All About Raised Garden Beds
Raised bed gardens have become very popular with home gardeners because they can be made in any size or shape and placed almost anywhere. The idea is to plant a garden above the ground using a well-thought-out soil mixture, instead of tilling and amending the ground below. Raised garden beds offer the following benefits over in-ground gardens:
- Instant gratification – you can have great soil without the wait. It can take years to break up and amend rocky or clay-based soils
- They can help extend the growing season as the soil warms up quicker and drains faster in the spring
- Keeps soil compaction to a minimum as there is no foot traffic
- Aesthetically pleasing as they look neat and tidy because the soil is kept in place and the pathways can be filled with gravel or bark, which will also help keep the area weed free
- They are more accessible as they can built in all shapes and sizes. They can be built tall enough to provide access for people in wheelchairs or to keep bending over to a minimum
Although raised garden beds offer many benefits, they do have a few disadvantages such as:
- They are more of a permanent structure compared to in-ground gardens and must be dismantled order to change the area
- Need more irrigation as they dry out quicker, especially in sunny areas
- An initial investment is needed to build the boxes and fill them with soil
You don’t need a lot of space to build a raised bed, but you must find a spot that receives full sun most of the day, or at the very least six hours. There are many raised bed designs available, and the bed sizes and shapes vary widely. There are a few guidelines that should be followed when constructing a raised garden:
- Height: 12-18” is ideal, however even as low as 6” can work and be productive as most feeder roots are in the first 6” of soil. Going higher than 18” can potentially cause more structural issues down the road, due to the weight and pressure of all that soil
- Width: 4 feet is ideal, but three feet can also work. Four feet will allow you to easily reach the center from either side of the bed. It’s important that you don’t have to step into the bed to weed, plant, etc., as that will compact the soil and cause drainage issues
- Length: Whatever length you need will work. If you stick within a four-foot maximum width, your length is only limited by your space and budget
- Shape: Any shape will work if you stay within the 4-foot width and can reach all areas of the bed from the edge
One of the most important steps when of building a raised bed is constructing a good healthy soil. Healthy soil contains a complex soil food web that requires a healthy growing medium.
Raised Bed Soil:
The soil in the raised bed will create the environment that either promotes or hinders healthy plant growth. Despite its benefits, the particle size of potting soil is too dense to be used in raised garden beds. Soil can be engineered specifically for raised beds to give plants access to the air, water, and nutrients needed for growth. Healthy soil contains billions of microscopic organisms that all work together to break down organic matter and provide nutrients to plants. There is no need to feed plants with fertilizer, instead feed the soil and it will feed the plants.
Although raised bed soil is more expensive than lesser quality soils, it is best to invest in it as soil is one of the most important factors that determine the success of your garden. Using poor quality soil can have detrimental effects on root growth, which in turn leads to a shortage of produce. The ideal soil type to use in a raised bed is formulated using a combination of:
- Compost (organic matter and microorganisms)
- Sandy loam (which is essentially soil that is loose and well-draining)
- Pumice (enhances drainage and holds moisture)
Highway Fuel’s Power Plant Mix has the ideal combination of Compost, Sandy Loam, and Pumice that makes it our recommendation for your raised bed gardening needs.