Why would you ever construct raised bed gardens when you have perfectly usable soil right under your own feet? Well, good question. While you don't need to have an elevated garden bed to grow vegetables and herbs, it will significantly improve many aspects of your garden experience at home. For gardeners who have a poor or less than ideal soil level (rocky, clay or sandy), building a raised garden bed and filling it with a higher quality soil gives your plants a better environment in which to thrive.
In particular, popular root vegetables and food crops like carrots and potatoes love the high-quality, rich soil of raised beds or a planter box. With good drainage for vegetables and better soil, having a garden above ground will allow water to be absorbed without the ground staying soggy, leaving your vegetables happy.
Furthermore, if it is difficult or an unwelcome idea for you to bend over to weed and tend your plants for hours, bed gardening is a great alternative for you. How high you raise the garden box can depend on your preferred height for working. Additionally, raised beds are an easy way to deal with pest control by protecting the plant roots from burrowing bunnies and the like.
With bed sides that can be anywhere from 6" to 3' high, gardeners with mobility issues will be able to comfortably care for even the most demanding vegetables. Last, but not least, constructing a raised bed garden is not a difficult task. With a little patience and know-how, you can have a brand new garden.
Convinced that raised be gardening is for you? Here are the three key points to remember when building your own raised garden bed.
1. Choose a sunny, level space
Sure, you can construct a garden on an uneven surface, but why would you when it's so much easier and less expensive to do so when the ground is level? However, if you have no choice in the matter, you will need to build your gardens in a retaining wall fashion with tiers that create smaller, even beds.
Additionally, look for spots that get 6-8 hours of sun. Be mindful, however, if you live in a hot, Southern climate. Construct your beds somewhere where it is partially shaded, your plants will get enough light under a Southern sun!
2. Select your construction material
Once you've determined where the bed will go, then you will need to decide what you're going to build it out of. Good materials to select from are wood, mortared stone, cinderblock or rolled steel. If you're going the wood route, cedar raised garden bed are excellent choices for a beginner garden bed DIY project.
While your choice of material will be mostly determined by personal aesthetics, there are a few considerations to keep in mind as well. Generally, mortared stone and rolled steel will be the most expensive materials. Also, rolled steel (unless you know how to weld) will take your DIY home project into an undertaking that requires professional help.
Wood, whether pressure-treated wood or untreated wood, and cinderblock gardens, on the other hand, are ideal materials for the handy homeowner to use. Redwood and red cedar are popular for garden beds, as rot-resistant cedar helps keep the plants fresh during draining.
If you're the handy type and looking to take this DIY project to the next level, you can purchase a naturally rot-resistant wood starter kit. Found in the lawn & garden department of most home and outdoor living stores, these kits make putting together a raised garden bed so easy.
3. Determine the size of your bed
Raised beds are the most functional when constructed in 4-foot widths. You can make their length whatever you desire (6-foot bed, 8-foot bed, 10-foot bed or longer), but having a 4-foot width allows you to easily weed, water, and harvest your vegetable garden from either side without having to climb into the bed and compact the soil.
Of course, you can build the beds as high as you'd like. You can even make it so that you are able to sit on the edge while you garden. Bear in mind, however, the higher the bed, the more materials you will use and the more expensive your project will become.
So there you go. With three easy steps, minimal money, and not too much labor, you can have better access to healthier crops.