What Can Be Grown in a Raised Bed
Efficient methods like square foot gardening can be used to maximize production and are easy to lay out in a grid system within the box.
Types of Construction Materials
There are a variety of options available if you want to create a raised bed. Wood planks are a common choice. Make sure that chemicals have not been used to treat them, as these can leach into the soil and into your vegetables, fruits and herbs. For this reason, if you are going to re-use found wood or pallets, source them carefully as in many cases, they have toxins and/or pesticides present in the wood. Choose fastening materials like bolts or screws that are made of a substance that will not rust, like stainless steel.
Cinder blocks are another possible option for your raised bed. They will last almost indefinitely and weather better than wood. If you lay the concrete blocks so that the holes are facing up, the sides will create a solid wall. Use rebar inside each opening to keep the blocks from shifting. Plants that stay on the smaller side (some herbs, onions, radishes, etc.) can even be grown in the holes. Watch on your local classifieds, Freecycle and Facebook yard sale groups as they are sometimes offered for free if you haul them away.
If your garden is naturally rocky, use that to your advantage by building your raised bed for free with those stones. These are also a common item given away on classified groups if you are willing to pick them up.
Another great option is to buy a raised bed made of fabric. One of the advantages of a fabric bed is that at the end of the season, you can dump out the soil, wash off the fabric, fold it up and store it for the winter. You can even make a raised bed from a kiddie pool.
A raised bed is your opportunity to compensate for natural soil that is too sandy, full of rocks, poor in nutrients or otherwise problematic for your plants. The simplest method would be to buy bags of potting mix to fill the box. Depending on the type and brand you choose, as well as the height of your raised bed, this can turn out to be very expensive.
You can mix up your own potting soil using equal parts of materials like topsoil, peat moss and compost. Adding perlite or vermiculite is helpful to stop the soil from becoming compacted and make it easier for water and nutrients to flow through. Place your materials into a compost tumbler or large wheelbarrow and mix them together. Use this opportunity to add in organic, slow release fertilizer, following the directions for amounts. You can also to add aged manure or compost instead of fertilizer.
If you do not make your own compost, call your local waste management and recycling facilities. In some cities, green waste is collected and turned into composts and mulches that are usually priced competitively. They may deliver for a fee, but you can also use a pickup truck to transport it yourself.
When you are planning out your garden, it is tempting to maximize space by creating one large raised bed. However, it will work much better if you break it up into several boxes. If the bed is too wide, it will be very difficult to reach across to thin seedlings, keep weeds down and harvest your crops. You want to keep the width a maximum of four feet wide.
If you are working with an area that is not flat, remove soil or build up areas so that your planting area will be even. Smooth it out before adding your soil mixture to the container.
Filling your raised bed is also something to think about when you are planning. These boxes offer the opportunity to use potting soil or other mediums that mean you can still garden when your soil is poor. However, the cost can really start to add up when your box is bigger. However, if you want to grow deeper rooted plants you may want to start with a 12″ height.
If you are designing it for someone with illnesses or disabilities, make sure that the pathways are wide enough to accommodate assistive devices like wheelchairs and walkers. Allow space to go around corners and exit successfully. Make the sides two feet high to make it accessible for the gardener to reach towards the plants from a seated position. Wider pathways will also mean that wheelbarrows can be used in the area.