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RAISED BED GARDENING

Many gardeners swear by raised beds for their ease and effectiveness. In raised beds, which are essentially large planter boxes, you are able to concentrate your energy in a small area, meaning you can work, water, weed, and fertilize as economically as possible. Additionally, raised beds . . .

  • Prevent soil compaction (you are not stepping in the beds)
  • Produce a higher yield for the area, due to better drainage and deep rooting
  • Keep a barrier between your crops and pests, such as slugs and snails, as well as weeds
  • Stop garden soil from washing away with heavy rains
  • Allow for a longer growing season, since you can work the soil more quickly in the spring in frost-hardened regions where the ground takes longer to thaw

Raised garden beds are fairly easy to construct. Here is advice on how to build a raised garden bed for your backyard:

Choosing Materials

Common pressure-treated lumber that’s sold today has been treated with chemicals to prevent moisture from rotting it. If you have reservations about using it, there are various eco-friendly alternatives, such as cedar, which contains natural oils that prevent rotting. (It’s more expensive but will last for years.) Also, choosing thicker boards can help to make the wood hold up longer. For example, 2-inch-thick locally-sourced larch should last 10 years, even without treatment. You can also use concrete blocks or bricks, but bear in mind they will increase the soil pH over time.

How to Build a Raised Bed

Materials

  • 3 boards, 2×12 inches, 8 feet long
  • 1 board, 2 x4 inches, 8 feet long
  • 28 galvanized deck screws, 2 ½ inches

Instructions

  1. Cut one of the 2×12-inch boards in half to make two 4-foot lengths; these will be the two end pieces.
  2. Cut the 2×4-inch board into one 4-foot length (for the center brace, which will prevent the sides from bowing outward when the bed is filled with soil) and four 1-foot lengths (for the corner supports). The two uncut boards will become the sides of the raised bed.
  3. Attach one of the side boards to an end board with three evenly spaced screws.
  4. Place a corner support in the right angle formed by the boards and attach it to the side board with three screws. Repeat until all four sides are attached.
  5. Position the center brace at a right angle to the side boards at their midpoints and attach.

Soil for Raised Beds

Fill the beds with a mix of 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 other organic material, such as manure, to give your plants a nutrient-rich environment. Note that the soil in a raised bed will dry out more quickly. During the spring and fall, that’s okay, but during the summer water more often and add straw, mulch, or hay on top of the soil to keep moisture from evaporating.

Plants for Raised Beds

Almost any crop can be grown in a raised bed. Vegetables are most common, but fruit and flowers are also options. Think about the growing habits of your crops and plant them where they will have room to grow and optimal sunlight. Some plants, such as cucumbers and summer squash will hang over the edge, where they might get trampled, so consider planting them toward the middle of the bed.

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