Saturday, April 26, 2014

Raised Beds

Hello Happy Gardeners!

Let's talk about raised beds!
Photo Credit and tutorial HERE.

These can be easier than planting directly into the ground for several reasons.
*Make the garden bed as tall as you want for easier access.
*You can fill the bed with whatever kind of soil you want.
*Less likely for the soil to get compacted.
*Great for areas with poor soil and/or poorly drained soil.
*You can get creative with the design.
*The soil warms up faster.
*Helps to deter some pests.
*No digging/tilling needed.
*More produce per square foot.
*Less weeding needed.
*Easier to cover.

Sounds great, but they have a downside too.
*The initial cost of a raised bed can be expensive.
*They need to be watered more often.

So, it would seem that the biggest downside of a raised bed would be the cost: the initial set up and the extra water. This is a cost that is reasonable for me on my little homestead since I get more produce out of a raised bed and I have found ways to make this cost much lower.

To build a raised bed, all you need are some materials strong enough to hold soil. That can be some solid, high priced lumber. But that can also be some logs you may have laying around from a felled tree.

Perhaps some cinder blocks or scrap lumber you pieced together.

Landscaping blocks or that rock pile you couldn't quite part with because you knew it would come in handy one day.
Photo Credit HERE.

Some bricks you scavanged off a demolition site (with permission of course!)
Photo Credit HERE.

The sky is the limit! I've seen old tires used, soda bottles filled with dirt or concrete, even raised beds without sides! Though that last one will be tough to keep the soil from eroding away. There are even raised bed kits you can buy that include all the materials to build one.

Great! Now that you have your raised bed materials, how do you build it? Well, with my log raised bed, I just braced the outside similiar to how you'd chock car tires to keep them from rolling. Cinder blocks, bricks, and rocks can be stacked up like a wall. You can use mortar to make them extra sturdy. Lumber, new or scrap, can be built in many different ways. There are so many plans on the web for this. Just find the one that works best for you!

The most common dimensions of a raised bed are 8' long and 4' wide. At a 4' width, the average adult should be able to reach the middle from either side. It is very important that you are able to reach all the plants in your raised bed so that you aren't compacting the soil by stepping in it. If you have to step in it, it's too wide. Narrow that puppy down! I made this mistake last year by making my log bed 6' x 6'. That bare spot in the middle is where I couldn't reach. I made the bed longer and more narrow this year.

It's recommended for children's gardens that the beds be no wider than 3' for this reason. If you can only reach your raised bed from one side, make it 2' wide or less. You can make the bed as long as you want as long as you can reach everything from the sides. Just keep in mind that you will still need to walk around it. So a 30' long bed may get tiresome to walk around pretty quickly whereas 6' to 8' long may be more manageable.
Photo Credit HERE.

Once you have your raised bed built, you need to fill it. You can buy all sorts of soil to fill it with, similar to the pallet gardens. Personally, I like to make my own. For both my raised beds, I have used the lasagna compost method which I will cover later. You may want to put a weed barrier down first. You can buy this at most gardening centers or come up with your own. I have used newspaper, cardboard, tree bark, black plastic, paper bags, packing paper, and large sheets of craft paper. I prefer something that will break down over time, so plastic and landscaping material aren't my favorites, but use what works best for you.

Once your raised bed is full, it's ready to plant. The soil will warm up a bit faster so you can plant a bit earlier. Also you can create a temporary greenhouse over your raised bed to be able to plant even sooner or possibly year-round depending on your climate.
Photo Credit HERE.

It may also be helpful to create a vermin barrier for animals such as rabbits and squirrels or even deer.
Photo Credit HERE.
Though to add my 2 cents in, we like to trap rabbits and squirrels to get rid of them. Of course, I hate to let good meat go to waste...
Photo Credit HERE.

I hope your head is buzzing with ideas! Feel free to post pics of your own raised beds in the comments. I love to see what others have come up with!

Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen

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