Several years ago, my husband and I built some simple untreated cedar raised garden beds for our backyard. They are four feet by two feet across, and 10 to 12 inches deep. They fit nicely against our cedar privacy fence. I got basic, easy building directions from the book Square Foot Gardening.
Last spring, I also bought a raised bed kit from the discount grocery store, Aldi. It was easy to assemble that bed with its pre-cut composite boards and plastic corner stakes.
I’ve enjoyed growing a variety of plants in my three raised beds. Plants I’ve grown include:
- bell peppers
- sugar snap peas
- asparagus (I started it last year; we’ll see if it comes back this spring)
- thornless blackberries
- rhubarb (it unfortunately didn’t last beyond the first summer)
- a variety of flowers, including cosmos and pentas
I like my raised garden beds for a variety of reasons that are both practical and aesthetic.
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds:
- Better soil. I live in an area with heavy clay soil. During the first summer I had my home-built raised beds, I grew sunflowers in one of the raised beds and also in a slightly amended garden bed in the ground. The sunflowers in the raised bed grew twice as tall because of the better soil composition. I used a mixture of homemade compost, store-bought compost, and Miracle-Gro gardening soil in my raised beds. All of that was layered on top of a thick layer of cardboard I put at the bottom of each raised bed to stifle weed and grass growth. The cardboard decomposes and provides nutrients for the plants.
- Fewer weeds and less time spent maintaining the garden. Because I’m controlling what kind of soil goes into my raised garden beds, I’m also eliminating a lot of weed roots and seeds. I rarely have to weed my raised garden beds, and if I do weed, I only have to pull out a few small sprouts.
- A tidier-looking garden. Raised garden beds keep everything contained. I often got frustrated with how grass from my lawn would encroach on my garden beds that were dug directly into the ground without any solid border to act as a barrier. I often had a take a shovel and dig into the soil to repeatedly recreate defined and tidy borders, not to mention how the grass competed with my plants for growing space and nutrients. My raised garden beds have defined edges and borders, and I no longer have to fight the grass.
- Some pest deterrence (depending on what pests you deal with in your area). I still deal with plenty of pests, usually of the squirrel variety. However, the rabbits that are rampant in my neighborhood have a much harder — if not impossible — task to get into my home-built raised garden beds because the walls are about one foot tall. I have never seen a rabbit in any of my home-built raised beds.
Of course, there is some labor on the front-end when you decide to use raised garden beds. You have to build them — either from scratch or using a kit.
You also have to fill your raised garden beds with soil or growing medium, and if you have a lot of raised beds, it will require a lot of soil. You can keep costs lower by using less-expensive sand or ordinary topsoil (both sold at most garden centers) in the bottom of your raised bed, and then fill the top half or so with quality bags of garden soil. Look into buying these materials in bulk to potentially save money. If you make your own compost, this also is a free way to help fill your raised garden beds.
The cost and labor to set up raised garden beds is worth it because my plants are healthier and larger, and my garden requires less maintenance.
Do you use raised garden beds? Tell us about your garden in the comments.