In a recent talk I gave on gardening I brought up the value of raised beds in a garden. If you are thinking about growing a garden for food security or for having fresh produce as soon as possible this spring, raised beds will get you going without the months of prep needed for in ground beds. For some people though it can feel like raised beds are not a “real” garden, but they are. It’s just different is all! And you can do both. Quick beds while you take the time to get your in ground bed done properly.
When we lived at our last place, I built many raised beds in the 4 years we were there. Eventually it became a flowing area as I added more and more. It was a way to garden and fit into suburbia.
In fall we would build hoop houses on the beds. This is very easy method of extending the growing season for 2 months on each side. Or more.
Can be built on land that isn’t good for gardening. If your land is rocky, sandy, clay, etc this will help considerably.
Can be built in soggy areas and the beds don’t get damp.
Raised beds are quick to build.
Usable as soon as filled with soil.
Warm up faster in spring, and stay warmer into fall.
Easy to weed.
Suppresses pests such as rabbits.
Build higher for easier working in beds.
Easy to fence.
Can look “nicer” in urban settings.
Work in progress.
One of the fun things about the beds is I could do trellis systems to suit my whimsy.
And the boys loved picking.
Types of raised beds:
Fallen trees, cut to fit
My personal favorite?
After many years, in 4 locations, my favorite beds are the concrete cinderblock.
Cheap to buy the cinderblocks, and made in the US (often locally made by region). You can build them 1 layer, 2 layer, even 3 layer. The open pockets on top allow for fencing or trellis to be placed in them. In a weekend you can build an entire garden.
Lay down thick layers of cardboard, then place the blocks. The cardboard will kill weeds and grass.
If you want to be fancy, lay down black yard/garden fabric instead across the area. Then do the blocks. After you are done, you can decorate the walk paths with wood chips, bark or pebbles. This will control mud and weeds (as you walk around your raised beds over time, you will wear down to the ground and it won’t look as nice).
Fill with soil, and you are ready to go. I suggest a mix of 3 in 1 soil (if you make many beds, buying by the truck is a thing) and mushroom compost or manure.
Each year, gently turn over the beds with a garden fork, and as the soil settles lower, add in more compost and gently work in.
There are other forms to use as well – concrete blocks and fancy blocks. When we lived there, the neighborhood decided to remove all the fancy blocks around the public trees. Anyone who wanted them could grab what they needed. We brought back many loads to use!
It’s easy to add in trellis systems to the beds.
Too many rocks? Make pretty walking paths between the beds.
Another raised bed we did, I loved to sit here in the herbs.
And even on our farm here? I still have raised beds. They were the first things I built when we moved in almost 4 years ago.
This is one I am still working on. I found most of the parts in the woods. All those blocks had been left to be covered in moss! So I hauled them out, and got building. I just finished filling it up with more compost, weeded and smoothed out. I am working on a greenhouse cover for it currently. It’s right by the house, so this bed will be a great “salad” bed to grow lettuce and similar in.