Five Steps for Successful Raised Bed Gardening

August 10, 2017
Categories: Grow

Raised Bed Inspiration

First off, let’s get some raised bed inspiration.  As you can see in the examples below, you can create a raised bed out of many materials and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on your space and needs.

These raised beds, in the center of a community space, are thigh-high to keep animals out and provide ease of harvesting vegetables.

These raised beds, along the Fraser River in British Columbia, have benches around them so people can sit and enjoy the scenery.

This raised bed full of tasty herbs is located just off of a kitchen, making it easier to grab a fresh sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, or whatever flavor is required. Bricks make a great edge for quick raised bed construction.

Not all raised beds have a hard border; these backyard beds were mounded up within the existing lawn.

Benefits of Raised Beds

Now that you’re inspired, you might be wondering why not just stick plants in the ground? Why bother with raised beds?  Raised beds are an excellent design for a number of reasons:

  • Raised beds improve drainage. In general, while plants need moisture, they don’t appreciate “wet feet”.  Raised beds ensure good flow and drainage.
  • Raised beds improve aeration. An important component of good soil structure is air. Air makes up 25% of an ideal soil composition (25% air, 25% mineral soil, 45% mineral soil, and 5% organic matter). A raised bed allows you to fluff up the soil each season.
  • Raised beds add a sense of containment and order. Whether or not you have a raised bed within a structure, or with a natural border, they bring organization to your landscape.

5 Steps for Creating a Raised Bed

Now that you’re inspired and recognize the benefits, how do you go about creating a raised bed garden?

1. Pick a spot.

A spot completely exposed to the sun, or a mix of sun and shade, typically works best. If you have to choose between an eastern exposure or western exposure, go for the eastern exposure as the sun will typically dry off the dew earlier.

2. Pick your design / material

Use materials that are locally available to you.  Wood (cedar typically lasts the longest), bricks, pots, and poured concrete are some ideas; the material should make sense for your space (and wallet).

3. Build

There are plenty of ways to build a raised bed, but check out these links on some of our favorite how-to’s:
How to Build a Raised Vegetable Garden Bed by H20 Bungalow
DIY Raised Garden Boxes with Organic Soil by Within the Grove
A Raised Garden Bed + Gardening with Kids by Making Home Base
Tips for Planting a Raised Garden Bed by Mommy Musings

Or, you could use our convenient how-to instructions and pick up the tools at your local Lowe's!

4. Fill the space with top quality soil

Generally speaking, a raised bed is at least 6”-10” higher than the existing soils.

You want a soil blend that has both mineral soil (the existing soil) mixed with organic matter (e.g. compost or some other form of soil amendment).  Harvest offers pre-blended mixes, such as Organic Raised Bed Mix available at select Lowe’s stores.

5. Plant

Seeds or starts, veggies or flowers, plant what makes sense for you!  Your local garden center will have tips. Our advice:

  • Start out small and build from your successes. 
  • Have fun!  Grow what you know. But don’t be afraid to experiment! Gardening is a forgiving activity that provides an endless opportunity for exploring and learning.

6. Maintain

It can be nice to maintain the border of your raised bed by applying a 2-3” layer of mulch or rock or gravel.  Also, your soil will get depleted of nutrients over time.  We suggest adding a 2-4” layer of soil amendment, such as compost or a potting mix, and mixing it into the top 6” of the bed every couple years. Of course, as with everything, remember to water.

PRO TIP: With watering, plants typically prefer a few long drinks (a couple deep water sessions per week) over short sips (many short sprays of water per week).

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