Raised Bed Gardening

by April Reinhardt
(last updated October 30, 2017)

One of the greatest pastimes, gardening can be satisfying and hugely rewarding. In order to grow plants successfully, you need adequate sunlight, good soil drainage, sufficient space, and proper soil. But what if you have clay or sandy soil, with poor drainage, making it impossible to grow plants? A practical alternative is raised bed gardening.

Also termed bio-intensive gardening, raised bed gardening was developed in 1972 at Stanford University, and was so successful that it is now used by countries who have a history of poor local nutrition. Raised bed gardening is a method of growing plants in which a frame of wood or concrete blocks is filled with dirt and enriched with organic compost of grass clippings and leaves. The framed beds are three or four feet wide, and any length, and built one foot or more above the existing ground. Planting in geometric patterns with little space between the plants creates a microenvironment, with mature plant leaves barely touching each other. The microclimate controls weed growth and preserves moisture.

You can easily build a raised garden bed at home. Start with a small bed, in location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day, then follow these steps:

  • Decide on a design and height. Make your frame any shape you want, depending on your materials and time you want to spend on the frame. The height of your garden bed can be three or four feet high, but at least one foot off the ground.
  • Walls. Erect the walls of the raised bed with concrete blocks, logs, wooden plank, railroad ties, stone, or brick. For proper drainage, use two inches of gravel under the base of the raised bed, and mortar corners of the beds for stability, if necessary. (Note: If you are going to use the bed to raise edible vegetables, don't use pressure-treated lumber or railroad ties for your walls. The chemicals can leech into the soil and into the food you are growing.)
  • Bed spacing. Your raised beds should be no more than four feet wide, with pathways between each bed wide enough for a wheelbarrow to comfortably pass through.
  • Soil. Make a soil mixture of dirt and compost, and then fill the beds to about an inch or so from the top of the bed.
  • Plant spacing. Densely plant your vegetables, leaving just enough space for mature plants to touch their leaves. Don't overcrowd your plants, but planting close together will naturally suppress weed growth.
  • Irrigation. Regularly water your raised garden beds, as they require more water than standard garden plots.

Raised garden beds are not easily movable, so make sure that you plan carefully before you build and plant. Some advantages of raised bed gardening are weed reduction, extended planting seasons, early thaw, and a solution to poor native soil.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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