What Is Your Vegetable Garden Style? Try Raised Bed Gardening
Using raised beds in the garden is one of my favorite ways to grow vegetables. In my old house I had a big garden area, the kind my husband liked to till with a tractor, and even though I had the space, I still set aside a row of raised beds in my garden. They allowed me to extend my growing season by several weeks in the spring and fall. I also placed one close to the kitchen door for my herb garden.
While you can spend good money on plastic or pressure treated lumber, my raised beds were made from the boards of an old deck that we tore down. They came together pretty simply with some screws and corner supports. The supplies were easy to find at any hardware store. The project was done in hours – by a somewhat crafty girl, on her own. They lasted 5 years before I needed to think about replacing them, all for a $20 investment.
What Are Raised Beds? The “raised” part means that the soil level in the bed is higher than the surrounding soil, and “bed” implies a size small enough to work without actually stepping onto the bed. The bed does not have to be enclosed or framed, but if unframed, the use of power tillers is feasible. Framing offers several other opportunities, however; and a properly maintained bed will not need tilling each year.
Here are my Top 10 Reasons to Try Raised Bed Gardening
- The soil will dry earlier and quicker in the spring. That means earlier planting!
- It is simple to add a row cover or tunnel house to a raised bed.
See links below.
- Easy care…think watering, weeding and pests, plus you don’t get as dirty
- Great for small space gardening. You can even put a raised bed garden on concrete, if you build it deep enough!
- Makes multiple growing seasons and succession planting easy.
- Build it tall or deep for people with accessibility challenges .
- If you have toxic or worn out soil, you can build on top of it and the soil amendments you make are more likely to stay put.
- You can use a different medium besides soil – see the next post, Square Foot Gardening for more ideas.
- Raised bed gardening compliments your bigger garden plan.
- You can make beds from found or recycled materials for little time or money.
Things to Consider When Planning a Raised Bed
- What materials will you use to contain your raised bed? Some people purchase kits made of plastic , others use pressure treated lumber (and others stay away from it because the chemicals may leach into your soil), and others use salvaged or found lumber. You can even use cinder blocks or stones. Some people may choose to not contain the bed at all, but instead pile soil up about four inches.
- Four feet should be the maximum width of your bed. You need to be able to comfortably reach in to harvest. The length is up to you.
- Can you walk all the way around your raised bed? Take advantage of the space and make sure you can harvest from all sides.
- If you build on a fence, place the crops that will have the longest harvest time in the back or consider a 2 foot bed width.
- If needed, place stepping stones or planks in your raised bed to help with harvest and to keep from compacting the soil.
- Think about the direction of the sun and place your beds in north / south orientation for maximal sunlight exposure. Be aware of any tall trees or building that might shade your area.
- Sprawling plants like watermelon or squash don’t like to be contained. They will get out and make it hard to walk around the garden and harvest. So plan the area carefully or learn some vertical gardening techniques.
Raised Bed Gardening Resources Around the Web
Books about Raised Bed Gardening at Amazon (affiliate link, thanks!)
Tips for Raised Bed Gardening from DIY Network
Lasagna Gardening website by Patricia Lanza
Raised Bed Gardening by Organic Gardening.com
How to Build Your Own Raised Bed Cloche – downloadable publication from OSU Extension
Other posts in the Vegetable Gardening Style Series: