What Is a Raised Bed Garden?
First thing’s first: What exactly is a raised bed garden? Essentially, it’s a garden that has a box or other physical container around its border that allows you to add more soil to plant your vegetables and other crops in. In some cases, this can be a few added inches of topsoil. In other cases, you’ll need to add a substantial amount of new soil, and some raised beds have so much added topsoil that the plants never actually touch the “real” soil. Regardless of whether you add a little soil or a lot, the growing medium is still raised at least slightly from the ground level thanks to the garden box that surrounds it.
Building the Garden Box
There are a number of options available to you when it comes to building a garden box. You can use landscaping timber, bricks, 2x4s, wooden planks or even concrete. Decide on a height that works for you and pick a material that you’re comfortable working with or have easy access to. You can design a perfectly sized garden box, or you can make one that has gaps in the corners where your material doesn’t quite line up. It doesn’t actually matter what the box looks like, just so long as it is solid enough to contain your soil and is connected to itself or other supports to keep the sides from falling apart.
Just keep in mind that some materials such as pressure-treated wood contain chemicals that could leak out into the soil over time. If you have concerns about this or are using materials that you know present a chemical hazard, be sure to stain or seal your materials before use to keep water from penetrating and leaching the chemicals out.
Filling It In
Once you have a workable garden box, it’s time to add some soil. Ideally, you should till the ground soil before adding any additional soil to the box. Add a layer of garden soil or topsoil, then use a rake or hoe to blend the garden soil and your additive soil a bit. From there you can continue adding soil, mixing it together periodically, until you’ve reached the level you want in your garden box. In some cases, you’ll have room left within the box; in others, the soil will go all the way to the top. After it’s filled, you might want to water it well to let the soil settle a bit before you start planting.
Planting and Garden Care
With the box built and filled with soil, you’re ready to get your plants in the ground. Planting is largely the same as you’d do if you were planting directly into the ground, though your newly filled garden bed likely has softer soil than your yard. Water your garden a little more often than you normally would, as raised beds offer more of a chance for water to leak out or evaporate than ground soil does. Feed your plants as needed, remove weeds or grass when it appears, and do your best to keep pests out of the garden. The raised bed itself may deter some pests, and a small chicken wire fence around the edge of the bed can help as well.
There’s a decent chance that your raised bed garden will grow better than an in-soil garden thanks to the quality of its soil and the added control that you have over your garden environment. With proper care, you should be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest in just a few months.