Growing your veggies in raised beds offers many benefits to the average backyard gardener. One of the most common refrains among gardeners every spring is that they can’t wait to get started. Raised beds offer the opportunity to do just that. Because raised beds are built above the ground, the soil in the bed is warmer than the soil in the ground, meaning you can get gardening earlier by growing in them. By getting started earlier, you can harvest food earlier. You can also harvest longer into the end of the season, extending the length of your growing season.
Another great benefit to raised beds is that you can customize the soil that you grow in. Once you build your frame for the bed, you will be able to add mulch, compost, topsoil, manure, and anything else that will help your garden grow. You can customize your growing medium to best suit your needs. You will also maintain better soil drainage by growing this way.
Building your soil from the bottom up means you will not have to till out rocks, roots, and other matter that inhibits healthy plant growth. You will also not be trampling on your garden, which inhibits root growth and drainage.
Raised beds are also space savers. You can grow your plants closer together for higher yields. You can also companion plant. Most plants grow better when they are planted with other, specific plants. You can perform some very easy research on the Internet or in organic gardening books to learn which plants grow well together.
The basic construction of a raised bed is simple. Decide the size you want, based on the area you have to work with and the amount of gardening you want to do. Remember not to overwhelm yourself with beds that are so big you could never find the time to take care of them. You also don’t want them so small you won’t have enough produce to satisfy your needs.
You can choose to buy pre-fab kits for your raised beds. It will make building them a little easier, but they can be very expensive. Besides, part of growing your own food is the enjoyment of doing it yourself. Everyone should learn to be as self sufficient as possible, especially during these tough economic times.
Use 2×6 or 2×8 lumber for the frame. Cedar lumber is the best choice, because it will outlast any other wood for this application. Some people use pressure treated lumber, as it lasts for years and years in the harsh weather, but doing so is not recommended for any project that has anything to do with fruits, veggies, or livestock. Though pressure treated lumber is much safer today than it was years ago, it is still chemically treated and can leach chemicals into your produce.
You can make your beds as long as you like, but it’s best not to make them more than four feet wide. Weeding, planting and general maintenance will be easier if your width isn’t too large, and your back, muscles and joints will all thank you for it. Cut the pieces of lumber to your desired size. Pre-drill your holes where you will connect them, then screw them all together. Make sure when constructing your beds that they are all level and square.
Now lay them out in the area you will use them to make sure they are level on the ground. Remove any sod, or rocks that keep it from being level. You might have to add material in areas that are lower than other areas. This part of the process is important, because you do not want any water run off in your raised bed, which will inhibit growth.
Now add your growing medium to the level you like and start planting. Six inches of soil is the ideal depth for most vegetables. If you are growing root crops, you’ll need ten inches of soil. Just add another level of lumber over the first layer, or use 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 boards. Once you have your plants in, water well. You will now be on your way to easy maintenance veggie gardening!
Shawn is a lifelong New Englander. He lives in Canton, Conn., with his wife Tami, mother, sister, and her three children. He and his wife have two grown children and two grandchildren. Shawn is an avid hunter, fisherman, and gardener. He is also a writer, a nuisance wildlife professional, small scale farmer, and scout leader. You can email him at [email protected].