Raised beds are the perfect solution for problem soils and perfect for gardening organically. Having a raised bed garden makes garden easier. There are less weeds, less bending down, better soil and they look nice in the yard.
Raised bed gardens improve soil conditions. The soil is premixed and put into a bed that is framed with wood, bricks, stone, cement block or other materials. No one ever walks on the soil to pack it down and the soil is light; just right for the roots of plants to grow and flourish. Because the beds are raised, water drains nicely and roots are never sitting in water. Then the whole bed is used to grow plants and the gardener walks around it on paths. Not only can vegetables be grown in a raised bed but also flowers and herbs.
Raised beds can be any size and any height, but it is advisable to make them small enough to reach across to tend plants and high enough for those that might have some bending problems to be able to access them easily. Crops are grown closer together in raised bed gardens and therefore, few weeds make their way into the garden. Not having to weed saves the gardener time and prevents use of chemical insecticides.
Materials For Frames.
Wood is always a good option for raised bed gardens, just keep in mind that wood does not last forever and will have to be replaced eventually. Never use treated wood of any kind and that includes railroad ties that have been treated with creosote. This toxic wood preservative can leach into the vegetables you grow in the garden.
The best type of wood to use is cypress or cedar, but you can use any type of untreated wood. Another good option is to use cement blocks stabilized into the ground with rebar. Bricks and stone mortared into a frame are another option.
It is possible to use the soil from the garden in a raised bed frame. However, if the soil is rocky or clay-like, you may want to think twice about that. Those that do have nice fertile soil can remove any sod and till down about 8 to 10 inches and add to it. Because the bed is raised, more material must be added to fill the frame and to make the soil light and fluffy.
Compost is full of nutrients for plants and probably one of the best things added to the soil in a raised bed garden. Take a soil test to see if the soil is too alkaline or to acidic. Vegetables like soil with a 6.5 to 7.0 pH level and additives can be used to bring these requirements under control.
Mix in some peat moss and dry leaves with the compost and the soil to make a rich mixture and mound it in framework. It will settle and sink in in a few days and you might even want to add more of the amended soil so it comes within a few inches of the frame.
Considerations for Problem Areas.
If the garden area tends to puddle up in a rain storm, you will have to add something to make drainage a little better. Take out the top soil and place it at the side for easy access and for mixing with other amendments. Place the frame down and place a 3 to 4 inch layer of gravel at the bottom. This gravel is a lifesaver when you live in a wet area. It helps excess water drain away from the raised bed and you will not end up with a mud pit. If your garden is located in an area where weeds are prevalent, place weed protective material under the raised bed. This can be plastic weed guard or several layers of wet newspaper.
What Can Be Grown in Raised Beds.
Anything can be grown in raised beds. Try vegetables, flowers and herbs. Vegetables that vine are easily grown up trellises that are attached to the side of the bed. Just make sure you grow them on the right side of the garden so the trellis does not shade the bed in the afternoon or morning. Try raised beds around your house for flowers. This makes it easier to take care of the flowers since you don’t have to bend down to weed and the soil makes a healthy haven for healthy plants.
Should you get a bug infestation, it is much easier to get rid of them in a raised bed because you can see the bugs easier. Vegetables and herbs also do well in raised bed gardens, in fact, they may do better. Once one crop is spent, pull the plant and replace it with another that will grow in its place. This makes raised beds much more productive. Perennials can be grown in raised bed gardens. The only problem in cold areas is that their roots are above ground surface and can freeze.
Overwintering Perennials in Raised Bed Gardens.
If you bed is tall enough, it can be insulated by mounding hay or straw or other materials around the perimeter of the garden and placing pine boughs and plastic over top. One of the best ways to insulate a raised bed garden is to put stakes in the ground about 3 inches from the side of the bed and wrap with burlap so that their is a gap from the burlap to the bed. Fill that gap with leaves straw or hay then lay pine boughs over top of the bed. This should protect perennials in the bed in cold temperatures.
Every season, be sure to add more compost and nutrients to your raised beds. They will become depleted after a while. Take a soil test and add what is needed every year.