The simple act of creating a raised bed improves drainage in heavy
clay soil. Add in some organic matter to further increase drainage
and improve the water-holding ability for sandy soils.
And if your
soil is beyond repair or you don't want to wait, a raised garden
allows you to bring in quality soil and create a garden right on top
of the existing soil or even paved areas.
The quality soil and easy access will allow for dense plantings
without pathways. This means greater yields —
up to four times more —
in raised beds than in-ground gardens.
Raised beds also help conserve water. You'll concentrate your
growing efforts in smaller areas, and that means less water wasted.
Increase the benefit by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation in
order to concentrate water application to the soil nearest the
plants, right where it is needed.
Make your raised bed a comfortable height. Elevating the garden
minimizes bending and kneeling. Design raised beds in corners or
edges suited for sitting or areas narrow enough to set a garden
bench alongside for easy access.
Design raised gardens so they are narrow enough for gardeners to
easily reach all plants growing within the garden. Or include
steppers or pathways if creating larger raised garden areas.
Add a mowing strip around the edge of the raised bed. A narrow
strip of mulch or pavers set level with the soil surface keeps the
area tidy and eliminates the need for hand trimming.
Select a material suited to your landscape design. Wood, brick
and stones have long been used to create raised beds. Consider using
materials that are long-lasting and easy to assemble, like Lexington
Planter Stone (lexingtonseries.com).
These stone sections can be set right on the ground, fit together
easily, and can be arranged and stacked to make planters the size,
shape and height desired.
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Start a raised-bed garden by measuring and marking the
desired size and shape. Remove the existing grass and level the
area. For taller raised gardens, edge the bed, cut the grass
short and cover with newspaper or cardboard prior to filling
with soil. Be sure to follow directions for the system being
Once the raised bed is complete, fill it with quality soil.
Calculate the volume of soil needed by multiplying the length times
the width times the height of the raised bed, making sure all
measurements are in feet. Convert the cubic-foot measurement to
cubic yards by dividing it by 27, the number of cubic feet in a
cubic yard. For a 4-by-8-foot raised bed that is 2 feet deep, you
would multiply 4 x 8 x 2. This equals 64 cubic feet. Divide by 27
and you will need just a bit more than 2 cubic yards of soil. Don't
let the math overwhelm you. Most topsoil companies and garden center
staff can help you with the calculations. Just be sure to have the
raised bed dimensions handy when you order your soil.
The best part is that this one-time investment of time and effort
will pay off with years of gardening success.
[By MELINDA MYERS]
Melinda Myers, a gardening expert, TV
and radio host, author and columnist, has more than 30 years of
horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books,
including "Small Space Gardening
(Can't Miss)" and the "Midwest
Gardener's Handbook." She hosts The Great Courses "How
to Grow Anything" DVD series and the nationally syndicated
"Melinda's Garden Moment" segments. Myers is also a columnist and
contributing editor for
Blooms magazine. Her website,
offers gardening videos and tips.