Grasp Gardener: Raised-bed gardening has many advantages | Residence & Backyard


A variety of plants grow in a raised bed garden in Grogg’s Green Barn.

Gardening in the raised bed (copy)

Raised bed gardens are a great option for beginners.

Tom Ingram Ask a master gardener

Raised beds are a great option for city gardeners. Let’s summarize why.

When we work in the soil with the standard garden we are limited in that we are forced to use the soil we have. Yes, we can fertilize and add changes to increase nutrient and organic content, but for raised beds we have the option of starting with higher quality soil. This is an especially good idea if your existing floor slopes towards the clay side.

Raised beds can be built in almost any imaginable shape. We recommend that you be no wider than 4 feet. This is because the average adult can usually reach about 2 feet into the garden. This gives you access to your entire garden space without having to enter it, which contributes to soil compaction. If you have physical problems, you can make your beds narrower to make them easier to reach.

Typically, raised beds only need to be about 6 inches deep, as most vegetable plants have fairly shallow root systems. Some of my favorite raised beds are really raised, which means the 6 inch garden bed is off the ground so you can garden either while sitting or standing. If you’ve been pulling weeds on your knees for hours, you’ll immediately know how appealing that sounds. I haven’t got there yet, but I hope one day.

Raised beds can be built from a variety of materials, but most are made of wood. We do not recommend using railroad ties as creosote fumes can burn your plants in them. However, you can use treated wood because it doesn’t contain the toxic chemicals it once used. If you choose treated wood, be sure to use dust masks and protective clothing to protect yourself while building. And don’t breathe sawdust from treated wood. Cement blocks are another great option, but I prefer rough-cut cedar because I just like the look.