Home: Raised Garden Beds
Spring is here, and it’s almost time for planting our summer vegetable gardens. \Even those of us without acreage can still enjoy the fruits of summer by adding a raised garden bed in our yard. Be it a sunny backyard, side yard, or even front yard—adding a container garden or raised bed allows one the pleasure of working with plants and enjoying the growing cycle. Many home gardeners swear by the relaxing and centering effects of tending their gardens, and even though visiting the local farmer’s market can be great fun, there is nothing that beats picking and eating sweet cherry tomatoes off the vine!
Putting a raised garden bed in your yard is relatively inexpensive, and much easier than digging up an entire, similarly-sized area of your yard for cultivation. The benefits to using raised beds are numerous:
- You are guaranteed good soil, because you choose the soil/compost blend you want.
- More sun exposure warms the raised beds, giving you longer growing seasons.
- Chicken wire or a steel mesh along the bottom of the beds prevents pesky gophers from munching your roots.
- And, perhaps best of all, by raising the plants up (even a few inches), you save that much wear and tear on your spinal column as you plant, weed, and water your garden.
To make a raised bed, you can use just about any durable building substance: wood, cement, rock, brick, blocks, etc. You can even use an old bathtub or water trough, so long as you first check for drainage. You want your raised bed to keep the dirt in, but let excess water drain out. If you decide to use lumber, be sure to opt for wood that has been preserved, or at least line the bed with landscape fabric. And be sure to leave room between beds for your lawnmower or put down mulch. As for fasteners, it’s worth it to spend a few extra pennies for the galvanized wood screws.
You can make your beds any size you choose: long and narrow, square, round, tall, short, or whatever you can imagine. It is important to make them deep enough to give roots the depth they desire. Just remember that a deep bed requires more dirt, and also adds more pressure on your bed walls. You can fix this problem with cross-bracing, and it’s usually a good idea to sink some posts into the ground around your bed at intervals to help bear the outward pressure the soil exerts on the frame. (Some people like to put up seasonal covers over their beds to create a greenhouse effect.)
As for soil, I recommend a trip to the dump, also known as the Sonoma Compost Company. They have a whole section dedicated to organic soil products, including compost, mulches, and soils. Best of all, you can get a full cubic yard of amended soil for about thirty bucks. (One cubic yard will cover 27 square feet up to a foot deep.) They will load you up with a tractor-full of rich soil for less than the cost of a tank of gas. Also check with the good people at Harmony Farm Supply for information on soils and drip irrigation (and a wide variety of seedlings once you are ready to plant).
Raised bed gardening is convenient and relaxing. Best of all, when your vegetables start ripening in the fall, you’ll taste the bountiful rewards. Get ready to grow!
(Special thanks to Sasha and Scott for letting us photograph their garden beds.)
by Peter Rogers