Raise That Garden!
Raised garden beds are a gardening method worth doing. It’s not just easier on your back and knees… it may also better for your plants! More than that, it make is easier to protect plants from burrowing rodents like moles and voles.
Whether you’re a square foot, lasagna, straw bale, or early-bird/late bird gardener, there are all kinds of reasons to try out raised beds. In a way, it’s container gardening at the peak of luxury. Giving your plants the right soil, amendments, pH, air, moisture, and space–it’s like the garden version of Four Seasons for your plants!
There are numerous advantages to raised garden beds and they can be made out of a number of different materials. What you use and the style you choose just depends on your taste, budget and time available.
Better for the Back
For many people the biggest advantage is that raised bed gardening is easier on the back and body in general. The height of raised beds makes it easier and less tiring to tend the garden. Seniors and those with disabilities do well with taller raised beds that eliminate the need for squatting and bending.
Poor Soil? Try Raised Garden Beds!
The other big advantage is that you can easily make a garden no matter what type of soil you have.
Raised Garden Beds
There are many sizes, shapes, styles and types of materials for raised garden beds. Some examples follow and include natural stone walled beds as well as interlocking concrete blocks that requires no cutting of lumber or nails and screws.
What follows are some of the many options available for creating your own raised garden beds. These are listed in alphabetical order. If you don’t see your favorite kind of raised beds here, please let us know. We’d love to learn from your experience and add that here.
Why Raised Bed Gardening?
Isn’t it easier to just plant in the ground? Well, maybe, but there are a number of advantages to raised bed gardening.
If you have limited growing space you want to make sure you’re getting maximum production from that area. You’d be amazed what you can grow in a small space when you work with all the elements to conserve, rotate and reuse while boosting production. Our favorite tool for planning your garden is the garden planner app which we use all the time and have also written about it.
Raised bed gardens helps with spacing, critters and access. Some folks just use the strip of grass beside their driveway and property line or privacy fence. Others use a southern exposure wall for vertical gardening, and still others without any yard plots garden in pots and planters, on balconies and patios.
Whatever your situation, chances are there are ways to maximize your yield. A good book on that topic you may enjoy is Food Grown Right in Your Backyard, by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm.
Barrels for Raised Bed Gardening
Some people love the barrel method, especially if they already have ready access to 55 gallon drum barrels for free or for cheap.
Others, hate the idea of plastic.
Advantages of 55 Gallon Barrel Gardens
- Less time to set up, so your garden is ready in less time.
- Easy to customize the height to be a perfect fit for you.
- Can reuse year after year.
- Easy placement – can fit into available spots, singularly or in clusters
If you like the idea, but don’t have the barrels, one way to find some is to search Craigslist and Google. Try googling “55 gallon drums”, [your city], [your state] or “near me””, and you should come up with some sources for these.
55 gallon drums are a popularly searched item because they do have many beneficial uses. One of the favorites is for raised bed gardening. Place these on stands for your perfect height, add soil and plants and you’ve got a garden!
Uses for 55 Gallon Drums
- Raised garden beds out of 55 gallon drums –
- Earthboxes – self contained garden systems
- Aquaponic systems
Hugelkultur raised beds are especially good if you’re in or near the woods with lots of felled tree limbs and woodsy debris. They may look a bit unkempt, but it’s the most rich and natural growing environment that builds up nutrients and resources over time.
Interlocking Concrete Blocks for Raised Beds
Any kind of interlocking concrete blocks are great for sturdy raised bed gardens. These are especially good for a strong DIY landscape gardener with a good back, because the blocks are heavy. However, these fit together well… kind of like adult gardener Lincoln Logs, and make for a substantial garden bed that can last for years to come.
We installed ours in our home landscape around 30 years ago and we’ve never had to do anything to the walls.
Benefits of Interlocking Concrete Raised Beds
- Sturdy and long lasting for years to come
- Good for extending and rounding out a slope or hillside growing area
- Requires no sawing, drilling, hammers, nails or screw.
- Fewer Materials: blocks and metal pins and possibly soil retention fabric
The lasagna garden method is not that tall but can definitely have a mounded raised garden feel.
Stone Wall – Landscape Garden Raised Beds
Square Foot Gardening
A popular raised gardening approach is square foot gardening. Typically 8-10″ tall, these are especially helpful for smaller gardens with limited space.
Straw Bale Gardening
We’ve done extensive straw bale gardening, and it has its pros and cons, but is overall, one of the quickest and easiest ways to create a raised bed garden.
You can see where we tested our straw bale raised bed temperature in this article which we’ll link on the last page too, so you can continue on here first. But keep in mind that straw bales are another relatively easy raised bed option.
Wood Raised Garden Beds – 2 Foot High, Stained
Wood Raised Garden Planters – 20″ High Mini
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
• Easier maintenance. No tilling is required for a raised bed, and there’s no soil compaction from stepping on the soil.
• Easy to get rid of weeds. Keeping weeds away with a raised bed garden is a breeze.
• Easy to work with. If you have a raised bed garden, you can work easily, since it doesn’t require you to bend over.
• You can build your own soil. Building your own soil and implementing it for specific types of plants is a breeze with raised bed gardens.
• Warm soil. The soil in a raised bed garden warms earlier in the spring and it stays warm in the fall longer.
• Rodent Proof. With raised garden beds you can line them with rodent-proof materials to protect your plants from the ravages of rodents that tunnel under and destroy your plants.
• Good for Hillside gardening. Raised beds allow you to create accessible plateaus for growing areas while keeping the soil contained.
Disadvantages of Raised Garden Beds
They need to be built. With all the advantages of raised garden beds, just about the only disadvantage is that they need to be built. You need to invest time and money into the materials and construction.
However the good news is that the materials are typically cheap and raised beds are easy to build. When it comes to the time involved, you’re going to be investing that in tilling and weeding with traditional gardening.
They need more watering. Another potential downside is that raised beds typically require more watering, but it’s not much of a problem if you remember to water regularly, or better yet, set up a sprinkler on a timer.
Yard Gardens with Raised Garden Beds
If you live in an area with restrictive Home Owner Association (HOA) rules when it comes to gardening, there are creative ways to work around that. Creating lovely raised garden beds that integrate into the landscape is one way.
Raised Bed Gardens in a Thriving New Zealand Yard Garden
A Backyard Garden of Eden and Only 4 Hours per Week
In the video that follows the context and brief tips, you’ll see the amazing yard garden of two beginning gardener brothers in New Zealand. Raised bed gardens is just one of the many ways they’re optimizing growing on a small hillside parcel of land.
The brothers both work full time and so they’ve structured their garden ecosystem so well that it’s taking them only about two hours each per week to tend to it!! Of course most of us enjoy being out in our garden as much as possible, but if your time is limited, it’s good news that you can still manage a garden.
When it comes to gardening, put in the work up front with good soil and planning and it will save you lots of time and grief as the summer progresses.
Sure, there are some differences of course from growing in the northern hemisphere versus the southern. Their growing season may also be different and longer than some of ours.
The New Zealand winter is our summer and their north is our south. But when it comes to getting the most out of less space, this is a fantastic example that can benefit any gardener.
This hillside raised bed garden scape is a beautiful sight to behold.
Now for an inspiring 4:42 minute tour of an incredible flourishing garden by first time, newbie gardener brothers. Sit back and enjoy this delightful and informative tour by PodGardening.co.nz.https://www.podgardening.co.nz/august-2015.html
You Can Garden for Profit, Even on Small Plots
If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy this article on gardening for profit on just 1/8 acre!https://www.gardensall.com/small-farm-organic-gardening-for-profit-on-just-18-acre/
Or this family of four feeding themselves on a 1/4 acre urban homestead with food leftover to sell. They’re growing 7,000 pounds of food and earning approximately $20k per year with plenty for themselves.https://www.gardensall.com/urban-homestead/
How to Build a Raised Bed Garden with Benches
We’ve heard from a number of folks saying their knees, back or age wouldn’t allow them to garden so much any more. That’s definitely an advantage in raised garden beds. It places the planters at a reasonable level for you to be able to tend your garden without squatting and hardly any bending or stooping.
But you can take that further and make it even more convenient. Whether it’s for you or an elderly parent or neighbor, this idea will help you spend more enjoyable hours gardening.
List of Materials:
- 1 – 2 x 2 x 8 board
- 3 – 2 x 4 x 8 boards
- 8 – 2 x 6 x 8 boards
- 2 – 2 x 8 x 8 boards
- 3 – 1-lb boxes 2½-inch deck screws
- 1 – 1-lb box 3-inch deck screws
List of Tools:
- miter saw or circular saw*
- measuring tape
*Or you can have lumber pre-cut at home improvement store.
You can find complete directions for this project plus download a PDF from Bonnie Plantshttps://bonnieplants.com/library/build-raised-bed-with-benches/ .
Raised Bed Garden with Benches – How to Video
In less than 2 minutes you can gain a good overview of what’s involved in this video by Bonnie Plants. Looks really cool and functional too.
Raised Bed Garden with Seats, by Bonnie Plants
Contributions from the Community
Carol Wilkinson says she loves her container garden. You can see a several variations on the raised bed theme in Carol’s photo. She’s got half barrels on two tiers of blocks and various other pots, planters and containers. It’s so much easier tending the raised planters!
Donna Ramsey installed a cinder block raised bed garden in late March / Early April. She plans to use plastic pipe arches to extend her growing season. Great idea!
Wishing you great gardens and healthy harvests.
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