By Tina Jepson
Many home gardeners swear by raised garden beds because they are a great way to control the soil, moisture level, and can be made-to-size. So whether you’re working with a small backyard or enough room for your own salsa farm, you can add a garden bed to fit your needs and budget.
I have 4 raised beds in my backyard and I’ve found they are perfect for growing a surprisingly large amount of edibles throughout the growing months. The best part? The weeds! Because I properly plan out each plot with multiple plants and varieties to maximize the space, there isn’t enough space for weeds to infiltrate!
It’s possible to buy a premade raised garden bed online or at your local home improvement store, but you can save money by building one yourself. Check out these raised garden bed designs and tips to help create the raised garden of your dreams and grow a bounty this summer.
Raised Garden Bed Designs
Basic Rectangle: Most raised garden beds feature the basic rectangle design that can be customized to fit your yard. Common sizes are 4-by-4 feet, 4-by-8 feet, and 4-by-10 feet. But you have the option of making your garden bed as long or narrow as needed. For material, cedar works remarkably well for raised gardens because it’s naturally rot-resistant, but oak, walnut, and even redwood are sturdy, long-lasting options.
Horseshoe: The horseshoe design is a modification of the basic rectangle, and it’s great if you have extra space. By creating a U-shape, you allow yourself access to all parts of the garden, depending on the width of your garden, of course.
Square: Many square gardens are made of wood or railroad ties, but it’s also common to see square beds made of concrete or corrugated steel. It’s a bit difficult to reach the middle of a large square bed without stepping-stones or gravel, so consider the size, and how you’ll access your plants, before choosing this design.
Cylinder: Use materials like corrugated steel, old tires, and even bricks/pavers to construct a circular garden bed with your desired radius. This design is perfect for backyards with limited space or if you’re looking to add a unique twist to the raised garden concept.
Raised Garden Tips
Know Your Soil: Test your soil using a pH meter or testing strip to ensure it has a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0 — the ideal range to grow fruits, veggies, and herbs. If you fall above or below this range, add a soil amendment.
Add Compost & Fertilizer: Although you have complete control over the soil in your raised garden, your plants still require weekly fertilization. To help keep your soil healthy and full of nutrients, consider making your own compost and adding this along with either bimonthly or weekly fertilization.
Practice Succession Planting: When growing greens and other consumables in a raised bed, consider planting small batches at 7- or 10-day intervals to ensure you have enough throughout the season.
Pay Attention to Mother Nature: Just because the garden bed sits outside doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting enough sunlight and rain. At the very least, your garden needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day and at least 1 inch of rain a week. Water as needed to supplement.
Use Mulch for Weed Control: Weeds can become a problem if you don’t plant enough in your raised bed. To control weeds, put down landscape fabric or mulch. Less weeds equals less stress for you in the peak of the growing season.
Raised gardens are definitely the way to go for backyard gardeners at all experience levels.
Simply choose the right raised garden bed design for your space and then find a material that fits your budget. From there, plant whatever edibles tickle your fancy and pay close attention throughout the warm summer months when the soil in your raised garden bed can get quite hot.
Now that you’ve seen some design options, it’s time to get planning!
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.dreamstime.com and www.bigstock.com