Building raised-bed gardens is a project suitable for experts and novices alike who are serious about growing high-quality vegetables, fruits, and herbs. One major reason serious gardeners use raised beds is because they allow you to bypass all the hardships that come with planting in ground soil in regular yards. Soil is tricky because there are so many factors that can change the properties of soil, meaning that in many cases only some kinds of plants will grow or no plants will grow. The best solution to produce the heartiest gardens with the most abundant harvest is through raised-bed gardens. This way, the gardener can control what goes into the soil so that they can be sure what will come out of it.
Raised garden beds are also more attractive than regular gardens. Making regular gardens requires you to plow up sections of your yard, and not only is that difficult to do, but it trashes your grass. Besides ripping up your yard, a lot of people don’t own their own rototiller, so they have to go out and rent one before they can start any sort of ground garden. After plowing the garden, you have to go through and make the garden ready to receive seeds or sprouts. This is hours of hands and knees work making the soil soft and clot free so that the seeds and sprouts have the best chance of growing. You’re still not finished though – even when the soil is nice and soft – because now you have to make sure that the soil has enough nutrients to actually make the plants grow. This means buying fertilizer and mixing it into the soil, which is more backbreaking labor and hands and knees work. You can cut out a lot of this process however, if you simply make raised-bed gardens.
In addition, raised beds make the growing season last longer because the plants are individually treated with just the right formula of soil and nutrients to make them grow to their maximum potential. Because the beds are manmade and designed to grow specific plants, they can be planted more closely together, which isn’t possible to do in ground gardens. The closeness of the plants actually squeezes out weeds in a raised bed, unlike plants sown too closely together in a ground bed, which only stunts the growth of the plants and breeds weeds.
Setting Up Raised Beds
Before any beds are laid and seeds are sown, you have to find the best place to build raised-bed gardens. You need places with sunlight for at least eight hours a day, especially for herbs or tomatoes. Another thing to think about is the shape of the ground. It’s probably not the best idea to set your beds on the side of a hill, no matter how much sun that hillside might get. This is because the water won’t properly drain and one side of your raised bed will always be more watered than the other side. Because the beds are above the ground, water will drain through the soil differently than it will in a normal ground garden.
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Once you’ve found the perfect place to build the raised beds, the next step is to get your materials together. Using a simple hoe, dig up as many three-by-six-foot areas as you want and remove any large clumps of grass or rocks. You don’t have to dig too deeply since you’re going to be building the beds over the top. You actually don’t need this step if you don’t want to, but you should at least remove the first layer of earth because this will make the raised beds sturdier. Level the area with a two-by-four, and then if you like, lay down a layer of breathable mesh so that the soil you lay over the top won’t mix with the ground soil. The beds you’ve now made are three-by-six feet, which means they are perfect for nearly every kind plant, whether they be vegetable, herb, flower, or berries. The space is even large enough for sprawling tomato plants and gourds, which can take up an entire three-by-six space.
Now it’s time to gather the lumber you need to build the wooden box to go on top of the garden space. Most home improvement and lumber stores will cut the boards you need into the sizes you want, so simply order as many as you want and pick them up. You can also save money and cut the boards at home if you have the proper tools. The sides of the raised beds should typically be around one to two feet high, so depending on the heights of the boards you buy to make the sides, you will probably have to stack at least two boards on top of each other. Honestly, building the frame is the easiest part of making raised beds because you can build it any way you like; it can be decorative or plain. You’re just building a rectangle, so there’s no right or wrong way unless you build it too short or not large enough. To hold the boards together, use stainless steel screws, and once the whole box is bolted together, lay it down over your planned space and the breathable mesh.
Planting In Raised Beds
If you’re an avid gardener, this is where the fun stuff begins. Making the raised beds is an art that you will perfect over the years, but filling the raised beds and planting the seeds and sprouts is classic gardening. Select all the different plants that you want for the various growing seasons, and start mixing the soils that will help the plants grow the best. Choose which raised beds you want certain plants to grow in and then mark them so you don’t forget. Mix up however many batches of soil you need with the specific nutrients for each individual raised bed and simply fill the beds up. Plant all the seeds and sprouts in the beds, taking care to plant in each bed only the seeds and sprouts that can grow well together.
If you like, you can also set up an automatic watering system. You can also just make sure that you water regularly with a watering can or hose. Raised garden beds heat up much faster than ground gardens because the sun bakes the sides of the box and leaches the moisture from the top few inches of the soil. Another important thing to remember is that the boards you use for the raised beds will constantly be subjected to moisture from watering and from the soil inside them, so you need to build the beds with rot-resistant wood. This can be wood that is chemically treated to resist water damage – like what many decks are made of – or you can go with naturally rot-resistant wood, like cedar.
If you have a yard that doesn’t get much sun or you aren’t able to find any suitable place to make raised beds, then there are options for growing a healthy garden even if it is predominantly in the shade. Using thin wire, like beading wire, you can make a frame and stretch thin plastic over the top; you can use this to cover the raised bed. Essentially, you’re making covers to transform your raised beds into small greenhouses. This will capture the heat from whatever sun the gardens are able to get and preserve it all through the shady times of day. It’s possible to use this greenhouse method in sunny areas as well. If you water the plants and then use the covers during the last few hours of the day and leave them on overnight, you can preserve heat and moisture, making the growing season last much longer.