This past week there has been a huge increase in phone calls regarding raised gardens. The time spent at home along with the need to be able to do something positive for our families is driving this interesting increase. There are several different kinds of raised garden beds that you can make. There are simple raised ground garden beds, supported raised gardens and containerized raise beds. You will need to choose one that best fits your needs and gardening abilities.
The first raised garden is very simple. You do not need anything more than extra soil. The simplest form of raised beds are flat-topped mounds, usually six to eight inches high. They require no materials other than additional soil. So gardeners basically need to find extra soil whether they are purchasing it from a contractor or if they are providing it from a farming friend, it is important to make sure to not choose the top soil that is right on top of the ground. Generally speaking, if topsoil is coming off of a farm field, it is better to scrape back the top 12 to 18 inches in order to keep any chemicals and such out of your garden. You can also make your own by simply excavating the soil into a mound by making a walk way between beds that is about 4-5 inches in width. This soil is mounded up and used for your raised garden. It is very important that any given raised bed is only about 2-3 feet wide so that you can reach the middle of the garden space from each side. The length is totally up to you on how long you want it to be. The mound should be at least 8 inches tall and taper the sides down about 45 degrees. The garden should be left alone for at least a week in order to let it settle before planting.
These types of gardens are sensitive to compacting so gardeners will need to make sure not to step into the garden when working on it or planting/harvesting from it. Gardeners will need to keep up the sides of the garden throughout the growing season. These are also easy to maintain from year to year as all a gardener needs to do is add compost in the fall each year after harvest has concluded.
Supported raised gardens are also an easy to do project. It is a good idea to stay away from treated wood for any garden plot. Generally speaking, the best lumber to use can be cedar which is naturally rot resistant. Lumber that has been treated with other chemicals can leach out into the soil and be taken up by the plants that you are raising. To make a wooden frame, cut pieces of 2” x 6″ untreated rot resistant lumber like cedar. It is a good idea to try and not use plastic under supported raised gardens and instead use a more natural barrier for weeds such as smaller rocks like pea rock or even sand. And here too, remember to not make the beds so wide that you cannot reach the middle of the garden beds. Give the garden about a week to settle after getting your soil added into the garden and you will be ready to go. These gardens tend to sit right on the ground and so are easy to move if the place you have chosen doesn’t work for you in the future.
You can go higher with your raised beds. It will depend on what you want to do with the raised bed. If you have back problems or have family that are using a wheelchair, a higher raised bed might be a better choice. There are a couple of ways you can make these types of beds. The first is to make a stand for a raised bed and actually lift it up off the ground. Another method, and probably more popular is to raise the bed to 27″ which gets you about wheelchair height. You can even add a small bench to sit alongside so you can weed or plant without having to stand the whole time while working.
According to the U of M Extension, “To make a planter 27” high, place one 2” x 4″ and three 2” x 8″ boards horizontally, with 2” x 4″ boards vertically for reinforcement, especially at the corners. Build the sides first, again turning the boards “heartwood in.” Use decking screws to attach the vertical reinforcing boards and to join the corners. You can make a sitting ledge by attaching a 1” x 4″ board flat on top of the frame, extending it over the sides.” In these types of gardens, it will be up to the gardener to decide if you are going to fill the whole thing with soil or if you are going to try and use materials about half way up such as pea rock or even pop cans, so you don’t have to use so much soil. Each year, the gardener will have to refill the garden bed as it settles. Remember that all raised gardens need a little extra water compared to a ground garden. Go to this website for more information, https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/raised-bed-gardens#supported-raised-beds-881261
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