For many of us, gardening is a way to get our hands in the Earth. It helps us connect with that vital element that helps sustain life and can help us to literally feel grounded in our lives. For the true die hard green thumb crowd, nothing but Mother Earth will do. But, if you are new to gardening or have a specific place you would like to grow some type of herb garden, but don’t have the right soil condition, a raised planting bed is a great option. As the name implies, these are nothing but boxes or plots of soil that are some height above ground level. They are filled with a mixture of soil and function the same as any garden plot.
However, there are other benefits of a raised bed. For example, you can garden at waist height. This can make it much easier on your body. Instead of having to get down on your knees and stress your back as you reach out to garden, with a raised bed, you can either sit on the edge of the bed or bend slightly at your knees to reach your crops. Another option is that you can control the watering with a drip system or by hand. Many plots that are in the ground will be subjected to flooding or other issues that are out of your control.
A raised bed can grow just as bountiful a crop as any grown in the ground. The types of vegetables, flowers or herbs that you are able to grow is not limited by having a raised bed. The only concern you might have is with larger vegetables or fruits like watermelons or pumpkins. These could still grow in a raised bed, but they will occupy a lot
more of the space. In doing this, they may crowed out some of your other plants. You would be better off growing these in the ground. Much like how a patio garden can be considered a ‘container garden’ you might say the same thing about a raised bed type. Meaning, you could eventually just dismantle your raised bed and move it or take it apart if you ever decide to remove it. You might even want to transplant your plants and herbs into pots, take down your bed and take your garden with you to your new home if you ever moved – not likely, but it is possible.
Most raised garden beds are constructed of wood. The size of the bed is really up to you, but you want to build it a size that you think you can manage comfortably. You don’t want to be reaching too far to get to your plants, so having one that is a manageable size is the key point. The depth of the bed or height if you will shouldn’t be so tall that it is unsafe if it ever was to spill out, but deep enough for the roots to get adequate nutrition from your bed itself.
So, a depth of 16-18” is a good depth. You could make it 24” high, but the soil depth only needs to really be about 12-16” for your plants. The width of your box could be 4’ to allow for easy access from both sides. Then, the length is really up to you. A 4’ x 8’ bed is a good size to grow most any vegetables. You could also go for two 4’ x 4’ beds to accomplish the same growing area, but with less overlap of plants. This way, you could grow specific types of vegetables in one and a different type in the other. Again, this is really just an issue of personal preference once you decide what you want to grow.
Materials to Use For Building Your Raised Planting Bed
As described, wood is the most material to use. You might consider using cement blocks like what is used for fences. However, the material in these blocks can leach out over time and alter the pH balance in your soil. Also, you will not want to use pressure-treated lumber as you will be consuming the foods you grow here. Pressure-treated woods have chemicals that you would not want to consume and are not safe for consumption anyway. The same is true of railroad ties or old telephone poles. These are treated with some highly toxic substances and should be avoided. Wood choices like cedar and redwood make excellent beds. Not only are they safe for your garden, but they weather the elements quite gracefully, adding another dimension to your outdoor patio space. So, grab your tools off your potting bench and get to work growing in your new raised planting beds this weekend.