A raised garden bed provides a gardening method that allows you to grow a larger, more plentiful harvest with less cost, in less space, using less water and seeds, and less work than traditional gardens. Raised garden bed gardening is a fun family project to teach children about how plants grow and eating delicious, healthy foods.
WHY RAISED BED GARDENING WORKS
Raised garden bed gardening is ideal for smaller spaces and poor soil conditions. The close plant spacing and use of quality soil will result in higher crop yield per square foot. The soil in a raised bed will not get compacted from walking on it. This allows plant roots to grow easily and water will absorb into the soil better. Spacing the plants closely will create more shade and as a result, will reduce the growth of weeds. Waist-high raised garden beds can make planting and tending plants more accessible for elderly and physically disable gardeners.
CHOOSING A LOCATION FOR YOUR RAISED GARDEN BED
Stay clear of trees and shrubs where roots and shade may interfere.
• Pick an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunshine daily.
• The area should not puddle after a heavy rain.
• The area should be close to the house for convenience.
• Areas with existing soil are not important.
6 X 6 Timbers: Concern has been raised about the safety of using treated lumber in food gardens. Pressure-treated lumber using CCA (chromated copper arsenate) as a preservative prompted this concern. CCA-treated wood was banned for residential use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and its production was phased out. Any remaining stock probably should not be used in raised beds for growing food crops. Creosote, which is used to treat railroad ties, may cause injury or death to plants that come into direct contact with it. The effect diminishes after a few years. Old, discarded ties do not injure plants. However, ties that are still oozing black, sticky creosote or have an intense smell may cause injury.
If you are uncertain about the safety of treated lumber, place a heavy plastic liner between the treated lumber and the soil used for growing plants to prevent direct contact of plant roots with the treated lumber. Be careful not to tear the plastic when tilling the bed.
Galvanized Rebar: To secure the first course of timbers to the ground. These are usually sold in 18- to 24-inch lengths. Both are long enough to secure 6×6 timbers at least a foot into the ground.
Soil Mixture: Fill your bed with a mix of topsoil, compost, and other organic matter. Avoid using ordinary garden or topsoil alone as it tends to compact and shrink away from the frames from heavy rainfalls. An ideal soil mixture would be 1 part organic matter (peat moss, compost, etc.) to 1 part sand or perlite to 2 parts soil. Perlite and sand help excess water drainage while organic matter will help keep an even moisture level.
Mulch: The soil in a raised bed will tend to dry out more quickly. During the summer months, add straw or other mulch material on top of the soil. Frequent watering will be critical with raised beds, especially in the early stages of plant growth.
EQUIPMENT NEEDEDSquare Level and Tape Measure
Drill fitted with extended spade bit
Chain Saw or Circular Saw
Dingo to move soil mixture (not required but, it sure is a lot easier and quicker method for moving your soil into your raised garden bed.)
BUILDING YOUR RAISED BED GARDEN
Never make your beds wider than your reach. Frames should be at least 6″ high and no wider than 4 feet so you can reach the center of the raised bed from either side. Beds constructed 2 to 3 feet tall can be worked without bending over or while sitting.
- Remove grass and excavate the ground to make it level.
- Lay the timbers in the trenches.
- Check timbers to make sure they are level and square at the corners.
- If you need to cut your timbers to fit, you can use a chain saw or a circular saw to cut the timber to the correct length.
- Using a drill fitted with an extended spade bit, drill holes down through the timbers every 2-3 feet.
- Set galvanized rebar in each of the holes and pound them flush with the surface of the timber.
- Fill your raised bed with soil mixture.
- Plant seeds or plants for your garden.
- Mulch the raised bed garden.
- Enjoy watching your plants grow with the whole family!