Raised Beds

Looking for a better way to grow vegetables this year? Consider installing a raised bed. The advantages far outweigh the initial investment of time and money.

The ease and convenience of raised beds are the benefits many gardeners appreciate most. Most gardeners find that raised beds are easier to maintain and promote better plant growth. Walking in a garden causes soil compaction, which can cause problems with drainage and oxygen availability to the roots. With a raised bed, you can plant, weed and harvest without ever walking on the soil.

Raised beds can be filled with high-quality soil and it's easy to add compost or other organic matter. Long-rooted plants, such as carrots, do especially well in this environment because there are no stones to hinder their development. Raised beds are also ideal places to grow plants that can be invasive in a regular garden, such as mint and horseradish.

A raised bed may put an end to sore knees and an achy back associated with level-ground gardening, and raised beds are excellent for gardeners with limited flexibility or disabilities that inhibit gardening on their knees.

To install a raised bed, first choose a sunny location and decide on the size and shape you want. Construct the frame with a nontoxic building material, such as stone, cinder blocks, bricks, untreated wood or fiberglass. Some garden catalogs and centers now offer raised bed frames that snap together and can easily be taken apart.

Make sure the frame is between 12 and 16 inches high and is sturdy enough to hold together when filled with soil. If you use boards, secure them at the corners with metal braces or screws, or nailed to a reinforcing block of wood inside the corners.

Fill the frame with a good-quality lightweight soil mix and add a generous amount of compost. Avoid using soil straight from the garden. It is usually too heavy and doesn't allow for proper drainage.

A well-constructed raised bed should last for years and soil fertility can be maintained by adding organic matter. Raised beds have been used for centuries and with good reason—they’re better for many plants and they're easier on gardeners.