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Building a Raised Bed Garden

Raised beds have been a gardening staple for centuries. They keep the garden area compact and efficient. They can be much easier on your back, too. A raised bed garden have their soil level higher than the ground around them. This can actually do your garden quite a few favors.

Benefits of a Raised Bed Garden

A raised bed garden can improve your drainage, increase the garden's yield, use space more efficiently and help control your pests and weeds. Not a bad start, huh?

It can make gardening much easier. You won't need to rototill every year and it is much easier to pull the few weeds that show up throughout the season. Soil won't get compacted because you won't be walking on it. This lets the water, air and roots have ideal conditions for optimum production.

Raised beds also raise the roots above any poor soil. The soil in the beds does not get compacted, which allows the roots of the plants to get both water and air in the right amounts. The soil found in raised beds will warm earlier in the spring and they will be easier to maintain.

Sizes of Raised Beds

You can make your raised bed garden as long as you want; the important thing is to keep them narrow enough to work without stepping into the bed.

Before you build one that is the entire length of your garden, however, you may want to consider making them shorter so you can easily cut over from one bed to the next. If you find yourself walking 30 feet to get around one so you can get to the next one, you'll soon tire of it.

As for depth, you can make them as shallow as 8 to 12 inches if you like. You can also make them as deep as you want. If you have problems bending over, a taller garden that you can work while sitting on a chair can be ideal.

Materials for a Raised Bed

You can build your raised garden bed from treated lumber, raised bed kits icon or even metal watering troughs if you're willing to drill drainage holes in the bottom. Metal edging is a good material if you aren't concerned about looks.

Bricks or cinder blocks are a good long term solution. Stones can also create a beautiful raised bed.

Even old tires can be cut into rubber lumber and attached together to form a raised bed. What you choose depends on your skills, your budget and what you have available.

Be sure you prepare the spot properly. Remove any vegetation that currently exists in that spot. You can lay down plastic sheeting two months before you build your beds to do this, or you can use an organic herbicide.

If you are not using weed cloth, loosen the soil in the bottom to avoid abrupt changes in soil quality. This can lead to problems with plant growth.

Location of Raised Beds

Choose a spot that gets enough sun for what you want to plant. Vegetables usually need a good amount of sun; those that do better in cooler areas like lettuce and peas can be planted in a shadier area or planted under something taller.

Make sure the site has decent drainage. While raised beds can solve some drainage problems, you don't want to build one where the ground doesn't drain very well.

You'll want to grade the location so your bed sits evenly. If you must put your raised bed over hardpacked or boggy soil, use a large container like a livestock watering trough. Drill holes in the bottom, then set the trough up on blocks or timbers to allow enough drainage.

Soil for a Raised Bed Garden

To prevent moles and other creatures from digging into your raised bed garden, lay some hardware cloth on the bottom of your garden bed. Cut it to fit around the corners.

To keep weeds from invading, line your raised bed with a weed barrier. This lets water through but keeps weeds from growing up from the bottom.

Now you're ready to add your soil. You want a soil that holds enough water to keep your plants happy but provides enough drainage so they don't drown. A sandy loam works well for most plants.

Peat moss or manure compost makes a good addition to the soil to provide needed nutrients. Soil can be purchased and delivered by the bag or by the yard. Many places give you a wide choice of soils. Choose the one you feel suits your project best.

Vegetables grow best in a mixture of topsoil, peat moss or compost and sand or perlite. Once you've filled your bed to capacity, grade the top surface so it slopes away from the center slightly so you don't get pooling in the middle. You also want to grade the soil to avoid drainage towards any nearby buildings.

Watering your Raised Beds

If you want to install irrigation to your raised beds, now is the time to do it before you plant.

Soaker hoses icon work well because they apply water to the roots of your plants instead of just wetting their leaves like sprinklers do. You can also get perforated sprinkle hoses that may work well for you.

Using hoses that moisten the soil instead of the leaves will reduce the incidence of disease on your plants. Of course, you can also water by hand if you prefer.

Watering wands can be held beneath most leaves if you like to personally be in charge of your watering.

Another option for you is the self watering raised bed icon. These are made out of polypropylene and are UV-stablized. They hold 9 cubic feet of soil and have an 8 gallon water reservoir.

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