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Frame-It-All 4 x 4 Square Recycled Resin Raised Garden Bed

No series on Making Gardening Easier would be complete without a discussion on raised bed gardening. Raised beds are typically frames built in your yard that are filled with planting soil of some sort. These frames can be constructed from a variety of materials and they don’t have to be very deep to grow a lot of food. Six to eight inches is plenty, and many folks have good results with as little as 4 inches of soil.

But how does gardening in shallow box make gardening easier? Let me count the ways:

    1. Many yards are cursed with poor soil, whether it be that the topsoil is too thin or too sandy or too much clay or whatever. Improving your native soil can be a lot of work. It’s easier to start from scratch. Raised bed gardening doesn’t use the dirt from your backyard. Instead, raised bed gardening allows you to fill your beds with whatever planting medium you want — topsoil, compost, vermiculite, peat moss, and so forth. Dream big. If you have more than one raised bed you can experiment with different mixtures or you can have custom blends for the specific types of plants that you’re growing in each bed.
    2. Since you’re not growing in your native dirt, you don’t have to till the garden plot. Even a small tiller, though very handy to have, can be expensive. There’s no need to buy or use one to prepare your soil with a raised bed garden. The growing medium that you fill it with will be loose from the very start. And it will stay loose because you build your beds in such a way that you can reach every part of your garden from the outer edge. That means you never walk on your bed, so your soil doesn’t get compacted.
    3. Raised bed gardening allows you to have a productive garden in places that you never could before. Since you fill your raised bed with your own soil mixture, you can place the frame on a concrete patio or asphalt driveway if you want to. What’s under the frame doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in it that counts.
    4. Raised bed gardening is ideal for those who have very limited space available for gardening. This is a city dweller’s delight. While most raised bed gardens are 8’ x 4’ or 4’ x 4’, you can make yours whatever size and shape that works best for you. There are many people who have successful raised bed gardens on the balcony of their urban apartment.
    5. Raised beds make gardening easier by being more productive and efficient. You will be able to grow more food in less space than you could with a traditional garden. The combination of custom soil, optimal placement of the bed for best exposure to the sun and its small size all contribute to high-yield growing.

Build your raised bed frames to any height to best meet your needs.

 

  1. Some gardens are plagued by burrowing critters that chow down on your plants from underground. It that’s a problem in your area, you can construct your garden frames with a wire mesh in the bottom that will keep the hungry critters out, but still provide good drainage.
  2. One of the best ways that raised beds make gardening easier is that it reduces the number of weeds in your garden. If you build your frame on top of a weed blocker that allows for good drainage, you won’t be getting any weeds from the surface of the ground. The fresh soil that you fill your beds with should be free from weeds. That leaves only airborne seeds as a source for weeds, greatly reducing the amount of weeds that you’ll need to deal with in your raised beds.
  3. The soil in your raised beds will warm up sooner than the regular dirt in your backyard. This means that you can plant earlier. A longer growing season gives you extra time.
  4. Raised beds make gardening easier by increasing accessibility to the garden. It’s amazing how much easier it is to pull weeds when they are just 6 inches off the ground. If that’s not high enough for you, you can build your frames deeper and add a ledge around the edges of the bed frame that you can sit on while you tend your garden. Still not high enough? Who says you have to plant your raised bed garden on the ground? You can construct (or buy) a raised bed that sits on a platform, making the garden accessible even to people who are wheelchair-bound. Disabled people can continue to enjoy gardening.

Here’s a tip about the materials that you use to make the frames for your raised beds. Don’t succumb to the temptation to use pressure-treated wood. It sounds like it would be a good idea, but treated wood can leach chemicals into your garden that you shouldn’t be ingesting. There are other materials that are rot and insect resistant. Options include cedar, concrete building blocks, brick, and composite vinyl.

Traditional gardening in long rows is great if you have the space for it, but raised bed gardening is a wonderful approach for many other folks —newbies who want to give gardening a try on a small scale, people with limited space, gardeners with physical challenges who can’t bend over very well – or just folks who want to make gardening easier!

View 20+ Styles of Raised Garden Beds - Eartheasy.com

3 Responses to Making Gardening Easier – Raised Bed Gardening

  • danrshaw says:

    The only heartburn I have with this article is the warning about not using treated lumber for your raised bed. If you are in an area where termites are a big problem then your beds will not last very long. Plus pressure treated lumber is no longer treated with arsenic. According to several sources including:

    The National Gardening Association:

    There’s still a lot of controvery about using treated wood for vegetable gardens. There was a time when pressure treated lumber contained arsenic (CCA) and was not considered safe for use in raised vegetable gardens because the arsenic leached out into the soil. The newest method for treating wood is Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ).

    It is chemically different than the old CCA treatments. It is made of tiny (micro) particles of copper. These particles are forced into the wood cells or pores during the pressure cycle. Once in, they stay in, also forming a barrier keeping in the quaternary. The leaching of chemicals out of MCQ is practically non-existent and using the treated lumber for a vegetable bed is safe because the chemicals do not leach out into the soil.

    Also if you plan on planting root veggies then you need at least 8 inches in height if you are an area that is mostly clay soil to start with since root veggies will not grow in heavy clay soil.

    • Thanks for the good info on pressure treated lumber. EVERYTHING that I’ve ever read on the using it for raised beds says to stay away from the stuff. It’s nice to have some updated info, because it certainly could be the best option for many people. We used cinder blocks to make our first raised bed last year. The jury is still out on what we will use this year if we decide to add another raised bed or two.

      As for the issue of how deep your beds need to be, that depends on what you want to grow in them. We’ll be posting about Square Foot Gardening next (a refinement of raised bed gardening), and the guru of that method, Mel Bartholomew, swears that all over the world he has been able to grow anything he wants in just 6 inches of soil. I’m guessing that he doesn’t want to grow any long carrots. When we built our raised bed last year, we went with 12 inches of soil. Could we have gotten away with just 6 inches? There are legions of Bartholomew disciples who say that you can. But from my point of view, too much is never too much.

      Thanks for writing, and especially for the update on pressure treated lumber.

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