Summer is the time to be out in the garden, enjoying the
fresh air and creating something beautiful in your backyard.
Is there a simple way to create a garden that’s low
maintenance, but produces colorful, healthy plants that you can enjoy in your
backyard every day?
A raised garden bed is the answer! Create and use garden beds for flowers or
vegetables, and find out how easy and rewarding gardening can actually be.
Read on for the ultimate guide to the materials, designs, contents and benefits of raised garden beds.
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What's so great about raised garden beds?
1. Give Your Back and Knees a Rest
It's not a stretch to imagine how bad prolonged periods of traditional gardening can be on your back and other joints. All that reaching, twisting, pulling . . . bad news. Dr. Mark Mclaughlin from
Princeton Brain & Spine says that gardeners should "think high, think small" and choose a gardening environment that allows you to stand up and remain ergonomically safe. Enter the elevated garden bed.
2. Regulate the Soil in Which Your Produce Grows
No need to worry about less than
ideal soil since you can fill your raised garden bed with whatever soil you
choose. Super-sandy soil (drains too fast) or clay soil (plants don't like wet feet!) are no longer a problem. Freely add lots of organic matter to help retain moisture, aid drainage, and improve soil structure. Having soil confined to a bed
also means that you have less erosion, less compaction, and warmer
temperatures for a longer growing season. Good news for your plants!
3. Harvest More Veggies with a Longer Growing Season
A raised garden bed has 4
protective walls that shield your plants from pests, animals and other impediments
to growth. The increased sun and
circulation that plants will get in the bed allow for an extended period of
plant growth; resulting in bigger, healthier plants, flowers and vegetables. To maximize your harvest, you can also try the square foot gardening technique developed by Mel Bartholomew. This method involves dividing the bed into square foot sections then determining how many plants can fit into each square, maximizing your output in a small space.
4. Grow Fruits and Vegetables, Not Weeds
If you start off with weed-free
soil in your garden bed, the likelihood of seeing weeds is slim. Since the bed is elevated, weed barriers can
be placed between the ground and the soil in your box, preventing weeds from
infiltrating your garden. Your other option for weed defense is to place plants close together, so that weeds are crowded out when the plants fill out the bed. Fewer weeds means more fruits, vegetables and flowers in your garden!
5. Boost the Appearance of Your Yard
Raised garden beds can be a
beautiful addition to your landscape.
They’re neat and contained, and can be created from a variety of
different materials in a number of different shapes and sizes. Possible designs are only limited by your
creativity. Build a group of raised beds, add a stone path and maybe a water feature, and you'll have a beautiful garden that will become the focal point of your yard.
You can build your own raised garden bed using materials
like wood, ferrocement, concrete, brick and stone, metal, or plastic. Easier yet, the other option is to purchase a raised
garden bed kit from a garden center or gardening catalog. We recommend
Gronomics since they offer boxed kits that come with simple, tool-free instructions.
So if you're creating your own bed, how do you choose the material
that’s right for you?
Let’s explore the
Images courtesy of: http://thepioneerwoman.com/, http://www.ana-white.com/, http://www.squarefootfarmer.com/, http://www.prowoodlumber.com/
Appreciated for their natural look and clean lines, wood-based container gardens are certainly favored in the design-family. If you like the familiarity and simplicity of organic material, then this type of bed is right up your alley.
Pros: Naturally weather, rot and insect resistant which makes an ideal choice for a planter. Relatively lightweight and biodegradable.
Cons: Somewhat costly and has a relatively short life span. Be sure to use natural (untreated) wood, since treated wood can leach chemicals into
your soil. "Treated" wood contained arsenic that was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, so new approved chemicals are now used in the treatment of wood. For safety, using untreated wood in your raised bed is recommended.
Pros: Made of a blend of wood fiber and polypropylene, it is all-season durable, warp resistant and maintenance-free. Has an appealing wood-grain texture and color, and is lightweight and easy to assemble.
Cons: The hollow boards can
be easily damaged due to the lightweight construction and color fading can
occur over time.
Pros: An inexpensive option with a beige color that turns to a beautiful gray over time. Painting the wood with raw linseed oil can extend the life of your pine garden bed.
Cons: Not rot resistant, so it will most likely need to be replaced after about 5
Pros: Naturally rot and insect resistant, has a beautiful color and a long lifespan of 20+ years. It is also chemical free.
Cons: Be prepared to pay a high price tag.
Composite Cedar Pine Red
Images courtesy of: www.deck-pro.net, www.assaabloy.com, www.deck-pro.net, www.wzchutian.com
Here are some great
instructions on how to build a bed from The Pioneer Woman, and other great
Build Your Own Raised Flower/Vegetable Bed: http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeandgarden/2011/02/build-your-own-raised-flowervegetable-bed/
$10 Cedar Raised Garden Beds: http://ana-white.com/2010/05/hack-natural-rustic-c...
How to Build a Raised Garden Bed on a Slope: http://www.squarefootfarmer.com/how-to-build-a-rai...
Raised Beds: http://www.diydesignfanatic.com/2012/04/raised-bed...
How to Build a U-Shaped Raised Garden Bed: http://www.mydailyrandomness.com/p/download-drawin...
How to Build Raised Garden Bed Boxes: http://www.frugalfamilytimes.com/2013/05/how-to-bu...
Beloved for their ability to be molded in any wondrous design you can think of, ferrocement garden beds are admired in a "you reap what you sow" kind of fashion. Though a less common material, the effort put in to construct this type of bed is definitely worth the reward!
Image courtesy of https://www.milkwood.net/
Pros: Made by applying a thin layer of cement to a steel or wire frame, ferrocement is an inexpensive option that produces a very strong structure for your raised garden bed. It also is flexible, allowing you to create a wide variety of shapes for your garden. Once the structure is completed, you can paint or stain it to be whatever color you choose.
Cons: A fairly labor intensive technique. Applying the cement to
the wire does take some time and some repeated smoothing over.
Looking to get some tips on
how to start building a ferrocement raised garden bed? Here are some great blogs to help get you
How to Make Ferrocement Garden Beds: http://www.milkwood.net/2010/11/08/how-to-make-fer...
Ferrocement Grow-bed: http://theolivefarm.biz/blog/2012/10/ferrocement-g...
Ferrocement Planters: http://www.hatchetnseed.ca/fernwood-community-center/
Concrete Curvy Beds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzAOAWQb_hY
Respected for their sturdy reassurance, concrete garden beds are a pleasing creation. By knowing the structure will stay intact with minimal maintenance, gardeners can bed at ease with this simply-made bed.
Images courtesy of
www.shftblog.com, http://happyhomeypsi.blogspot.com/, http://omnivore-turned-veggie.weebly.com/
Pros: Cinder blocks can be acquired for free or at a relatively low cost and certainly may be the most economical choice. Easy to install, you can just drop the cinder blocks into place without worrying about any drilling or screwing to connect the pieces. The holes in the blocks also provide a little extra space in your bed for plants or for tools.
Cons: Not the most aesthetically pleasing.
For some tips and tricks,
here are a few articles to help you create your concrete construction.
Build your own Concrete Block Raised Beds: http://happyhomeypsi.blogspot.com/2012/03/build-yo...
How to Build a Concrete Block Raised Garden Bed: http://www.shtfblog.com/how-to-build-a-concrete-bl...
Building a Raised Planter Bed Garden: http://omnivore-turned-veggie.weebly.com/building-a-raised-planter-bed-garden.html
Brick & Stone
Highly desired for the freedom, of use of brick and stone to build your bed is popular. With a variety of different shape, color and size options to choose from, this material choice allows you to create the ultimate vision you desire.
Image courtesy of http://www.petscribbles.com/
Brick & Stone:
Pros: Lasts much longer than wood, and can look very attractive as well. Stone can also extend your growing season since it captures and holds the heat from the sun during the day, then slowly releases it into the soil at night. These materials may be free or very inexpensive if you can hunt down resources in your own neighborhood or if you know of any masons or demolition projects with leftovers.
Cons: Brick or landscape
stone can be somewhat expensive, and brick does involve some skill since mortar
These two blogs listed
below may be of assistance when building your brick or stone structure.
How to Build a Raised Garden Bed: http://www.petscribbles.com/2013/04/how-to-build-raised-garden-bed-for.html
Some Important Things to Consider Before Buying or Building a Raised Bed: http://www.gardeninginraisedbeds.com/raised-bed-ga...
Modern and trendy, metal garden beds are on the rise, while rot is not! These sturdy, yet lightweight creations are recyclable and rot-resistant and may be your perfect match!
Images courtesy of
Pros: A stronger material than other garden bed options and gives you the ability to control your soil and drainage. You don’t need to worry about garden bed rot, and metal has a cool, modern look about it.
Cons: Keep in mind that over time compounds used when the metal is
galvanized can leach into surrounding soil.
However, the by-products of corrosion aren’t likely to pose a threat to
gardener or plant health. 90 percent of zinc may be unavailable for uptake by plants depending on soil characteristics. “You will likely never get even your recommended daily allowance from your produce, much less too much,” says Eric Van Genderen, Ph. D., manager of environment and sustainability for the International Zinc Association.
If you’re in need of some
guidance or just want to learn more, view these great articles below.
How-To: Galvanized Garden Beds: http://blueberryhillcrafting.com/2013/04/24/how-to...
DIY Raised Garden Beds with Corrugated Metal: http://mycrazygoodlife.com/diy-raised-garden-beds-...
Our Riased Beds: An Easy Metal & Wood Garden Bed DIY: http://ohdeardrea.blogspot.com/2014/01/our-raised-beds-easy-metal-wood-garden.html
Notorious for their durability and easy upkeep, these beds are quite sought-after nowadays. So if you're looking for that longevity factor, plastic raised garden beds may be just what you're searching for.
Image courtesy of http://eartheasy.com/
Pros: Long lasting, durable and stable. Commonly made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic and generally have a minimum life span of 50 years, you will see long-time savings and will not need to replace the bed. This type of plastic withstands extreme temperatures and is not likely to crack or chip. Also, it will not leach any chemicals into the soil. The boards have a smooth finish and are available in a variety of different colors to suit your taste. As an added bonus, the high quality plastic is also washable and recyclable.
Cons: Somewhat expensive and heavy to carry to the garden for assembly. Unfortunately, once assembled, it
doesn’t have the same linear strength as wood so the sides may eventually bow out over time, while attempting to hold all the soil and plants inside.
out these helpful instructions on how to build, maintain and enjoy a plastic
raised garden bed.
Cedar vs. Recycled Plastic vs. Composite Raised Garden Beds: http://learn.eartheasy.com/2014/04/cedar-vs-recycled-plastic-vs-composite-raised-garden-beds/
Raised Beds from Reclaimed Recycled Plastic Lumber: http://www.instructables.com/id/Raised-Beds-from-Reclaimed-Recycled-Plastic-Lumber/
Now that you’ve chosen your material, let’s talk about
design options! When building your own
raised garden bed, your options are limitless.
Some popular choices include:
Images courtesy of www.owtdoor.com, www.thegardeninspirations.biz, www.niftyhomestead.com, www.windowbox.com, www.eartheasy.com, www.gronomics.com, www.eartheasy.com,
But, if you use your imagination, your design can be totally unique.
Here are a few blogs
to help get you started, and give you some options to choose from.
Top 28 Surprisingly Awesome Garden Bed Edging Ideas: http://www.architecturendesign.net/top-28-surprisingly-awesome-garden-bed-edging-ideas/
One of the most popular choices, square garden beds are easy
to maintain since they have such a simple layout. The square format makes it easy to plan what
to plant and where!
Image courtesy of:
Another common container shape, rectangle allows for easy
plant access from all sides. This
rectangle garden is simple, classic and allows for ideal plant spacing and
Image courtesy of www.frameitall.com
Round gardens look beautiful and can be made from a variety
of different reclaimed objects. Use
tires, wheels, barrels, containers...use your imagination here. The garden can also be built around a focal
point like a fountain, statue or other garden decor.
Image courtesy of: www.qatada.com
An active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed
holds the moisture and nutrients, which makes this design perfect for hot, dry
locations, though it will work well in just about any climate. The keyhole notch placed in the center allows
for easy accessibility to plants, as well as to the center compost. Keyhole gardens are often used for intensive
planting where plants are placed close together to maximize production.
Image courtesy of: www.monjardinenpermaculture.fr
Another popular design that allows the gardener to move
easily throughout the planting area. The u-shape offers more growing space
while requiring less lumber to build.
The result is a more efficient and cost-effective raised garden bed. Add fencing around the garden bed to make this a pest-resistant design that you'll love, but unwanted visitors will loathe!
Image courtesy of www.eartheasy.com
Bed with Trellis
This type of garden bed is ideal for gardening in a small
space. A trellis is a beautiful addition
to a raised garden and is an intelligent use of space. When you run out of space down below, you can
grow plants vertically! Growing your
plants up off the ground also allows for better air circulation and makes them
less prone to disease.
Image courtesy of: www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com
Be creative, and the options are limitless! Plastic bottles, old tires, wagons, old cars,
geometric shapes, dressers, boats, logs, instruments or other home decor items that
can be salvaged and up-cycled to create a unique garden are all possibilities. Even
something geometric can be beautiful!
Image courtesy of:
Image courtesy of www.redmilllumber.com
Want to build your own? Here's How!
4 – 2 x 6 boards @ 8 feet long. (Pine or cedar are good choices. Don’t use
pressure treated lumber.)
4 – 2 x 6 boards @ 4 feet long.
1# 3 – 3 1/2 exterior screws
1# 2 – 2 1/2 exterior screws
1 bundle 18″ – 24″ stakes
Small sledge hammer
7/64 #8 counter sink bit
1.) Gather the necessary tools and materials. Lay them out in the space you will design the garden bed.
2.) Set the first side and attach ends with large screws. Attach ends on second side
with large screws.
3.) Drive stakes in corners. Attach stakes to boards
with small screws. Drive more stakes all along the inside of the box.
4.) Square and level first side. Then do the same for the second side, making sure the entire box is level.
5.) Place landscape fabric along base of the bed.
6.) Fill with your preferred soil.
7.) Finally, sow your seeds and enjoy!
Images courtesy of www.wikihow.com
The Perfect Soil Mixture for Filling Your Raised Bed: http://www.gardeninginraisedbeds.com/raised-bed-soil-mix/the-perfect-soil-mixture-for-filling-your-raised-bed/
When choosing a soil mixture for your garden bed, you need
to consider your local climate as well as the level of soil pH that your plants
require. With a raised bed, you can
create your own ideal soil mix without worrying about amending the existing
soil. Follow the steps below before you
Remove existing vegetation and till
the soil where the raised bed will be placed.
This will aid drainage and allow plant roots to get deeper into the
Place galvanized hardware cloth
under the raised bed and on top of the native soil. The cloth should extend about a foot beyond
the outer border. This will prevent
rodents and other small animals from burrowing under the sides of your garden.
Adding an organic, slow-release,
balanced fertilizer to the soil once or twice a year is what is recommended by
most experts. Other amendments that can
be used include greensand, perlite, gypsum, alfalfa meal, dolomite lime, and
If you are direct sowing seeds in
your raised bed, you may want to layer some vermiculite and peat moss, about an
inch deep, on top of the soil mix. You
can then layer some compost on top once your seedlings have sprouted.
Be sure to leave room in your bed
for an inch or two of mulch. The mulch
should be added in the summer to counteract heat and weeds, hold moisture and
reduce nutrient loss from your soil. An
inch or two of pure compost makes an excellent mulch for your garden bed.
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Now that you have the bed constructed and filled, it's time to plant! Remember, you need to take into consideration what exactly you're attempting to grow (flowers, vegetables, etc.) and plant accordingly. Can two different plants thrive close to each other? Will tall ones create too much shade for short ones? Are wide plants going to overcrowd the area or not leave enough water or sun for surrounding plants?
Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting to plan what goes where in your garden bed.
- Plant in succession with crops that are ready for harvest within 3 months, like carrots and peas.
- Plant your vegetables in blocks to utilize your growing space most efficiently.
- Keep your soil healthy by practicing crop rotation, moving each bed over one space per year, while keeping each crop within its ideal growing environment.
- Utilize your vertical space by attaching a trellis and netting to the raised bed to support plants like beans and squash.
- A small space can yield a wide variety of
flowers and vegetables, as long as you have healthy soil, plenty of sunshine
and good drainage.
Image courtesy of http://www.enjoy-your-garden.com/
Here is a great
article from the Farmer’s Almanac on raised bed gardening in a small space.
Raised Bed Gardens and Small Plots: 5 Tips Plus Garden Plot Plan: http://www.almanac.com/content/garden-raised-beds-and-small-plots
In order to keep your flowers and veggies organized, try using a layout plan such as the one shown above. This will help you keep track of what's what, allow you to upkeep and harvest the plants easier, and will look just as organized as you feel!
Raised Garden Beds are a great option whether you are tight on space, want to add a garden area to your yard, or are just feeling creative. These gardens allow you the freedom to plant and harvest where and what you like. They also have great health benefits and provide you with amazing home-grown organic produce!