Raised bed gardens come in many different forms all of which have advantages over a garden that is tilled out of a plot of land. Here is a list of those benefits.
– The ability to keep the bed weed free or at least to a minimum helps out greatly. Weeds do nothing for your garden plants but use up water and nutrients that could be going to your plants instead.
-The potential to keep garden pests such as snails, slugs, caterpillars and beetles to a minimum is certainly a plus. Many different types of insects are always looking for fresh vegetables to chew on. Depending on the type of raised bed garden you choose to use will make the difference as to how many crawling pests you have. The further elevated off the ground the easier it is to resist garden pests.
-Helps with soil compaction and good drainage. Having an in-ground garden works okay but dirt or soil, even after it has been tilled or worked with a hoe, will have a tendency to compact again from walking on it and natural settling. Native soils are usually nutrient poor while soils and mixtures of other things you provide for a raised bed can contain the nutrients you want it to.
A raised bed garden where you can choose an organic, nutrient rich soil is going to be naturally less compacted and more aerated. This will also lead to better drainage and encourage an extensive, healthy root system. The only type of plants that like standing water are plants that grow in swamps.
All other types of plants require good drainage between waterings to allow the roots to dry out somewhat and take on oxygen. Plus it teaches the roots to dig deeper into the soil to try to find moisture.
-Dogs, cats or children that like to play in the backyard could also be a detriment to in-ground gardening.
-Taking all this into consideration a raised bed garden will produce a higher yield than an on the ground garden that has no borders.
-One more consideration is that the higher the garden is off the ground the easier it is to take care of for older people since they are less challenging to access.
On the ground raised bed garden
A raised bed garden that is in contact with the ground is called an in-ground garden and is made of landscape timbers, 1×6 cedar, cinder blocks or inter-locking stone pavers. Each of these items are relatively inexpensive easy to work with for a do-it-yourself project. These types of gardens are usually 4′ x 6′ in width and depth and roughly 6″ to 12″ tall or taller. This size gives you enough room to plant a lot of vegetables and easy access to all of them.
-If you plan on using landscape timbers the best way to attach them together is to stagger the joints and use 6″ nails or lag bolts to hold it together.
-Cedar is naturally rot and insect resistant and makes a great choice for a raised bed garden. A 1 x 6 piece of cedar is actually 5 1/2 inches wide so you could go 1, 2 or 3 rows high. There are joints sold online to put the corners together with or you can use a 1×2 or 2×2 pieces of wood and 1 1/4″ wood screws.
Cinder block or inter-locking stone pavers
Cinder block makes a great raised bed garden. They are relatively inexpensive and will not rot or break down. A cinder blocks most common size is 16″ x 8″ x 8″. A 4′ wide x 6′ deep, two rows high garden is an excellent size and will last for a very long time.
Staggering the joints and filling them with sand, soil or dirt will make a very strong foundation. Some people use potting soil to plant herbs or flowers in them to surround their garden. Another good idea is to cover the bottom of the garden with black plastic. This helps to retain moisture and to keep weeds out.
Commonly referred to as pavestones inter-locking stone pavers makes a beautiful raised bed garden. Just like cinder block they will take some work to get them even and straight but once you do it is something that will last for a very long time. As the name implies inter-locking have a lip on the lower, rear part of the paver that sits behind the paver below it to help keep it from moving thus no mortar is needed to keep them in place.
Sizes vary but they are usually about 4″h x 10″ w x 6″d. At this size, 3 or 4 rows high should give you enough depth for a good garden. Since they have a lip on the back, bottom side, which keeps the upper rows from being pushed out by the soil, the rows will slope inward as they go higher.
Elevated raised bed garden
An elevated raised bed garden, while smaller than in-ground gardens, make up for it with versatility and ease of use for backyard gardeners. They are made out of cedar, pine or composite plastic and they measure approximately 48″L x 22″D x 30″H.
While these may not have the same amount of square footage available to grow vegetables in they make up for it with ease of use and mobility. There are several excellent choices online you can choose from or you can make your own.
Each of these products I have mentioned can be painted to add more beauty to your backyard.
Once you have decided what type of material you want to use to make your raised bed garden out of the next step is to add the soil. There is no one right combination of soil product to mix together since a lot of it will depend on the climate you live in. However, there are some basic ingredients that you should be included in every raised bed garden.
-Compost is full of nutrient rich organic matter that any kind of plant needs. It is made of grass clippings, dead leaves and kitchen scraps. Making a compost pile is not hard. Just enclose an area with chicken wire and start adding your materials and wait until they breakdown into a rich usable material.
-Manure is a good source of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus which are the basic ingredients every plant needs to grow. As manure decomposes its nutrients are absorbed into the soil. It also has the ability to neutralize the PH of the surrounding soil.
-Peat moss or coco coir are both a neutral fibrous material that have the ability to hold on to nutrients. It does not compact so it leaves the soil with good drainage. The PH is slightly acidic.
-Top soil is full of organic matter and is a great amendment for your raised bed garden. There are different types of top soils sold so make sure you choose one a good quality one with no rocks or roots included.
-Perlite is a white granular material that also adds drainage to the soil. Flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs prefer a good draining soil.
Plants left standing in water for to long a time will have a tendency to develop root rot and even though plants breath in carbon dioxide through their leaves their roots need oxygen to help take in water and nutrients.
A raised bed garden inside a green house is an excellent way to grow and maintain a lot of plants throughout many different kinds of weather conditions.
After your initial investment in materials, soil and time to build it or have it built there is little else to buy besides the actual plants. A raised bed garden offers you many years of producing high quality, fresh organic produce. For a backyard gardener a raised bed garden is the best choice for growing any type of plants.
If you choose to buy a raised bed garden instead of building one here are some quality choices you can find online which I will make a few dollars on if you purchase one through this website.