You may have heard people mention that they grow their fruits, veggies and flowers in raised garden beds and wondered why on earth they would fill a box with dirt rather than just planting directly into the ground or using pretty pots. I assembled a raised bed myself this weekend so I thought I’d share some of the benefits with you and then go through my process and what I intend to use it for.
5 reasons raised beds might be the right choice for you:
1. Raised beds can be built at any height. Do you suffer from a back or knee injury? Do you find that your yard/patio gets great sunlight but that it doesn’t reach all the way to the ground because of the angle or because the sun falls behind a tree or neighboring building at just the wrong time in the afternoon? Do you have small children who want to help grow things but may accidentally trample the plants? Pets? Pets are a big one! There are endless reasons why you may want to elevate your garden and raised beds can be a simple solution.
2. Raised beds allow a tilled plot-like experience in a small space. If you have ever tried to grow vegetables before, you may be aware of the differences experienced between maintaining moisture and nutrient levels in a small container and that of a plot that is in the ground. Decorative pots can prove challenging for areas that get intense sun and/or minimal precipitation and also for people who travel frequently as they require frequent watering. On the other hand, the ground and, similarly, a raised bed have a higher capacity for holding moisture as well as critical nutrients and helpful critters. (i.e. earthworms) You can therefore build a small raised bed and get a more “in the ground” experience.
3. Raised beds will easily accommodate additional structures. If you have very little space to work with you may have considered vertical gardening. While this can be done with potted plants it is easier to install trellising and other support structures in a low raised bed. Twine is your friend!
4. Raised beds allow soil control. I love growing carrots…but carrots are fussy. If there is ANYTHING in the soil that may disrupt their growth they will be a short, twisted mess at harvest time. Raised beds allow me to ensure that the soil used for growing my carrots is very fine and free of rocks or debris. This same logic can be applied to many plants. Perhaps you have several things to grow but they require different soil types. Different pH? Sandy soil? Nitrogen rich? All of these things are easily achieved and you can divide your raised bed into sections if need be to accomplish all of the above in the same box.
5. Raised beds can be temporary. If you rent your space and will need to remove any evidence of gardening before you move on, a raised bed can be the perfect solution. This is not to say that raised beds can’t be beautiful stone landscaping structures, because they certainly can, but they do not have to be permanent.
If raised beds seem like the right choice for your gardening needs then have no fear, you can whip one up with minimal effort and limited expense. There are several commercial raised beds available for purchase but they are expensive so if you’re looking to keep this gardening thing low-cost then you may want to consider my method…
My recent raised bed project: I bought one 2″ x 12″ x 20′ board from Carter Lumber (Home Depot and Lowe’s are options as well) and had them cut it to the dimensions appropriate for my space. They cut me two 44″ and two 65″ boards. The wood was $52 and they cut it for free. I used 3″ nails to assemble a rectangle.
That’s a $60 bed (tax and nails included) rather than a $150-$300 bed kit purchased commercially. I then lined my box with ECOgardener’s 5oz Pro Landscape Fabric. (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B06W2J76W3/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) I lined the box for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I used pressure treated lumber because my bed will be on the ground. The wood should hold up much longer but it is treated with chemicals so I’m trying to minimize the exchange between the lumber and my soil. This is not fool proof and if you’re bed will be elevated off the ground then I recommend using untreated lumber. The second reason is to prevent the soil from washing out of the bottom of my raised bed. Lastly, I filled my box with soil and nutrients. I added vermiculite, bone meal, compost and manure to get things started.
What will I be growing?? This year I’ll include the following in this particular bed:
-Carrots (cold weather)
-Lettuce (cold weather)
-Radishes (cold weather)
-Pole Beans (warm weather)
-Cucumbers (warm weather)
-Sunflowers (warm weather)
In my previous post (“When do I plant these?”) I mentioned that your outdoor planting dates may be just around the corner. It is about that time here in the Mid Atlantic but only for cold weather vegetables. I’ve identified cold or warm weather for the veggies and flowers listed above. I will plant the carrots, radishes and lettuce in the raised bed later this week.
Yes, I assembled and filled my bed in less than two hours. It does not have to be elaborate, expensive or time consuming. Even the stressed out parent who is grinding their way through corporate America (or where ever) and seemingly doesn’t have time for anything can use gardening as a excuse to get outside for the afternoon and reconnect with nature. Gardening is highly therapeutic and raised beds are an ideal choice for providing loads of organic fruits and vegetables for your friends and family for countless reasons. You should give it a try, the gardening community is always here to help! Cheers, friends!