There are many advantages of raised-bed gardening, including less weeding, earlier planting and higher yields. The philosophy behind this type of gardening is that it maximizes the use of valuable bed space, minimizes the amount of ongoing labor and allows for the use of high quality soil. Raised beds also dry more quickly, tend to have warmer soil and provide a haven for beneficial insects and worms. With all the benefits of a raised-bed garden, it just might be the right choice for you. Here are some tips to start your own raised-bed garden:
- Start by building a frame to contain the bed. While stones, bricks and blocks will work well, I prefer to use 6-by-6 landscape timbers. Limit the width of the bed to 4 to 5 feet so that you can easily reach into the middle of the bed, and be sure to space the beds far enough apart so that you can easily mow the grass between them. After constructing, backfill the bed with topsoil, compost, peat moss and other organic matter. Raising the soil level 6 to 8 inches will do wonders for your back!
- Plant the plants close together so there will be no space for weeds to grow when the garden matures, which will nearly eliminate your maintenance weeding.
- Install a trellis in the bed to let climbing plants (pole beans, tomatoes and cucumbers) grow above low-level crops like lettuce, squash, zucchini and eggplant. When crops are spent, replant in their stead – there are a few quick-growing crops that can be planted late into the season (radish, lettuce and even beans).
- Mulch the plants to help keep the soil moist. Add some annual flowers for seasonal color.
Raised garden beds can be a great addition to your landscape, providing structure while putting food on the table.