How to build a raised bed garden

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Raised beds are gardens built on top of an existing surface. They benefit gardeners in several ways. Growing in raised beds is an effective solution to deal with poor soil conditions. Raised beds allow gardeners to grow food, flowers and herbs in unconventional places like rooftops and patios. Gardeners with limited time and mobility find raised beds are more accessible and require less maintenance than traditional gardens.

Benefits of raised beds

Improved drainage. If your soil is clay-heavy or super-sandy, adding raised beds to your backyard will instantly solve drainage problems.

Deal with nutrient deficiencies. Soil with extreme nutrient deficiencies can take several seasons to get in shape. Raised beds are a quick fix.

Cope with contamination. Biological remediation of contaminated soil requires a long period of time. Excavation of contaminated soil and purchasing clean fill soil is effective but expensive. Using safe gardening practices and raised beds is a timely and affordable way to cope with contaminated soil.

Revitalize city spaces. Raised beds can be built on top of pavement. Urban gardeners can reclaim vacant lots and turn them into beautiful raised bed gardens.

No rototiller required. No need to purchase, operate or store heavy equipment. Hand tools are all you need to cultivate a raised bed garden.

Time management. Build raised beds to a size and scale that fits your lifestyle.

Mobility. Individuals with reduced mobility can access raised bed gardens with greater ease. The assisted living complex in my hometown has waist-high raised bed gardens. Residents in wheelchairs pull up and park; individuals who have difficulty kneeling or standing can sit in a chair and tend plants.

How to build a raised bed

Building a raised bed is easy and inexpensive. The following project is for a 2×4-foot raised bed made from pressure treated wood. You can modify dimensions of the raised bed to fit your space. It is recommended not to exceed 4 feet width for ease of access. Remember to leave aisle space between beds.

Materials

  • (1) 12 ft long 2×8-inch pressure treated lumber
  • (12) 3 in deck screws
  • Saw
  • Drill with bit to match screws
  • Planter fabric*
  • Potting medium

Directions

  1. Cut lumber into (2) 4-foot lengths and (2) 2-foot lengths
  2. Bring (1) 4-foot and (1) 2-foot length together to make a 90-degree angle.
  3. Use a drill to secure with 3 screws.
  4. Repeat to create the frame.
  5. Place the raised bed in its permanent location. Line with planter fabric and fill with potting medium.

*Planter fabric serves as a barrier and safeguard against ground soil contamination. Fabric helps keep potting medium contained when raised beds are set on pavement or other smooth surfaces. It’s optional in backyard settings, where soil contamination and pavement aren’t concerns.

How to care for a raised bed garden

Raised beds are permanent structures. Locate them in a sunny spot that will provide plants with six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Nearness to a water source is critical. Raised beds require more frequent watering.

Plants in raised beds cannot access nutrients from the ground. As a result, they need multiple applications of fertilizer a year. Purchase synthetic or organic fertilizer at the local garden center. Compost is a great way to boost the level of organic matter in your raised beds. Add a half inch of compost in spring to prepare your beds for planting, and another half inch of compost at end-of-season garden clean-up.

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