Diy raised garden bed ideas
Question: My spouse just built me a new raised bed. I am so excited. It is still empty of soil. Can you propose a way to develop my own soil without having to purchase expensive bags of fertile soil at the store? My bed is 12 feet by 4 feet in size and 18 inches deep. How much soil will that take?
Answer: The cost to fill a raised bed with bagged fertile soil (planting mix) adds up quickly. The volume of soil you need is 12 feet times 4 feet times feet (length times width times depth equals volume), which comes to 72 cubic feet.
The larger bags of fertile soil stir generally are sold in to 2-cubic-feet-volume bags.
To fill your bed, you’d need 36 bags of fertile stir, which cost at least $5 to $8 per bag at most stores. You could spend $ or $ if you go this route.
Bulk soil delivery from a landscape supply put delivers fertile stir in units of cubic yards. One cubic yard is 3 times 3 times 3 feet or 27 cubic feet.
Your bed has a cubic-foot capacity, so you would need to order almost 3 cubic yards of soil. It is at least $30 dollars per yard plus a delivery price, which is cheaper than bagged soil but still a financial bite. I’d tell the quantity of bulk soil you need delivered would cost you well over a hundred bucks.
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Making your own soil is way more economical. But what you don’t pay in money, you’ll own to pay with patience.
But in return, you’ll get satisfaction and be way more earth-friendly if you develop your own soil from materials at hand.
Where to start? Well, here’s how I’ve done it. Over the years, I’ve filled several of my raised beds this way. I use a helpful of modified hugelkultur method. Hugelkultur is a German term meaning “hill culture” or “hill mound.” This method originated in Europe. It is a way of composting both woody and non-woody organic material in the bed while you grow things on top.
There is an American version of this style of garden-bed building called “lasagna gardening.”
Whatever you call it, here is how I own done it, several times. It works for me.
First, I line the bed with hardware cloth (to hold burrowing mammals out) and then with weed barrier cloth.
Next, I go to my pruning and brush piles that I own, and I take a couple of large wheelbarrows of coarser material and put that on top of the hardware cloth and weed barrier cloth-lined bed.
It fills the bed up to about 4 inches.
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Then I pile thin layers of leaves, grass clippings, straw, coffee grounds gathered from my local coffee store, excellent wormy compost, some of my native soil and some lime or dolomite sprinkled in there.
Finally, I top the bed with 2 inches of nice fine-textured fertile stir that I purchase in bags from BiMart or somewhere love that. Then I can plant.
It generally takes about two to three bags of purchased fertile stir ( cubic feet each) to cover the bed surface to a depth of 2 inches.
hugelkultur or lasagne gardening starts with a layer of twigs and then leaves, newspaper, grass clippings and other compostable items before being topped with a couple inches of store-bought soil that can be planted in even though the relax of the layers will take a year or two to completely break down.(Photo: Carol Savonen / Special to the Statesman Journal)
Proponents of hugelkultur claim that you can use cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, branches, bark or whatever other organic material you own available, as endless as you top your bed with finished fertile soil to plant your veggies or flowers.
Avoid using wood that is toxic to plant growth or human health, such as pressure-treated wood, black walnut or cedar.
The woody stuff breaks below in a year or two if you only use finer branches. I always own to remember not to dig too deep or attempt and turn the bed over the following year, as some of the rough material might still be decomposing.
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Fans of this method claim that the advantages are numerous.
The woody material is slow to break down and releases nutrients for a endless time. The decomposing material can generate some heat and warm your soil. Soil drainage and aeration is way better than using the parent soil most of us own in our yards. Since there is so much organic material, it will hold on to moisture longer and need watering less. Plus, this method is dirt cheap.
To study more about hugelkultur, see Permaculture magazine’s article: And, a few years ago, some Polk County Master Gardeners made a comic book about how to do lasagna gardening, online at
Carol Savonen is a naturalist and author.
She is an associate professor emeritus at OSU and tends a large garden in the Coast Range Hills west of Philomath with her husband and dogs.
She can be reached at [email protected] or c/o: EESC, Kerr . Bldg., OSU, Corvallis, OR
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This Vermont-made Elevated Cedar Raised Bed makes it simple for anyone to garden from their chair and on their deck.(Photo: Marketwire)
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The Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening
Raised garden beds (also called garden boxes) are grand for growing little plots of veggies and flowers.
They hold pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide excellent drainage, and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. The sides of the beds hold your valuable garden soil from eroding or washing away during heavy rains. In numerous regions, gardeners are capable to plant earlier in the season because the soil is warmer and better drained when it is above ground level. Raised beds are also ideal for square foot gardening.
Raised garden beds are available in a variety of diverse materials, or they can be made with relative ease.
By raising the soil level, raised garden beds also reduce back strain when bending over to tend the bed.
This is especially helpful for older gardeners or people with bad backs. And if the beds are built well, the gardener can sit on the edge of the bed while weeding. For some gardeners this is the biggest benefit of all.
Raised beds are not the same as garden planters. Planters are elevated containers which own bottoms to prevent the soil from falling out. Planter bottoms generally are slatted, with some type of semi-permeable cloth barrier which permits drainage.
Raised beds, however, do not own bottoms; they are open to the ground, which offers the benefit of permitting plant roots to go further into the ground for available nutrients.
Advantages of Raised Bed Gardens
The soil in raised beds is generally superior to that in row gardens in part because it never gets stepped on (much less subjected to the weight of machines) and therefore does not get compacted. Beyond that, filling beds generally becomes an chance to get high-quality soil and to fine-tune the stir of fertilizer and amendments. This is a more affordable (and therefore attractive) prospect than it might at first seem since none of these additions get wasted on or in paths: every the excellent stuff goes into the beds themselves.
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Raised garden beds are made to order for those whose native soil drains either too quickly or too slowly. The mere fact of being raised improves drainage in clay soils, but the genuine kicker is that you can stir the soil to your own specifications, creating a fine loam even where clay or sandy soil prevails.
A raised bed warms up more quickly than does the surrounding soil in spring, so its possible to plant in them earlier than in a flat bed.
The light soil improves the movement of both water and air, and roots can spread out in search of nutrients more easily than in compacted dirt. Its therefore possible to plant a raised bed more densely than one would the same quantity of space in a traditional garden, which translates into higher yields. Read our article Growing More In Less Space to study more.
Yields increase also because more of the garden can be planted than in conventional gardens.
A traditional garden laid out in narrow rows devotes over half its space to paths. Raised beds require either wide rows or enclosed beds, both of which can cut the quantity of space used by paths by a third to a half. As a result, more of the garden can actually be used to grow things, rather than to stroll around them.
Simplified Weed & Pest Control
The thick planting in a raised garden makes weeding hard, so its a excellent thing that it also crowds weeds out.
The walls of most raised beds create at least a partial block to numerous blowing seeds and to most rhizomous plants. Where aggressive weeds are a problem, raised gardens can be established on top of a layer of weed cloth, blocking roots out completely. When sequential planting and cover crops are used, ensuring that there is no bare dirt for weeds to colonize, weed problems drop off to almost nothing.
Other pests can also be more easily controlled in a raised bed.
Rodents can often be blocked-out under with metal screens, and birds from above with netting or row covers. Of course, any garden can be covered, but since raised beds are generally little and intensively planted, doing so is easier than in a large, conventional garden. Snails and slugs cant easily discover their way into raised gardens, and are more easily located and removed once they do make it.
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Even those who dont own back problems can appreciate stooping less or not at every when they garden. For those who do own back problems, (or knee problems, or any of a dozen other physical limitations) the raised bed can make the difference between gardening and not gardening. Permanent enclosed beds, built to the correct height and width (usually about two feet high and three wide) make it possible to garden from a wheelchair.
Large timbers provide room to sit below correct next to the growing space, without kneeling or squatting, saving wear and tear on knees and other joints.
Making a Raised Bed
Temporary raised beds are simply mounded ground, generally in rows two to four feet wide. Permanent beds can be built of wood, brick, concrete, metal, rock, or plastic. Even bales of straw can be pressed into service for what might be called a semi-permanent structure. Planting in pots or container gardening is similar to growing in miniature raised beds and offers numerous of the advantages of their larger cousins.
If you desire something permanent but youd rather not build your own structure, pre-fabricated raised bed kits can be bought online from a number of diverse companies.
Or, stock watering troughs made of metal or various plastics create an instant container. (Well, almost instant; it is necessary to drill holes in the bottom.)
Vegetables and flowers growing in a raised bed urban garden.
If you attempt hard enough, you can probably come up with a couple of possible disadvantages to raised beds. Fortunately, careful planning can do much to offset even these problems.
First, it can be harder to work the soil deeply in a raised bed with sides.
Digging compost or fertilizer into the top few inches of soil is a breeze, especially as the soil tends to be nice and loose to start with. But working with a shovel can be an act for a tight-rope walker, especially if the bed is over a foot high.
However, a excellent soil stir should eliminate the need for deep digging. To add nutrients, compost can be laid over the top of the bed in spring and fall; worms will do the mixing work. Slow release fertilizers can be mixed with the compost in drop or dug into the top few inches of soil in spring or between crops. Liquid fertilizers can also be applied as foliar sprays. In other words, deep digging shouldnt be necessary.
The second potential disadvantage is one you might read about here and there: raised beds supposedly require more water than the equivalent space in a ground level bed, and not only because they generally support more plants per square foot.
Few raised gardens own water-tight sides, so some evaporation occurs there. Furthermore, since the soil in raised beds is warmer than that in flat ones, evaporation rates rise again. Finally, thick planting increases water use and loss through transpiration.
All of these things are true, but it doesnt always follow that a raised bed will require more water than one at ground level. A large row-garden watered with any sprinkler system will use (and waste) more water than a raised bed with a drip hose, because the sprinkler waters paths as well as garden rows.
Even if the rows own individual drip hoses, they are probably vulnerable to a higher evaporation rate because more soil is exposed than in a densely planted raised bed.
At any rate, the genuine question is not whether a raised bed requires more water per square foot of soil, but whether it requires more per plant. If one separated the crops in a raised bed garden into individual ground level beds, the water needed to irrigate them every (even with drip hoses) would almost certainly be more than that needed to water the single raised bed they share.
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This is not to imply that water use isnt an issue: it is, and water use in raised beds can be reduced by building a tight, solid structure lined with impermeable plastic, and by using a soaker hose or similar system rather than sprinklers. Drip systems put water where its needed, near the roots, which reduces loss through evaporation.
Good watering practices also make a difference.
These include watering only in early morning or evening, only when plants really need it, and always to a depth of six to ten inches.
Some water in the top layer of soil is always lost to evaporation, while more of the water that penetrates soil deeply can actually be taken up by plants. But plants with shallow roots cannot reach it. Deep, infrequent watering (of mature plants, of course, not seedlings) helps plants develop deep, complicated root systems, which in turn lowers water use.
In order for those deep roots to develop, the soil must hold water well. A soil stir high in organic matter will retain water for several days to a week, allowing plants to draw moisture and nutrients from deep in the bed.
So even the soil stir can assist reduce how much water gets used, and wasted, in a garden bed.
The final problem with raised beds is that they own to be built. And the only answer to that one is yes, they do. But theyre worth it, and building them neednt take a huge quantity of your time or your money. The list of Other Resources at the finish of this article includes sites that give step-by-step procedures for making a specific raised bed to specific specifications, as well as sites that take a broader approach.
The relax of this article covers a number of diverse types of raised beds in some detail.
The list of resources at the finish of this sheet includes several blow-by-blow accounts of actual raised-bed building projects finish with photographs. These protest the wide variety of options available, and the range of materials and designs.
Preparing the Site
Before you start, read through the instructions under to decide which steps apply to your plan.
Remove vegetation if necessary.
Either lay below plastic sheeting preferably black as much as two months before you plan to build, or hand-weed or spray with an organic weed killer. Even hand-pulling or cutting back weeds will assist remove seeds from the site, especially in summer or fall.
Unless youre building on top of weed cloth, loosen the soil with a shovel, to facilitate mixing layers later. Mixing avoids abrupt changes in soil quality, which can interfere with plant growth.
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Any hoses or connections for irrigation parts that will run up the inside of the beds should be put in put before edging or walls are installed. Consult someone local about how deeply hoses must be buried to avoid freezing in your region. Running a hose up the middle of a planter (rather than next to the wall) will assist protect it. Leave enough slack to angle or curve it as it nears the surface of the box, so it lies horizontally when it emerges, instead of poking straight up, which would make for an awkward connection to a drip hose.
Before you bury the feeder hose, cap the open finish with a screw cap, a bit of plastic and an elastic band anything to hold dirt out.
Bury the hose under the depth to which any foundation or edging will reach, bring it up inside the perimeter of the bed, and then discover a way to hold it out of the way as you work. A plant support designed for delphiniums or possibly a tomato cage can hold the hose upright as you fill the bed later.
Building the Bed
Foundations. For brick, rock, or concrete walls more than 2 high, lay a concrete foundation 16 to 18 wide and 6 to 12 inches deep. Concrete can be poured directly into a dirt trench dug for this purpose, and should be left to cure for several days.
A piece of 3/8 rebar inserted into the wet cement so that it lies horizontally the whole length of the wall provides reinforcement as soil shifts and settles. According to the Texas A&M site (see link below), this is especially significant in clay soils. The surface should be carefully smoothed and leveled, so that the wall built on it will be stable.
Walls with concrete foundations wont need separate edging, unless you own extremely deep-rooted weeds. If you do, install edging at the bottom of the trench dug for the foundation, before pouring concrete.
For a wall that doesnt require a concrete foundation, dig a shallow trench to accommodate the bottom several inches of timbers, stones, or wood.
A trenching shovel makes a tidy, narrow cut, but leaves a curved bottom that isnt ideal for receiving squared timbers, so when you own the sides at the desired depth, sprinkle some loose dirt on the bottom and smooth it with the edge of the shovel. A square shovel leaves a flat bottom perfect for wider stones.
For a raised bed built of wood, dig deep holes at the corners to accommodate posts.
Install plastic or metal edging as a weed barrier at the perimeter, unless youre planning to use weed cloth.
Metal flashing, which comes in various widths, makes a almost impermeable barrier and can be easily bent around curves or corners. However, unlike the narrower metal edging made for the purpose, it cant be pounded into put, but must be placed in a pre-dug trench. Plastic edging works well for straight or gently curved shapes, but the curved lip on most types resists bending at a 90 degree angle. Since it is generally only 6 wide, it only deters shallow-rooted weeds.
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Lay weed cloth if youre building on top of it, overlapping adjoining edges by six inches or more.
Dirt between the edges will separate them, providing a pathway for weeds, so do your best to hold the overlap clean. Hold the cloth in put with rocks or garden staples. To prevent really pernicious weeds from emerging through the staple holes (some weeds can and will seek out holes that little and separate) cover them with duct tape. Weed cloth that will extend out beyond the edges of the bed should be fitted below into foundation trenches, so it doesnt tear when timbers or stones are lowered.
Cloth that will cover the inside walls should be weighted with stones or some loose dirt, then folded towards the middle of the bed and if necessary tied there, love a sheaf of corn, to hold it out of the way.
Watering Troughs. Since stock watering troughs come in a single, solid piece (no assembly required), they are probably the simplest containers available so simple that including them in the construction section may seem fairly strange.
However, even these containers do need a couple of prefatory steps before theyre ready to use.
First of every, since theyre designed to hold water, they wont drain, which is not a excellent thing in an outdoor garden bed. A number of large holes therefore need to be drilled in the bottom. Any standard drill fitted with a wide-bore bit suitable for drilling metal should work fine.
Brick. Wet the concrete foundation and, starting at one corner, spread mortar below the middle in a stripe about an inch thick and two feet endless.
Set the first brick at the corner, tapping it with the mortar trowel until the mortar is only half an inch thick or so. Spread mortar on one finish of the next brick and lay it about 3/8th of an inch from the first. Again, tap it into put and scrape away the excess mortar. Repeat until you own laid the first course, or row. Lay the second course so that each brick overlaps two bricks in the row under. Continue this overlapping structure until the desired height is reached.
Concrete Blocks. Walls built of conventional concrete blocks probably dont need mortar if they are only one or two courses high.
Taller ones should be laid and mortared as bricks are.
Some blocks designed for walls own projecting tabs or lips built into their backs so that they lock in put and cant be shoved forwards by the pressure of dirt behind the wall. These blocks do not require mortar. Check the specific blocks youre using, and enquire for information at the store where you purchase them.
Timbers. Landscape timbers should be laid flat, with no space between adjoining pieces. For additional stability, drill holes through the timbers at a 20 degree angle and drive rebar through them and at least twelve inches into the ground under.
Lay upper layers love bricks, so that they overlap two timbers under them, especially at the corners. The finish of one timber should never align with the finish of a timber underneath it. Again, this is especially significant at the corners. Consult the diagram above to see the correct alignment. Galvanized spikes can be used to secure each layer to the one under, but with low walls this may not be necessary.
Wooden Boards. Depending on the size of the bed, a wooden box can be constructed ahead of time and then set in put, or it can be built in situ.
Its significant to level the ground beneath the frame first. Where the edge of the wood doesnt meet the ground, ground and water can trickle out, creating an increasingly large hole at the edge of the bed.
The simplest model is a little rectangle with metal brackets screwed into the inside corners to hold the boards together. Two brackets at each corner, one set several inches above the other, will give far more stability than a single bracket. Once your box is assembled, set it in put, fill it with dirt, and youre done.
A larger bed may need to be built in put, and will be more stable if corner posts are used instead of metal brackets.
A shallow trench should be dug for the boards if they will be sunk under ground level. Posts (4x4s work well) should be buried about a foot deep, and should be as high as the wall.
Screw or nail the finish boards to the posts, then set them in put. With a board over the post-ends to protect them, use a mallet or sledge hammer to drive the posts partway below into the holes and loosened dirt youve prepared for them. Attach the lowest side boards to the posts and if necessary to each other, using a board or metal bracket on the inside of the structure.
Hammer the posts home, sinking the bottom boards to the desired height. Check that the boards are level, then build the walls up to the top of the posts.
Irrigation and Weather Protection
This is the final chance to install irrigation systems before the frames are filled. It is also the perfect time to install additions that protect against moles from under or birds from above.
To hinder moles and others who come from under, lay pre-cut wire mesh or screen (aka hardware cloth) in the bottom of the bed, cutting corners to fit around corner posts.
To hinder birds, extend the growing season, and protect crops from flying pests such as leaf miners, install supports for hoops that can be draped with row covers or bird netting.
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Water In and Water Out: Irrigation & Drainage
Efficiency becomes more and more significant as major aquifers drop to unprecedented levels and extended droughts and water shortages affect more and more cities and regions.
Even if you live where water appears to be plentiful, it is wise to plan for possible shortages or drought.
Conventional sprinklers use water inefficiently because much falls on paths and more evaporates, both in the air as it travels towards its destination, and then from leaves once it arrives. Sprinklers simply dont work in gardens with high raised beds, since the walls of the beds block the water.
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An automatic sprinkler system with spigots at soil level in the raised beds (not at ground level under them) eliminates the problems mentioned above, but leaves another one which applies to every sprinkling systems: they wet foliage, not soil, and damp foliage is vulnerable to disease and fungi, especially in humid climates.
Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative.
Drip irrigation may sound expensive or high-tech, but nothing could be simpler either to understand or to use than a soaker hose.
These porous, flexible hoses can be wound around in a confined space, but love ordinary hoses they are also somewhat stiff, so there are limits to their flexibility. It can take a bit of time to get the best arrangement for a specific bed and doing this after planting can be nightmarish. Its every too simple to knock over young, vulnerable plants. Take the time, therefore, to set hoses before planting, or at least before seedlings emerge. Read more about drip irrigation for home gardens here.
Hoses draped over a planter violate numerous peoples aesthetic standards, and those lying about on paths can journey the unwary.
To avoid these hazards, hoses that bring water from a spigot can be buried to the edge of a bed and then run up the inside of it. If every goes smoothly, the finish of the hose will be just at the level of the dirt in the bed, where its available to join to a soaker hose.
If your local soil doesnt drain well, either because its boggy or because its hardpan, youll need to compensate. One of the simplest plans is to use an enclosed container something with a bottom, such as the watering troughs mentioned above and set it on cement blocks.
In a really boggy site, though, those blocks will themselves need to be set on endless, wide timbers, which will distribute the weight of the bed over a greater surface area.
Alternatively, a trench can be dug sloping downwards from the bed to a sink some distance away. Filling the trenches with pebbles helps prevent them from silting up. For more details about building drainage trenches, see the Texas A&M sheet on Building a Raised Bed Garden (PDF).
Even soil that drains adequately should be graded to avoid problems during heavy rains. Its a well-known dictum of landscaping that every beds should slope away from structures and away from the middle of the bed.
Most experts recommend a drop of a quarter inch over each horizontal foot, which works out to about a 2 percent slope.
Containers such as barrels and large pots generally dry out faster than ground-level soil or larger raised beds, both because they own much more surface area in relation to the volume of soil they contain, and because they are so densely planted. Hand watering is always an option, but its also possible to own a drip system installed, or to build your own from kits and parts available at hardware stores.
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Yet another, more low-tech option is described by Gayla Sanders, who blogged her way to gardening fame with You Grow Girl. In both the blog and the resulting book by the same name, Sanders describes the innovative and inexpensive techniques she uses on her Toronto roof garden. One of these techniques is the Soda Pop Drip Irrigation System, which converts any large pop bottle into the helpful of watering system every plant thirsts for. You just cut off the bottom of the bottle, drill holes in the lid (carefully, with a little bit), fill the bottle, and invert it, setting it into a prepared hole.
Sanders recommends burying at least a third of the bottle, so that the water reaches the plants roots rather than merely moistening the surface soil. Every the details, with pictures, are available on her website (link above).
Height, Width, Depth
Raised beds dont own to be extremely high to be effective. Even a six-inch rise will mean warmer, less compacted soil, and a commensurate increase in soil quality and therefore in plant growth and productivity.
Its possible to increase soil depth without building the bed higher, by the technique known as double digging. This involves digging every the soil out of the planned plot below to one spade depth.
This soil is set aside. Then, you loosen the soil to the depth of one more spade-length, before returning the topsoil bit by bit and mixing the layers. This technique lightens and aerates the lower layer of the soil, in essence giving your plants a deeper layer of topsoil in which to grow.
The width of a raised bed is a matter of comfort and preference. Four feet seems to own become the recommended standard, because most people can still weed and tend plants at a two-foot reach, but not much beyond.
The whole point of a raised bed that the soil doesnt get compacted is lost once the thing becomes so large that you own to stroll every over it in order to tend it.
Gardening from a wheelchair generally requires a higher but narrower bed. Christopher Starbuck, of the University of Missouri Extension, recommends a bed two feet high and three feet wide. However, wheelchairs and wheelchair users differ significantly, so its best to consult the specific person, if thats possible.
If youre already a gardener, you know that location, location, location holds true for gardening beds as well as for houses.
Hold in mind sun, wind, water, and drainage when selecting a site.
Though a permanent raised bed garden can overcome most drainage problems, its still not ideal to build one in an area that doesnt drain well. If the soil under it is waterlogged or hard-packed, even a raised bed will own difficulty draining. However, if thats otherwise the best or the only choice, check the design section under for compensating features you can build into your plan.
Materials & Design
As should already be clear, both materials and design are widely variable.
Used railway ties are an ancient standard, but since they were often treated with creosote, they own gained a bad reputation. While it is generally a excellent law of thumb to avoid treated woods, the creosote in railway ties wears away with time, so if the ties appear dry (not slick, sticky, or oily) they are probably safe to use. If you own any doubts about these or any other wood, line the bed with a safe, impermeable material such as heavy-duty plastic (see Does Pressure-Treated Wood Belong in Your Garden?).
Ties, landscape timbers, or 4X4s can every be used in one of the simplest and most familiar designs, in which the timbers are laid on the ground and stacked to the desired height.
Cedar is a favorite for this design for the same reason that it is used for hot-tubs and saunas: water doesnt rot it.
Some designs call for rebar to be driven through the timbers into the soil, and for upper timbers to be attached to lower ones with spikes. However, numerous people stack timbers directly on the ground, laying them love bricks so that each timber overlaps two in the row under it. The dirt filler stabilizes the timbers from the inside, and a piece of rebar or two along each exterior wall, driven firmly into the dirt shut to the timbers, will stabilize them from the outside.
Another favorite design uses boards instead of timbers.
At the corners, abutting boards are attached to L-shaped metal brackets or to posts (22 and up, depending on the size of the bed). Posts provide even greater stability if they are sunk into the ground.
Wooden raised vegetable garden beds with 4 ft. wide paths.
Concrete blocks make a stable structure even without mortar, if you are only building them two or three rows high. Be certain to arrange the blocks as bricks are laid, so that each block overlaps half of two in the row under. If one block is set directly on top of the one beneath it, every bets concerning stability are off.
Retaining wall brick comes in various sizes, shapes, and colors, including curved bricks for curving walls.
These bricks make building a breeze, as theyre designed for stability without mortar.
Stone is another option, but building a stable rock wall is an art beyond the scope of this article (or its author). Flat stones are, obviously, much easier to deal with than rounded ones, and a low wall built of large flat rocks can be built by the sure beginner.
The stock watering troughs mentioned above make a prefabricated metal or plastic container. Since these troughs own bottoms, theyre especially useful for areas where weeds are rampant or water scarce. The holes you drill in the bottom will permit for drainage, but dont give much access to weeds, and the nearly-solid bottom can significantly slow water loss.
Most materials do not affect the design as endless as youre working with conventional rectangular beds, but if you desire a curved wall, boards and timbers are probably out.
However, concrete, stone, and metal all offer the possibility of curved (or semi-curved) walls.
A proficient metal-worker can make beds to specifications, whether curved or straight.
Four-foot wide beds, with paths of twenty to twenty-four inches between them, get the most growing area out of a little garden, while still leaving room to navigate.
While anyone with limited space wants to maximize planting area, its significant to resist that temptation to make paths so narrow that you own to edge below them sideways, for in the shove to limit the space wasted on paths, youll eventually reach a point of diminishing returns.
Youll know youve reached it when your paths are so narrow that your wheelbarrow wont fit below them, or you tumble into your carefully tended peppers trying to carry a pail of compost between them.
One Bed or Two?
Suppose you own a space measuring approximately thirteen feet by seven. Leaving space around the exterior for access, do you build one bed measuring four feet by ten, or two smaller beds?
If youre tall and flexible, reaching the middle of a four-foot wide bed will not be a problem.
Take away either of those advantages, though, and the beds middle becomes increasingly elusive. For our height- or flexibility-challenged client, reaching the middle of a four-foot wide bed, every below its ten-foot length, can be well, a challenge. This person might be much happier with two beds, each about four feet by four, with a path between them. This arrangement means that she (or he) can now reach the bed from every four sides.
It’s not your daddy’s potting soil!
Roots Organics® Greenfields was designed with greater water holding capacity, less perlite and pumice, and specific ingredients love fish & crab meal, worm castings, bat guano and kelp meal. It’s perfect for large containers!
Dealing with Existing Vegetation
As mentioned above, a fair number of people own laid a box made of timbers or boards on the ground, piled soil inside it, and ridden off into a happy gardeners sunset. If that ground, however, is already inhabited by an aggressive, rhizomatous grass, or by weeds such as bindweed, kudzu, or creeping bellflower, its best to kill off the existing vegetation before building the raised bed garden.
Here’s your best weapon in the War on Weeds.
AllDown® Organic Herbicide — a 20% vinegar weed killer, plus citric acid — is the product to reach for when you’re tempted to give up or resort to chemicals. OMRI Listed for use in organic production.
This can be done by covering the area with black plastic for two months, or by repeated spraying with organic herbicides. A single spraying will kill existing vegetation, but not deep tubers or extensive root systems.) Anything not killed by such treatments, which deprive plants of the foliage that feeds their roots for an entire season, will also not be killed by spraying conventional chemicals such as Roundup or D.
Building a bed on top of a excellent, tough weed barrier eliminates the need for these treatments.
While cloth prevents earthworms and other organisms from traveling freely through diverse levels of soil, it can sometimes be the best choice. To prevent weeds from growing up around the edges of the cloth, make certain it extends every the way up the sides of the container. Another option is to lay below a piece of weed cloth that extends a foot or more beyond the dimensions of the container, covering the exterior with bark or some other mulch.
An aggressive rhizomatous grass can (and probably will) migrate under a timber and up through a foot or two of dirt, and once established, it can be surprisingly hard to eradicate or remove.
A barrier (or edging) that extends below into the ground under the root zone of the grass and up the inside of the container will block such incursions.
While metal flashing is absolutely impermeable, it is also inflexible, so it can be more hard to secure flush to the wall of the container. Weed cloth, on the other hand, can be stapled or even taped to the container wall, using duct tape, or it can be extended up the sides of the box.
The governing guideline for dealing with existing vegetation is this: know what youre dealing with, and plan accordingly. In specific, be aware that some plants can invade from the side, as well as from beneath.