Creating a safe-haven for plants is important for any avid gardener, regardless of how much prior experience one has with the practice of rearing plants. Raised garden beds are a great option for cultivating flowers, vegetables and herbs in one’s backyard as they provide a multitude of advantages.
Firstly, for the plants, the soil will be at its best as you will have turned the soil that the garden bed will be built over, and used compost, topsoil and other organic material like manure in order to create a nutrient rich garden bed for your chosen plants. The soil below the bed should also have been loosened before the bed is built in order to allow for better rooting. This is where raised garden beds are better to have than garden planters as those have a slatted base preventing roots from fully expanding as they need to. Secondly, raised garden beds provide greater convenience for gardeners due to their higher level. A more convenient level is provided with raised garden beds so that the labor needed for tending to one’s plants is not so straining on the back.
Another advantage for those with burrowing creatures such as moles, or even other animals such as rabbits, a raised garden bed provides added, harmless, protection. All that needs to be done is a strong mesh or a mesh grid of steel or galvanized metal should be firmly attached to the base of the garden bed as that will prevent burrowing creatures from getting into the garden bed, but will still allow roots to tendril out and into the ground below.
Here is how to build your own raised garden bed:
First – Plan
● Take a good look and align your beds to be north-south orientation to fully capitalize on sunlight. By horizontally facing south, taller plants can’t overshadow smaller ones.
● The spacing between multiple beds is important so that lawnmowers and wheelbarrows can effectively move between the beds.
● Raised garden beds can be of any size according to individual needs, but average 4 feet or 120 cm in width in order for ease of reach into the center of the raised garden bed.
● Assess the grounds you have to work with and find the flattest area where an adequate orientation can be achieved and enough space provided for between each raised garden bed.
● Outline your chosen space with string or chalk line to ensure the spacing will be adequate, then dig with vertical strokes along the outline, just deep enough to bury about half of your first layer of lumber or the initial layer of the garden bed structure you have chosen.
● If the location is boggish or regularly damp it is important to dig a bit deeper than your first layer and put down some gravel or coarse stone in order to assist with drainage.
Second – Choose materials for building the raised garden beds.
● Pre-made garden beds are available and come in a range of sizes and different materials such as fully recycled plastic to rot resistant Port Orford cedar.
● Treated wood does raise some concerns for many. Wood infused with alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) is considered safe for food crops, but lining the bed interior with landscape fabric will be enough to prevent soil contact and is still permeable by air and water – just to be extra safe.
● Cedar or redwood are still the best, most natural options for building a raised garden bed and safely treated to ensure rot and pest resistance.
● Only galvanized or stainless screws or bolts should be used.
● Avoid railroad ties – they would have been treated with creosote and are toxic.
Third – set it in the ground
● Once you have turned the soil well, set a layer of coarse stone or gravel – if needed – and make sure that the ground is level so that water will distribute evenly in the raised garden bed, the first layer of the wood or recycled plastic should be buried.
● Stakes or posts placed at the corners or midway along the walls of the raised garden bed will help with stability and in containing the pressure that will push against the walls over time.
● A cap railing can also be used in order to provide further stability to the structure of the raised garden bed. The style of the frame would dictate how this would be done, but galvanized and stainless steel are still the best options for this.
● Fill the bed with chosen topsoil, manure or fertilizer, and compost.
● Plant and enjoy!
The decisions that follow depend on what type of plants one is choosing to place in the beds and the type of irrigation system that is desirable.
A simple lightweight cover comprising of hoops and a semi-permeable material can also be formed if desired and can provide a kind of greenhouse effect to prolong warmer conditions for plants or prevent water loss. Gauze-like fabrics can be used to prevent pests and flying insect without interrupting the flow of light, fresh air and rain.