What if you want to grow a garden and discovered that the soil of your property is poor and can’t sustain the plants? Do you give up on the idea? No. Instead, you can create a raised bed garden.
A raised bed garden is actually built into containers that sit on top of the ground. The condition of the soil in your property has no affect on the plants that are grown. Instead, the containers are filled with good, nurturing soil that assists the plants to grow.
You can plant just about anything you want in a raised bed garden including herbs, vegetables, perennials or shrubs.
There are a number of other advantages to this type of gardening besides avoiding the problem of poor soil.
· Raised bed gardens warm quicker in the spring than conventional gardens. So you can work the soil and plants earlier in the growing season.
· Raised bed gardens drain better.
· The soil in raised bed gardens never gets compacted because of its easy accessibility. You can loosen the soil yourself.
· You can alter the soil into a condition in which the plants you wish to grow will flourish.
· Once constructed, a raised bed garden requires less maintenance than a conventional garden.
To create a raised bed garden you will have to construct the container in which the plants are grown. This includes constructing a frame. Wood is a very popular material because it is easy to work with and it is inexpensive. People have been known to use concrete, blocks, natural stone, and bricks to serve as the frame. However, these materials are more expensive than wood and requires more labor to use.
If cost is a major issue, then some who have created this style of garden have placed bales of hay or straw over the ground and then cover it with good soil, then compost it before planting. However, this style of raised bed garden will only last for about a year or so because the straw will decompose. Still, you can do it if you lay down the bale of hay ever year.
There are six steps in creating a raised bed garden using wood frames.
1. Select the site. If you intend to grow plants that thrive in sunlight, then select a site that gets at least eight hours of sun per day. The location should be flat and level and should have easy access to a source of water and offer enough room in which you can work.
2. Determine the size and shape of the garden. You want the garden to be configured in such a way that you have access to all sides without stepping into the bed. Experts suggest that the dimensions of the garden be around 4-feet wide so that you can reach the middle of the bed from any side and 6-inches to 12-inches deep.
3. Prepare the site. How much preparation depends on the depth of the bed and the plants you are planning to grow. If the garden will consist of vegetables or herbs, then a 6-inch deep bed is ideal. Use newspaper, landscape fabric or cardboard to cover and smother the ground and put your soil and amendments on top. To be certain that the plant’s roots have room to grow, dig out the existing sod and loosen the soil with a shovel or garden fork to a depth of 8-inches to 12-inches.
4. Build the bed. Use rot-resistant wood like cedar or one of the newer composite lumbers to construct the bed. Two by six lumber would be ideal. Cut pieces to the desired size and then attach them together to make a frame. You can attach the pieces by creating a butt joint at each corner; pre-drilling and then screwing the corners together with galvanized screws or place a piece of wood in the corner and attach each side to it.
5. Level the frames. Use a level to make certain that the frame is flat in all directions. You must be certain that the bed is level. If it is not, water will run off of one part of the garden and collect in another. Simply remove some soil beneath the frame until it is level.
6. Fill the garden. Fill the bed with a good mixture of quality topsoil, compost and rotted manure and rake level, then place the plants or sow the seeds.
Raised bed gardens require very little maintenance. It is advised that you top dress the garden with fresh compost and manure each spring or fall. If the bed holds plants for only part of the year, then dig the compost or manure into the top several inches of soil. Mulch the top of the soil to retain moisture and limit the growth of weeds. Moisture retention is imperative because raised beds drain faster than conventional gardens.