How To Construct Your Own Raised Beds – Many gardeners are not blessed with rich, tillable soil, or fertile loam that just begs for deep rooted veggies and heavy feeding flowers. In fact, in many regions, there are soil issues galore, that severely hamper or annoy gardeners until they despair of ever being able to grow delicious crops or fragrant flowers at all!
With the assistance of raised beds, gardeners in every location and climate can plant and reap the benefits of their efforts! And even if you do have fairly loamy soil conditions, raised beds can still be a gardener’s best choice, allowing greater control over exactly what your fabulous vegetables and ornamentals are growing in.
What to use?
There are many inexpensive materials available for use in constructing the sides of your raised bed. Your sides do not have to be raised very high, and a single layer in many cases is adequate. Adjust the size to your gardening preference. If you want to be able to sit while gardening, or not bend very far, you can raise the bed to a height of 2 1/2 feet, but remember, the sides will need to be very secure to avoid toppling or hazards. Keep this in mind while choosing the material to construct your raised bed garden.
WOOD: Remember to always go for nontoxic material, which means you will have to forgo using the old standby: railroad ties. There are toxic preserving chemicals in railroad ties that can and will leach poisons into your soil. A better alternative is naturally rot-resistant types of wood, such as redwood, hemlock, cedar, or oak. Now, wood siding will eventually decay, but is generally an inexpensive choice. Most garden supply centers sell what’s called cherry stone timbers, which are nicely rounded landscaping logs. You can drill holes through the ends of these logs, securing them to each other with inserted rebar, raising the bed height you desire.
MAN MADE BLOCK/CONCRETE: Cement blocks make excellent raised bed sides. The holes can even be filled with soil to accommodate more plants! Many come in varied earth tones now, so they do not look so starkly gray. You can mortar them into place if you choose to have two layers, and/or use rebar to secure them. Just make sure they will not be a hazard to children or pets if they decide to use them as a jungle jim! Bricks are also a popular choice, and provide a beautiful, finished look.
STONE: Natural stone is an excellent choice, and if purchased from a landscape rock yard, are very inexpensive. Or, you may have plenty of natural rock material in your own backyard! You can either stack the stones naturally, or mortar them in place for a more finished, yet permanent look.
PLASTICS: Many home centers now offer plastic timbers and landscaping choices. These can be very earth friendly because many are often made out of recycled plastics. Some even are made to look like weathered wood! The plastics seem to weather well and are for the most part, impervious to insect damage or rot. A good choice for longevity and low maintenance.
After the sides are up
Now it’s time to lay the soil and make the bed! Fill your raised bed with a good mix of quality potting soil, mulch or compost, sand, vermiculite and a sprinkling of a dry fertilizer. If you have healthy, native soil in your backyard, you can also include some of that into your raised bed soil mix. Just make certain that the soil is disease free. Remember as you water, that the soil level will fall slightly, so water thoroughly and let it set for a day or two before planting. After the soil has settled, bring on the veggies, flowers and plants!