Raise ’em up: It’s time you tried raised-bed gardening
10/08/2020 / By Leslie Locklear / Comments
Raise ’em up: It’s time you tried raised-bed gardening

Raised beds are above-ground structures that contain soil and are meant for growing plants. Commonly made from wood, stone, or even metal frames and enclosures, raised beds are both practical and economical.

They are often favored by gardeners working with limited space such as in urban gardens and community kitchen gardens. This is because raised beds offer a variety of benefits to gardeners. These include:

  • Fewer chances of getting invaded by weeds and other noxious plants
  • Easier to maintain
  • Better water management
  • More growing space for plants
  • Less risk of soil contamination
  • Warmer soil
  • Consistent soil pH
  • Less risk of soil compaction

While basic, box-shaped raised beds are a pretty common sight, raised beds can actually come in many different forms made from many different materials.

Read more about these raised beds below:

Built-in Raised Beds

Built-in raised beds are arguably the best option for those who live in locales where the soil isn’t suitable for planting as they aren’t dependent on local soil. Also, built-in raised beds offer protection against burrowing pests when made from appropriate materials such as stone or concrete. In addition, they also function as seating areas, giving you and your family a place where you can sit and enjoy your garden.

Sheet metal Raised Beds

This type of raised bed is good for people who want to try their hand at growing plants from, say, the Mediterranean. This is because sheet metal can easily conduct heat and can raise the soil’s internal temperature better than other materials.

Also, sheet metal is can be easily bent and hammered into different shapes. This makes the construction of unique beds with metal relatively easy.

Square Foot Raised Beds

This is the setup of choice for those who want to try polyculture gardening. This is a method that divides beds into small square sections, with each square focusing on one specific type of plant. The purpose of this method is to produce an intensively planted and highly productive kitchen garden.

Spiral Gardens

A popular permaculture technique, spiral gardens are made by piling up soil and corralling the piles in a spiral pattern with stones, bricks and wood. Spiral gardens, however, aren’t just interesting to look at, but they also dramatically increase a garden’s effective carrying capacity without taking up valuable ground space.

Hoop House Raised Beds

The next logical step in raised bed gardening, a hoop house is a plastic-covered structure similar to a greenhouse, except that it isn’t actively heated or cooled.

A hoop house allows a gardener to control and stabilize the micro-climate in his raised bed, as well as protect the plants inside it from animals, pests and sudden shifts in the weather.

Trough Gardens

If you operate a farm, or if you live in a place where farms abound, well consider yourself lucky: Old animal feeding troughs can be successfully repurposed as container gardens.

Not only are these containers structurally sound, but they are also capable of holding large volumes of soil and organic matter. The only drawback is that you have to drill enough holes in the bottom to ensure that the resulting raised bed garden is well-draining.

Cinder Block Garden

Cinder blocks are cheap and structurally stable building materials which make them perfect for those who want to try their hand at making raised beds. They’re also very easy to use: simply arrange them in any shape you want — making sure there are no gaps where soil can fall through, of course — and fill the resulting structure with compost and soil.

You can swap out the cinder blocks and use other materials such as bricks, square logs and even used rubber tires.

Milk Crate Raised Bed

The ultimate do-it-yourself gardening project, milk crate raised beds are not only cheap, but they are also very easy to set up and are very customizable. They can be easily reconfigured into a multitude of shapes and formations.

Their greatest edge, however, is their portability. Feel like your herbs are getting too much light? Just lift the crate and transfer them to a more shady and comfortable spot.

Raised beds do’s and don’ts

Planning to try your hand at making a raised bed garden of your own? Here are some important things to keep in mind before embarking on this project.

Let there be light

Plants will suffer when faced with a lack of light. To prevent this, your raised beds must be located in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Orient your beds north to south to prevent your plants from shading each other.

Space things out

When building raised beds, make sure that your finished structures are at least a foot wide, but no more than four feet across. This will make weeding, harvesting and other tasks more manageable.

The beds must also have a depth of 14 inches to ensure optimal root growth. If you are making multiple beds, space them by at least three feet for easy wheelbarrow access.

Don’t use regular wood

Despite being readily available, do not make the mistake of using regular pressure-treated lumber in your raised beds. These are often treated with chemicals to prevent them from rotting. Instead, use cedar or similar types of lumber, which contain natural oils that will prevent them from rotting.

Keep your soil rich

When it comes to soil, the type you’d want for your raised beds would have to be one that’s rich and loaded with organic matter and microorganisms. To achieve this, you can fill your beds with a mixture of 50 to 60 percent good-quality topsoil and 40 to 50 percent well-aged compost. For even more nutrients, you can add in some composted kelp and bone meal.

Don’t let your beds go thirsty

Raised beds are known for being excellent when it comes to drainage. This is great for plant health as excess water can quickly lead to problems such as root rot. However, this also means that they tend to dry out quickly, especially during the warmer months. To prevent this, make sure you stick to a rigorous watering schedule as well as mulch your beds to prevent moisture from escaping too soon.

Raised-bed gardening, when done properly, can be a very fulfilling endeavor. After all, nothing beats harvesting and cooking organic fruits and vegetables you grew on your own, right?






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