Have you ever heard of raised beds or the ways you can use them in landscaping? We bet that they can upgrade your patio and garden easily and give you a more satisfactory feeling every time you spend time gardening.
The “Grow Your Own” vibe is getting more and more integrated with our lifestyle. Learning how to grow fruits and veggies in your garden using raised garden beds is a practical garden design solution for anyone, a novice or an expert gardener.
If you had opted for a landscaped garden with raised garden beds, you’ve got two options – either buy them or build them yourself. And making your own isn’t that hard!
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Reasons why raised garden beds are a great option
The process of making raised garden beds has many advantages. It is also known as garden boxing. Elevated flower beds are ideal for growing small plots of flowers and vegetables. They keep your garden safe from any weed and allow the soil to remain free of compaction.
Also, the process allows good drainage of water, and the beds act as a barrier against any parasites, including snails and slugs. Because the raised flowerbeds are almost 15 centimetres high, they allow the soil in your garden not to erode or be removed during heavy rains.
Here are some more reasons that make them ideal:
- The type of soil in the raised bed is dependent on the type of plants and can be different from the rest of the garden
- The higher level of the garden soil increases temperature; therefore, the growing season starts earlier and finishes later
- The management of the soil is easier by topping up with enriched topsoil of organic matter to grow healthy roots
- Rotation of flowers and plants is more straightforward with more raised beds than only one large bed
- Better drainage achieved in areas prone to flooding or heavy rain conditions
- Easier access for gardeners with mobility restrictions or back and knee pain
- Choosing a removable garden box for a raised bed offers a temporary solution if you rent the property and want to take the little veggie box with you
Things you need to know before building your raised garden bed
What factors need to be considered before starting to build a DIY raised bed? There are quite a few things to think about before getting to work. Things such as the location, the depth of the raised garden bed and also the access. If you make a good plan beforehand then your job will be so much easier.
- The location for the raised bed is essential to be in accordance with the plants you will plant and grow.
- Consider widths of not too long to avoid any accidental walking over the raised bed.
- The usual height is between 20 centimetres to 30 centimetres, the vegetable garden beds require from 30 centimetres to 45 centimetres.
- Pathways need to be accessible to anyone that is going to use them. A width of 30cm is recommended for walking. If you want to use a wheelbarrow you’re going to need around 45cm.
- The material to edge the raised bed needs to be stable, durable at least for a season and looking well with the landscape. The most suitable materials are metal strips, timbers, stones, bricks, or pallets. Some garden shops have ready-made bed kits.
How to build yours: step by step
Filling an elevated DIY bed can be a challenge. Before you start planning, you should decide what your garden bed is really for. After all, there are deeper plant roots than others. For example, your average red radish will require very little depth, while a daikon radish requires a few metres of soil.
If you have an idea of the soil depth you will go for in each planter box; you can customize your filling materials accordingly. For example, if you have a dedicated green leaf bed, your vegetable garden only needs 15 to 20 centimetres of good soil on the surface. The native soil or other materials can be used underneath to provide the volume. But someone who grows carrots or beets will want at least 45 centimetres of good soil.
And here are the steps to building the raised garden bed:
- Make a plan for the raised bed and make sure that you have a clear picture of what you need to do.
- Start by finding a levelled area in your garden and lay the boards down with their corners touching. Keep one board standing on its side and hammer two pieces of metal or wood into the ground to keep it stable on them.
- Place the rest of the boards one by one the same way until all of them are standing on their sides supported by stakes.
- Check whether all planks are the same height or not, and use a drill and screw to assemble overlapping planks.
- Prepare the soil recipe, mix them with a spade, and remove the mixture’s stones or rocks. Fill this mixture up to the edge of the bed.
You can also use the lasagna method, the sheeting one, and fill half of the bed’s bottom layer with organic materials such as shredded bark, grass mowing, or rotted manure, and spread it evenly. Then place cardboard or newspapers on this layer, and fill it with dirt.
Grow large plants in the middle of the raised planter and small plants near the edge, so they can also enjoy the full sun.
Tips for a better gardening experience
How to choose the material to suit the design of the raised bed? Raised beds are made from wood, stone, pallets, or concrete planters, rectangular or curved. What about the soil? What’s the best type of soil for your plants? Here’s what you need to take into consideration:
The floor of the raised beds must be well-draining but also have some water retention capacity. Loam soil with an appropriate mixture of sand and clay, rich in organic matter such as peat moss, compost, crushed bark, or sawdust, is suitable for this purpose. You can also take a quarter of sand, a quarter of vegetable soil, a quarter of peat or coconut peat, and a quarter of compost or manure. Mix all ingredients well before using.
Choose a levelled place that receives at least 6-7 hours of sunlight, as most vegetables require full sun. If sunlight is scarce in your garden, you can grow vegetables suitable for the shade – root vegetables and green vegetables are suitable for this purpose.
Keep the width at 12-15 metres, and avoid increasing it, otherwise weeding, mulching and harvesting will become too hard. The length can vary from 2,5 metres to 3,5 metres, while the depth is from 15 to 30 centimetres. Keep in mind that more length will require more soil, which will increase the cost and labour.
You can choose redwood or Robinia pseudoacacia that survive up to 20 years to make the bed. Cedar is another rot-resistant wood that can be used for up to 10-15 years. Teak wood is another option, or you can opt for douglas fir or colchicum, which have a lifespan of 5 to 7 years. They are also inexpensive and affordable. Some people also use pallets or other treated wood.
- Stone or concrete
As an alternative to wood, pallets or logs, the raised beds can be made from stones and concrete blocks. The raised stone beds provide a solid base and are weatherproof; that’s why they’re preferred to wooden beds. Raised cinder block beds are also a sustainable and affordable option.
How to water raised garden beds the right way?
Taking good care of plants in an elevated bed garden is essential for the success of your project. Watering the right way is crucial, as well as maintaining the raised garden bed. Mulching is also an important part that you should take care of. Use pine needles, bark, salted hay, and well-dried grass preventing water loss from the soil and protects the roots. For vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, and melons, use black plastic mulch.
The floor of an elevated bed dries out much faster than a regular garden bed, thanks to improved drainage. To check if the plants need some water, you can press your index finger into the soil until it reaches a few centimetres. If it’s dry, water it. On sunny summer days, the plants may need watering more often. According to the experts, the best choice for a vegetable garden is a drip irrigation system; plants thrive while you’re saving water in the long run.
Use an elevated bed if your current planting goals are for plants that require improved water drainage. Some plants can withstand excess water from an area that does not drain properly. But other plants do not do well with excess water; they will suffer severe damage. You should find out about the watering recommendation for each plant you buy and make sure there will be no conflict with the areas you plan to plant.
To test the amount of water that the land you have chosen will retain:
- Dig a drainage hole about 25 centimetres deep.
- Fill it with water and come back the next day to check if the water is gone.
- Fill it up again. If the water in the second drainage hole has not disappeared in 10 hours, your soil has a low saturation point. It means that when water seeps in, it stays long before it dissipates.
An option to improve drainage in your garden is to create an elevated area. It can be achieved by creating a border for a raised bed and filling it with soil and compost to raise the ground level by at least ten centimetres compared to the rest of the yard. You’ll be amazed at how much this small change will improve water drainage.
When planning to build a raised bed, your potential area is either grass or earth. To provide a better environment for roots, add soil amendments. If you try to install an elevated bed where the grass already exists, you will have a little more trouble doing so. You will have to cut the grass around the perimeter of the raised bed and turn it over. It might seem simple, but you’ll need a very sharp object to cut the turf’s edges and pass underneath. Once you’ve turned everything over, it’s best to add a layer of straw to prevent the grass from regrowing. After the straw layer, add all the soil and steering manure that a regular garden needs.
Planting in a new area shouldn’t be a big deal. It is essentially the same process as your usual planting session. Just make sure the roots don’t extend too far into the soil. Creating an elevated flower bed aims to keep the seeds out of the ground that saturates quickly. Having long roots that extend so far destroys the place.
The topsoil facilitates root development, while evaporation is prevented and decomposition discouraged. All these elements together create an ideal environment for the growth of almost all plants. So don’t be intimidated by the idea of adjusting the topography of your garden. It is a simple process, as you have surely understood, and the long-term results are worth working on.
Some extra tips
You can grow fruit, vegetables, and flowering plants in raised beds. The best vegetables to grow on flower beds are root vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and kale. You can also grow fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and flowering plants such as hemerocallis and lavender in flower beds.
Need some extra tips? Take a look at these:
- Put mulch in the soil at a depth of at least 5 to 7,5 centimetres, keeping it at least 2,5 centimetres from the plants’ stems.
- You can also use a drip or watering system to water plants from raised flowerbeds.
- Avoid pressurized woods as there is a risk of arsenic leaching into the soil, which is toxic.
You can build a 50- 60 centimetres wide path between two ends for better management. You can also keep the beds’ height up to the waist if you have a back problem. You can completely change your home’s landscaping plan because a garden leaves much more to experiment with.