Raised Garden Beds

Most have heard of the raised bed in gardening. The advantages and types are many and ideas abound!

Most have heard of the "raised bed" in gardening. The advantages and types are many and ideas abound, when completed work well for our benefit in gardens, flowers, and landscaping.

This is a popular approach in gardening, landscaping, and the results are exceptional. Raised beds can be utilized in areas where the thought of growing plants was impractical, such as hillsides, gardens on rooftops, and rocky areas with very little topsoil.

The very word "raised" projects the idea of less "bending" as in "oh my aching back." The raised bed is above the ground level. The higher bed is advantageous because of less crouching and stooping while performing routine garden tasks.

The drainage is much better, and this results in an accelerated warming of the soil and gardening can be started earlier in the season. The soil will also dry faster allowing work to be continued in the rainy season. Many soils are heavy and poorly drained, with a raised bed, roots of plants form securely, in good soil that is possibly not the case in some areas. The addition of compost and other organic substance may be supplemented making the soil rich in nutrients and improving its composition.

Permanent Raised Beds

The permanent raised beds work best for most circumstances. Mounds of earth may be used in landscaping situations, by using topsoil to build barriers that reduce noise from traffic, and interesting visual effects. The mounds of earth will stay in place after roots of plantings have secured the soil.

The walled raised beds, which are also permanent, are used for vegetable gardens as well as flowers. There will be initially, an investment in dollars, however the years of enjoyment and convenience will be well worth the cost. The price tag is encompassed in the actual labor and cost of construction materials.

Temporary Raised Beds

Temporary raised beds, are created by the tilling of soil which loosens and raises the dirt above ground level. When compost and other materials are added it increases the height even more. Many backyard gardeners use this simple method successfully.

Most temporary raised beds are elementary in structure. No construction cost is involved, only your labor. The beds will level off over the season and require re-building the next year. The lack of containment by a wall makes it likely to see a bit of "spillover" onto the adjacent area due to normal erosion.

Framework Choices

Appearance and availability are considered when making the choice of construction materials. Popular materials are used railroad ties and treated landscape timbers. Redwood and cedar, which are resistant to rot, are also good choices. There are bricks and stones along with concrete blocks; as you can see there are quite a few framework selections to consider. Stone and masonry are more expensive than products made of wood. However, check with builder's salvage yards, where you may fine used masonry at a good price. Old railroad ties that have lost most of the creosote, are the best, the newer ones full of the caustic substance may injure plants.

Raised Bed Forms

Most generally, the rectangular pattern is the most usual for raised beds. The ground should be flattened building a base for your soil. The width of 4 feet is an advantageous size; this makes the center "reachable" from each side. Timber is a usual 4-foot length, thus reducing the labor intensive sawing that is required for adjustment. Shorter beds help to prevent soil compaction, and allow for movement in and around the garden area for wheelbarrows and such.

Most plants will need at least 6-12 inches to root properly, consequently, adjust the depth of your bed accordingly. Beds of 18 inches and higher will need a retaining wall. To build the retaining wall of your choice, look for detailed plans and designs in publications at your local garden supply store.


If your topsoil is good, this may be used in the raised bed, however mix it with organic matter especially if there is a lot of clay or sand in the soil. Decomposed manure, peat moss, and compost are good sources of organic matter. Dig by hand, or till the base soil before adding additional organic matter. If soil is brought in, mix well into the existing soil. Different soil from unlike areas, if not mixed well, can create blockage, which will not allow water to absorb well, and roots will not grow readily.

Fertilize the soil with a 10-10-10 and apply at the rate of 1-2 pounds per 100 square feet. It is always a good idea to have the soil tested in order to use a more specific fertilizer combination.

© High Speed Ventures 2011