Even if a particular yard doesn’t seem suitable for gardening, there’s still an opportunity to successfully grow vegetables in it. Perhaps it has a heavy clay soil that’s hard to work. It could be that there are too many rocks in it, making it a chore to till it. Another deterrent to a garden is that the yard itself is on too steep of an angle. One good solution to any of these problems is a raised garden bed. This simple structure can provide a level area for gardening. The only thing that’s really needed is a spot in the yard that receives enough sunlight. Six hours is usually the minimum for most vegetables.
With a location selected, the next step is deciding what to use for bed construction. There are kits available. Many of them use plastic parts that aren’t very strong. They can also be expensive because of all the manufactured pieces. Building a raised garden bed from scratch can often be more affordable. It’s possible to use bricks, concrete paving blocks, or stone. This approach can be done without mortar, and it permits the gardener a lot of flexibility in the shape of the raised bed.
Another choice, probably the most popular, is lumber. This technique requires some sawing and hammering or drilling. If you go with this method, the lumber needs to be untreated cedar. Other types of wood will either rot, be too hard to work with, or contain harmful chemicals.
After deciding on the building material, a size and shape have to be determined for the bed. This is needed for preparing the surface. Whether wood or masonry are used, a four or five foot square layout is the simplest design to use. It’s easy to make the measurements, and square structures in this size range allow easy access to any spot within the frame. The actual ground preparation begins with marking out the bed’s dimensions in the yard.
Placing stakes at each corner allows a string to be looped around them. This creates an outline that’s used as a guide for removing the turf from the area. The turf is removed with a shovel by cutting it in sections. When doing this, cut out an extra inch or two beyond the string outline. Next, the ground needs to be leveled. If there is a severe incline to the property, dirt needs to be dug from the high end to achieve this. It’s helpful to aerate the exposed soil at this time. This supplies the vegetables with air to their roots later on.
The last step to preparing the ground is putting down a weed barrier and wire mesh. These two items should completely cover the area of exposed dirt. Weed seeds and roots can be hiding in the ground. A weed barrier keeps them from colonizing the raised bed. The wire mesh is used to keep gophers, voles, and other potential garden pests from tunneling underneath the bed.
Constructing the walls of the bed comes next. If it’s done with masonry, it’s important to make the walls thick enough to support the outward pressure of the soil within the bed. Interlocking landscape blocks make this easy. Bricks or stones, on the other hand, need to be staggered to create enough strength. If lumber is used, it’s important to take its thickness into account when measuring the lengths to cut. Standard lumber is one and a half inches thick. A raised bed will work best with wood planks that are ten to twelve inches wide. The wooden frame can be held together with either nails or screws. Screws provide a stronger bond.
The last step is filling the raised bed with a good soil mixture. There needs to be a blend of gardening soil, which contains the nutrients, and peat moss, which keeps the soil loose. If too much or too little peat moss is used, the soil will either become compacted or so loose that it’s unstable and won’t hold the plants upright. The exact mix of the soil can be adjusted to accommodate the particular needs of the plants. With the soil in place, the only thing left is the actual planting.