Raised Bed Gardening Everything You Need To Know

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Raised bed gardening offers many advantages, such as improved soils, a better growing season, and better soil quality. Raised beds can be created to produce more leafy greens per square meter, making them the perfect solution for any garden enthusiast. They are also a great way to protect your vegetables, herbs, and flowers from weed growth, pests, and prevent root rot.

When it comes to self-sustainability with homegrown crops, home design, or preparation for your spring, summer, or winter garden, people are searching for photos, articles, tips, and ideal ways to overcome challenges with planting to include the construction and maintenance of bed gardens. Half the battle is how you organize how you plant. If you find yourself lacking space or having trouble with bending or kneeling into the soil, a fantastic solution is to use raised bed gardens. These beds help make your garden area more organized and also make gardening easier with children allowing you to plant that seed and raise little gardeners along with your crop.

What is it?

what is gardening with raised beds

A raised planter bed garden involves using different types of material with separated bed frame structures sometimes covered with mulch and wood chips to grow flowers, herbs, and food. You can grow veggies like onions, carrots, peppers, and leafy greens or fruits such as strawberries and tomatoes (yup they are a “fruit”) to success. In these compartments, you can fill them with better combinations of soil and compost that are different from your garden creating an ideal mixture of gravel, moisture, sand, microorganisms, and aeration.

They typically can be any length or width, though they are usually at a height of one to four feet or so with enough distance between them where you can walk around them, rather than within them. This ensures that there is enough space for plant roots to extend and absorb all the nutrients and water that they need.

What Type of Raised Beds For Gardening Are Available

Since the standards only concern their shape and their shared frames, they can be made out of any building medium available, with a few specific exceptions. For a first-time gardener, it may seem intimidating to decide which material is the best. We list the most common materials below as well as their general pros and cons for your reference:

Wood

One of the most common materials used as it is the least expensive. For those who are especially ambitious and don’t mind getting their hands dirty in woodwork, its a great choice for a semi-challenging DIY project. Lumber is also a preferable choice for those who favor a traditional and natural aesthetic. If you’re interested in building your garden beds, you can consult resources such as the Old Farmer’s Almanac for more instructions.

The types you choose will determine its longevity. For instance, more expensive woods such as cedar, yew, or redwood are rot-resistant and can last one to two decades without treatment. If you choose a composite, which is created by mixing recycled chips with plastic resin, theoretically, you shouldn’t have to replace them in your lifetime. The only variety you want to avoid would be pressure-treated wood—this variety has the possibility of leaking arsenic. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care for eating arsenic.

If you want to skip all the fabrication and save time, you can find several good varieties of prefabricated wooden beds here.

Cinder Block

Essentially blocks of concrete, cinder block is another cost-effective option if you’re aiming for a contemporary look within your yard. An additional advantage to cinder block is that its readily available, cheap, and stackable, making it simple to use.

Cinder block has been shown to hold heat very well. This is a bonus for those who live in colder climates or want to grow during the winter. On the other hand, if you don’t want your flowers to collect heat, cinder block may not be what you’re looking for. Also, depending on your physical fitness, you may not be eager about the idea of stacking up cinder blocks for your garden bed as they tend to be heavier compared to other build materials. Lastly, if you plan to create them made out of cinderblock, be sure to use newer ones. Older ones tend to have an ash residue, and for small projects, such as a vegetable garden, this can be problematic.

Steel

Building steel beds used to not be an easy DIY project and you had to get the help of a local fabricator. However, times have changed and now, there are many options for steel beds. They can provide a modernist and industrial atmosphere to your garden if done correctly. Some gardening veterans suggest not to grow vegetables in plain steel beds due to rust but many of the kits out there have special coatings to prevent rust. In areas that experience bouts of dry and hot weather, steel can also burn plant roots placed too close to their border, so keep this in mind as well. A couple of good options for steel bet kits can be found here. A version with netting to keep out pests can also be found here.

Stone

Depending on the tools you have and how willing you are to put elbow grease into your DIY projects, stone is a more permanent material to use or you can buy premade beds made out of stone as well. Most gardeners who prefer stone choose it for its rustic look, and depending on how you acquire it, it can be made free as well.

The only con to stone is that if there are cracks within it, there is a chance that weeds may grow in the cracks and cause it to deteriorate faster. Despite this, the stone does last and is a great option to consider for the general homeowner.

The Benefits, Pros, and Cons

There are a few extensive benefits when it comes to raised beds. While the benefits you receive will depend on the local wildlife in your region as well as your gardening habits, we’ve compiled a list of some of the benefits:

Raised Bed Gardening Everything You Need To Know
  • Fewer Weeds

Pulling out weeds can be tedious and hard on the knees this way is much easier. They destroy your gardening plans because they steal and absorb nutrients and water, depriving important nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen from the garden you’re raising. They can also become super-spreaders and aggressive growers that take up the real estate you would probably want for something else. Additionally, a few species act as parasitic plants, sucking up nutrients by attaching to plant roots or the stem of whatever you may be growing making your garden weaker and more susceptible to pests as well as disease.

Raised garden beds provide a higher degree of protection for your plants because they are separate from the ground and are manually filled. While not 100% weed-proof, they greatly decrease them from overtaking your garden and stealing your plant’s much-needed nutrients and rainwater.

  • Better Soil Quality and Soil Health

With raised garden beds you can control soil particles and choose what kind of earth is used. For example, for many southeastern Michigan residents who live on clay soils with moderate to poor drainage, raised bed gardens offer the opportunity to grow plants that would otherwise struggle in the local soil.

Overall, you want to avoid using native “topsoil” in your garden the first five inches of the ground. This sort of earth, although rich in micro-organisms and organic matter, is not the best for gardening. We suggest investing in high-grade organic garden mixes which are essentially topsoil with added nutrients that have a more neutral pH (note: some seeds require more alkaline soil while others need more acidic soil ). Using high-quality earth promotes health without the risk of plant-crippling diseases especially when you add your compost.

If you are adventurous, you may want to try an eco-friendly method, by creating your own compost.

  • Less Erosion

Heavy rains cause soil erosion which can lead to a host of problems for gardens, including washing away nutrients from your soil, causing damage, and removing precious layers of earth. With an elevated bed, the negative impact of soil erosion is lessened. Especially in the event of rain, and there is no risk of precious garden soil being washed away along with the contents.

Additional information on preventing soil erosion.

  • Prevent Soil Compaction

Compact soil is a host to a network of organisms such as worms, which work to create arable soil and better drainage conditions. This is extremely important for your plants to stay healthy, but soil that is compacted only hinders the efforts of these useful organisms.

How do raised beds help to prevent the accumulation of compact soil? For starters, they will prevent you from walking onto the ground. Human feet can make the earth more compact, hindering the progress of worms and other useful organisms. Even if you try to step carefully in your garden, the chances of your feet hurting seedlings are also relatively high. With elevated beds, you can support the health of your garden in a more natural way creating a beneficial earth composition.

  • Extend Growing Season

Time is an essential factor for gardening is time, time spent rotating your plants, preparing your containers, and most importantly, for growth itself. Since the soil in raised gardens can collect heat faster than your traditional gardening methods, they are a good way to jumpstart your planning and planting. Particularly for those who live in areas with extreme weather, you can extend your gardening earlier or ending it later. Other benefits of extending the amount of time you have to garden are the ability to speed up your rotations and have multiple harvests.

  • Allows For Organization

Because of how you can break a box into different compartments, a raised bed can function as a way to organize your plots by dedicating specific seeds to specific raised areas or separate beds into different areas. For those who have space, raised beds also serve as a quaint border your walkways. The possibilities are only limited by the area you have, so don’t hesitate to re-arrange your raised beds when needed. If you decide to utilize raised beds then you can also maintain the distance between different sections, and separate them into arrays of unique categories.

  • Better Accessibility

One large benefit to raised beds is that they’re more accessible. You don’t have to kneel or crouch into the ground, and you can save your back some strain. For taller raised beds, you can even sit on the corners when checking for unwanted plant growth. (If you want to sit on the corner of your raised beds, be sure they are at least 12 inches or taller for a more comfortable position). Another plus is that if you or other members of your household are physically disabled, raised beds to make it easier to tend to your garden.

  • More Gardening Space

If you live in an apartment, or a small living space, a raised bed can provide room for gardening. Especially for community gardens, where traditional gardening methods such as rows aren’t practical, raised beds can create areas for a vegetable garden or growing herbs. Since everything is contained in a specific area, you can easily place the raised bed on a porch or patio.

After all, when it comes to gardening, it’s not about how much you grow or what you raise—it’s the satisfaction of seeing the efforts of your labor flourish.

  • Keep Unwanted Pests Out

If you live in an apartment, or a small living space, a raised bed can provide room for gardening. Especially for community gardens, where traditional gardening methods such as rows aren’t practical, raised beds can create areas for a vegetable garden or growing herbs. Since everything is contained in a specific area, you can easily place the raised bed on a porch or patio.

After all, when it comes to gardening, it’s not about how much you grow or what you raise—it’s the satisfaction of seeing the efforts of your labor flourish.

  • Rotate Garden Plants

A raised bed provides an opportunity for you to rotate your garden plants often, allowing for more variety in your garden and aesthetics. In addition to this, if you always wanted to raise different types of vegetables in a specific season, it’s easier to do so with a raised bed and a longer growing season. For those who want an extra nutrient boost in the soil structure of their gardens, you can also try crop rotation to reap such benefits.

  • Keep Spreaders In Check

Weeds are commonly associated with the term “spreader” in gardening, but some plants such as mint or evening primrose tend to grow aggressively. You shouldn’t be deterred from raising these plants because of their growing speed, but it can be frustrating for both amateur and experienced gardeners alike to handle them. If you utilize garden beds, you now have a tool to contain their growth. Another plus is that depending on the character of the garden you are going for, there is a certain charm to seeing aggressive growers such as hollyhock mallow spill over a raised bed’s side.

Final Thoughts...

Creating a raised garden bed for your yard or patio can be a fun and exciting project. As the weather warms up across the country, there’s no doubt that we will be seeing plenty of colorful blooms in the next several months. Gardening is more than just a hobby or lifestyle—gardening has benefits such as improving mood, relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as providing a light form of exercise. Gardening is also a great way to re-connect with nature and spend time with family members outdoors instead of in front of a television screen. We hope that by learning more about garden beds, you have more inspiration and projects for your dream garden.

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