Raised Gardening Beds
Whether you’ve got an extremely alkaline pH, sandy soil that won’t hold moisture, or heavy, compacted clay that won’t drain at all, planting sites with poor soil can challenge even the most experienced gardener. But before you reach for the aluminum sulfate, consider moving your plants up a bit – by creating a raised gardening bed.
Benefits of Raised Gardening Beds
Beds constructed above the natural terrain offer many benefits. Not only do they allow you to avoid a planting site’s poor soil or insufficient drainage, raised beds improve a garden’s ergonomics; their increased height brings them up to a comfortable level that’s much easier to reach. This means less stooping when you water or weed, a benefit your back will appreciate.
Raised gardening beds are great for plants, too. You can easily incorporate organic fertilizers and amendments, increasing yield and improving plant health. Plus, raised beds help keep those perennial weeds, pesky grasses and tree roots in check, reducing the need for maintenance. Raised beds even expand the growing season; in spring, the elevated, well-drained soil warms up earlier, giving you a jump start on planting.
Types of Raised Gardening Beds
The ground or temporary raised bed is the easiest type to create. Most consist of 6- to 8-inch mounds of soil, tilled and amended with organic matter. Ground beds generally measure between 2-1/2 and 5 feet wide, depending on how much side access you need. Ground beds are appropriate for annuals, vegetables and low-growing perennials. While ground beds should last through a season, they’ll usually need to be reconstructed next year.
A more permanent solution, supported raised beds can also support larger plants, including trees and shrubs. When constructing this type of gardening bed, choose rot-resistant, untreated wood – such as cedar or redwood – or bricks, stone or concrete blocks to create supportive walls. While you can choose the width and length that works best for your garden space, note that raised beds more than three feet wide can be harder to access a single side.
Most garden plants can grow in just 6 to 12 inches of soil, but the deeper you can build the bed, the better. Till the soil underneath to loosen it, then fill the bed with high-quality topsoil. Amend with your favorite organic products and fertilizers to create a healthy, well-drained and nutrient-rich space for your plants.