up The Raised Garden Bed
Which type of wood is best for a raised garden bed? It is the question many want to answer. When considering the actual wood material for this project, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- How long do you want the raised garden to actually remain in place? Long term?
- How wide and long do you plan to make it? The larger the structure, the more important it will be to choose stronger wood.
- How organic do you wish the project to be? Choose woods that are less or untreated for the most organic conditions.
There is a range of woods on the market that can help you through this process. It is a good idea to consider several options and their benefits before making a choice. Here are a few options to keep in mind.
Using Natural Cedar Raised Garden Beds
A favorite among gardeners is to use cedar because of its beauty and durability. Check out the benefits of cedar wood planks for your raised garden.
- It is the highest quality wood that will resist rotting.
- You can use aluminum cross supports to create a larger size garden bed and this will prevent the wood sides from bowing.
- You can use lapped corners to hold the box in place. With this method, add 3/8th inch aluminum rods for added support.
- You will find natural cedar will repel many types of pests including insects that can destroy plants.
- You will find cedar planks in various sizes and widths. This allows you to customize the look for your needs.
Farmstead Cedar Garden Beds
Farmstead material offers additional benefits as well. This material offers the same overall feel of cedar with less of a refined look. The benefits include:
- It is readily available in various sizes.
- You can easily add more of these on top of each other to add height to your raised garden bed.
- You will find that the farmstead cedar garden beds also work to resist insects and pests, and do not rot as quickly as other types of woods.
- You do not have to use metal in the building process. This means those metal parts will not rust.
- For those who want an easy way to create these raised beds, farmstead is the route to go because it is relatively easy to assemble. If you decide to take it down, this material makes that process easy as well.
Composite Timber Garden Beds
Composite materials are not all natural. This is not wood you are using, but it does create one of the most durable structures for your potted gardens. Here are some of the benefits:
- This product is made of a blend of materials (and each brand can have a different blend.) Mostly, it is made of wood fibers and a UV protected polypropylene material.
- Composite products are 100 recycled material – you are doing something great for the environment by using them.
- When you use composite timber, raised garden beds will have more of a durability. The ABS plastic resident joints make the corners and overall surface better protected from high impact.
- It is one of the easiest setups possible usually taking just minutes to put together.
- You will find numerous sizes and structure styles, though you will likely purchase a kit for this raised bed design.
Container Garden Planters
So you want to have raised garden beds but you do not want to build on the ground? Try container garden planters. These planters can be crafted by you or you can purchase them premade. Here are some of the benefits of these.
- You can grow a variety of vegetables in them, but you’ll need to choose the right size container and ensure it is strong enough to hold the weight of the plants and soil.
- Container gardening allows you to plan the garden planters anywhere, even on a balcony or on a patio.
- Choose those that have a cross slated bottom that holds in the soil but still allows air and water to pass through. Use a heavy duty permeable liner within it to protect the wood structure.
Readymade Raised Garden Bed Kits
For those who want a raised garden bed without all of the work of putting one together, it is a good idea to consider raised garden bed kits. These kits come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own benefits. In short, you can choose the kit that’s right for your needs.
- These kits often come with weather resistant materials. Look for those that contain cedar or redwood for the best resistance to mold growth, pests and overall weathering.
- Look for those that have a mole or gopher system that prevents those pests from entering your garden. Some also offer rabbit proofed fences.
- You will find some feature a built in irrigation system, which makes it simplistic to care for your garden.
- Some will have trellises, or will sell these as an addition to the kit. This will allow you to hang your climbing vegetables freeing up more ground space and encouraging the plants to grow rapidly.
If you decide to purchase a raised garden bed kit, do follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for assembling it. Be sure that you use any additional materials, as the kit requires. In addition, if you plan to add to the kit’s standard size, purchase a kit that allows this from.
How to Build a Raised Garden Bed
Now that you know the benefits of owning and using a raised garden bed, the next step is to build one. You can go about the process numerous ways. However, there are several steps to get done properly in order to ensure the bed is going to perform properly for you.
Location Does Matter
One of the most important things individuals need to decide before beginning to build a raised garden bed is the location. The location matters because it gives the user the ability to control the overall results of using the garden bed. Here are some tips for choosing a location.
- Ensure it gets at least eight hours of sunlight per day. If you decide to have plants that require more sunlight than this, ensure you provide a location that gives it.
- Avoid placing the raised garden bed too close to the home. You do not want drainage problems near the foundation of your home throughout this process.
- Do ensure a slight hill is created if possible. You want to ensure that excess water can easily drain from under the bed and away from it. This reduces the risk of dealing with pooling water.
- Choose a location that is flat or close to it. That will save you some digging and help you to have an even place to start overall. Remember, building on a hill works, but build with that hill on an even surface.
The right location really will make for the best raised garden beds. Do not fail in this step.
A 3 by 6 Raised Garden Bed
Supplies You’ll Need:
- Lumber of your choice (consider options above) Start with 2 by 6′s for the best results.
- A saw to cut lumber to size
- Use 3.5 inch #10 coated deck screws to hold the wood into place. You will need a total 24 in total.
- A level
- A mallet or hammer
- A screwdriver or drill
Note: You will need more wood if you decide to add cross support beams to the garden bed. If you are using at least 2 by 4 lumber, though, in a 3 by 6 framing, it is unlikely you will need to add this to your structure.
With this information selected, you can begin the process of building a raised garden bed. It pays to take the time to choose the right size right now. The average 3 by 6 foot bed is going to be large enough, generally, to support sprawling tomatoes. However, it is narrow enough that you won’t have a problem reaching into the middle from any of the sides. As for height, try to build your bed at least one to two feet tall, depending on how much soil you plan to add.
Also, consider building more than one bed rather than just one large bed. By building several smaller beds, you will have no problem rotating crops to ensure the soil’s nutrients are not depleted. At the same time, you will have no problem with bowing of the sides or getting into the middle of it. Plus, this also reduces the amount of soil you’ll need overall.
The following steps will help you to build a 3 by 6 raised garden. Make adjustments based on the specific needs you have for size.
Step 1: Find and level the area to ensure you can build a level support system here. If you do not level the ground to start, the actual structure will be uneven, which could cause the entire thing to collapse when you add soil.
Step 2: Remove any weeds or turf from the location. You want completely to remove any foreign material from the site, including grass. This means removing at least an inch of dirt across the top to remove grass, in most cases. Be sure it is level when complete.
Step 3: Outline the dimensions and layout of the raised garden bed with string or a chalk line. You will want to bury about half of the first layer of lumber into the soil just enough. This allows for proper drainage but stability.
Step 4: For added protection, you may want to lay a layer of landscape fabric down at this point. By doing this it will ensure that any grass or other remnants that develop in the soil at this point do not have the ability to grow. Ensure this material extends from the outer edge of the location you plan to build the wooden frame for total protection.
Step 5: Cut and put together the initial framing. Cut each piece of wood to the proper size, either three feet or six feet depending on the side it will be used on. You need to put two screws into each of the corners to hold them into place. Ensure that each corner is properly squared off before moving forward with the process. Complete the process to complete the initial frame.
Step 6: Place corner posts into place for stability. To add stability to the entire design, you’ll want to install corner posts. Cut these posts to be just as long as necessary to fit into the corners of the frame. Place the post into the corner as tightly as possible and then pound it into place. You’ll want it to enter into the dirt at least three to four inches. Then, screw the post into the sides of the frame for added support.
Step 7: Repeat to form another layer around the top. Cut the same length boards and place on top of the existing boards to form a second layer to add height. Be sure to screw together and connect to the corner posts. This should create a nice, tight box shape.
Step 8: Fill in and trim. The next step is to fill in the garden box with soil. Choose an organic, healthy mixture right for the type of plants you plan to put into it. This will create the ideal bed for growing. Trim off the top of the corner posts as necessary to create an even surface.
Step 9: Add a top cap railing for support and comfort. Finally, to finish off the raised garden bed build, add a cap to the top of the railing. To do this, miter lumber at 45 degrees. This will create the cap railing to fit on top. This addition gives you a place to sit while working in the bed, but it also gives you a way to get discourage insects and to keep plants protected when the weather cools.
Videos To Help You
Sometimes, seeing how to build a raised garden bed is the best way to go. The good news is that you can see a variety of different methods to building a raised garden bed through the following YouTube videos.
Building a Raised Garden Bed
Use this video if you want to build a cheap raised garden bed from scratch. You will not need a lot of product to make it work!
Learn How to Build a Hoop House to Increase Greenhouse Benefits.
Use this video to learn how to build a hoop house around your raised garden bed. This will increase the growing season.
No Tools Necessary
For those who do not want to build a raised garden bed with a lot of tools, this is the route to go. It uses a bracing system to ensure that you can build a supportive structure without having to have a full set of tools to do so.
7 Steps to Maximizing Your Raised Garden Bed’s Results
Now that you have a raised garden bed in place, what can you do to ensure you are getting big results from it? The way you use it, and even a few tips on how to handle problems along the way, can transform this simple box of dirt into a growing and packed box full of vegetables or flowers. The following seven steps and tips will help you to avoid problems, getting better results and troubleshoot as you go.
The benefits of adding garden beds can be immense. In urban settings, they can provide sustainability to the local environment, encouraging people to eat healthy and teaching kids to garden.
1. Keep Soil Loose
One of the most important things to do while maintaining your garden be is to ensure the soil within it remains loose rather than compacted. To do this, use a hoe to keep it loose so air can circulate better. Second, avoid stepping on the soil, as this compaction will reduce growing results.
2. Always Compost
If you do not have a compost bin, get one. You want to ensure that the soil is consistently getting nutrients to it and those nutrients come from decomposing matter. To create one, take a barrel and fill with only organic matter that you gather throughout your yard. You can even use only vegetable food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells (no insides) and coffee grounds. You can also add leaves from around the yard. Rotate this barrel every other day to allow the material to compost. Then, about once a month, add a few shovels of it to the soil and till in.
3. Keep Things Organic
While there are many pesticides and other chemicals you can add to your garden that will boost their overall production, be sure to keep them organic in nature. Organic pest products work just as effectively but do not add toxins to your soil. More so, they keep your food free from any type of chemical.
4. Tent It
If you want to extend the growing season, tent your raised garden bed. You can purchase greenhouse materials to build your own. Simply do so over the top of the raised garden bed. This gives you more room for increasing the length of the growing season. Depending on where you live, you could garden year round with this method.
5. Trellis Improve Growing Capacity
What you may not know is that if you use a trellis system, you can grow more of the vine plants like tomatoes, grapes and squashes with less room. As the plants grow, you can pull them up wards to extend higher in the garden box. This way, only the roots are growing in the soil. This also improves the overall quality of your foods.
6. Irrigate It All
To make watering your plants easier, install an irrigation system from the start. Buy a raised garden bed irrigation system to install. Alternatively, you can use a permeable water hose that runs throughout the bed, about half way through the soil layers. Connect this out of a hole drilled into the side of the garden bed to your garden house. Allow it to run just enough to dampen the soil.
7. Manage Pests with Care
Pest netting is an option for keeping the critters out. You may want to build a fence around the top portion of your garden bed if you have deer or other larger creatures nibbling on your plants. Another option is to use organic pest control products. You can find these products available online with ease.
In addition to this, maintain your garden bed! You’ll need to look for signs of problems, such as bowing on the sides and fix them as soon as you see them. You can add additional stakes outside of the bed if you find this to be a problem. However, if you build a squared off system that’s level, and used the proper amount of soil within it without compacting it, you will not have bowing problems.
Mistakes You Need to Avoid with Raised Garden Beds
Sometimes, even the best intentions just do not work out. If you are building raised garden beds in your backyard to grow fruits, vegetables or flowers, it is quite easy to make a few minutes that could end up costing you significantly. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll have more success.
1. Don’t Use Chemical Fertilizers. These will give your vegetables a boost, but they add toxins and kill all of the good microorganisms living in the garden’s soil. By killing those, your plants will not produce as much and will need more hands on attention from you.
2. Don’t Forget About It. Raised garden beds do require a great deal of organization and planning. Once in place, they are less likely to need wedding than traditional, at ground level gardens. However, plan to spend an hour or two a week out in your garden pruning and trimming. This will boost the overall results you get.
3. Don’t Forget to Plan. Each type of plant you put into this type of garden will need special nutrients. You can add all natural nutrients and organic product to your soils to boost the nutrient level if a plant needs it. However, don’t just plant anything here. Instead, plant what the soil is rich in or turn to supplementing with organic nutrients.
4. Don’t just any soil. Look for top quality, organic soil for your garden. There is a BIG difference between organic soils and dirt, too. Dirt contains few nutrients. You want soil that is damp when you get it, as this indicates the microorganisms are alive and doing well. Products with chemical fertilizers do not have the same consistency.
5. Stuffing It Doesn’t Help. You will get more produce and results from plants that are not overcrowded. If you want to grow a great deal, use more than one raised garden bed to make it happen. This is the only method you can use to increase the overall production. Too much will end up harming your plants’ ability to grow.
6. Don’t Get Rid of All the Pests. Did you know that earthworms and other non-plant eating pests are doing more good than harm to your garden? Worms navigate the soil and eat debris, creating more nutrients for the plant to grow in. In addition, the trails they leave behind help to aerate the soil to encourage plant rooms to do well.
A well maintained garden keeps producing. However, if you allow it to overgrow, you can count on having more work to manage.
Owning and maintaining your raised garden bed will keep it nutrient rich and producing great results for you for years to come. Keep in mind that you do have to get your hands dirty and really will need to work with your plants to get them to flourish. However, that is part of the fun of the process.