The Scoop on Raised Garden Beds

They come in all sizes. They come in all shapes. 

It doesn’t matter how grand or how small your gardening ambition might be. Adding raised beds might be one of the easiest things to consider to give a jump-start to your gardening experience.



The benefits of raised beds

There are many reasons to use a raised garden bed. Here are just a few that we love:

  • Soil warms up quicker in a raised bed (hint hint…you can potentially plant earlier!).
  • You have better control over soil health, drainage and ph
  • Better weed control
  • Raised beds are more ergonomic to work
  • Minimize soil compaction
  • Grow a variety of plants and vegetables intensively in a manageable space
  • You can put a raised garden bed almost anywhere
  • They are a great way to decorate the yard

We use raised beds in a variety of ways. We grow herbs them alongside the house. We have a few that are dedicated to early cole crops like lettuce, kale, radish and chard. Because the Ph in our soil isn’t very acidic, we have been experimenting with raised beds to grow our blueberries. And as our farm continues to grow, we have plans to add several more boxes to the marketgarden this year, to be used in addition to many crops we grow in the ground.


Making your own? What materials can you use?

There’s a lot of ideas on what materials you should and should not use when building a raised garden bed. But honestly, you can use almost any material to make a raised bed. The thing to always keep in mind is soil health and longevity. Know what you want to get out of your beds before you start. Some materials will last longer than others, and some are better for the environment.

  • Pressure treated wood – The advantage here is how long the material lasts. The wood is treated with a chemical that allows it to stay in contact with soil and weather the seasons without breaking down quickly. However, there is concern that the chemicals in pressure treated wood might leach into the soil over time. The primary concern is arsenic poisoning from CCA (chromated copper arsenate) treated wood. There is evidence that over time these chemicals will transfer to the soil and be uptaken by plants, although the amounts seem to be small. If this is a concern then I would stay away from these kind of woods.
  • Cedar, White Oak or Cypress – These woods have natural oils in them that allow them to withstand the elements longer than other varieties. They’re beautiful and easy to work with, although buying them will cost more than dimensional lumber.
  • Dimensional lumber – Regular soft woods like pine and fir are abundant and cheap at the box stores. You can buy them in all dimensional sizes, which make them easy to use. You can often hit the scrap bins and find suitable wood for even less. The downside to this option is longevity. Depending on how harsh your seasons are, you can expect 3-5 years out of this kind of material before it starts to deteriorate.
  • Brick – Probably the best long term option for the cost. Plus brick can be aesthetically attractive in most settings.
  • Concrete – Not my favorite option, but certainly one to consider if you want your beds to last a long time.
  • Metal – I’ve seen some really cool beds made out of metal. I’ve heard some concerns about the metal creating too much heat for the planting space during summer, so this is something to consider.
  • Recycled material – Tree limbs, tires, bed frames, pallets…these are just a few things I’ve seen used to make raised beds. Here is where you can let your imagination go wild!
  • Organic – Probably at the bottom of the list for longevity and durability, but not to be discounted, you might opt to use organic or natural materials like hay or straw bales to make your raised beds. The benefit of going this route is that once the season is over you can compost the material.


How to build a raised bed 

There are many ways to build a raised garden bed. Here are a few ideas:

Methods of using a raised bed

Remember, raised beds are versatile. Be creative. Get the most out of your raised bed garden!

Using a raised bed can simplify your gardening experience and take your passion for growing to the next level.

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