Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gardening Article: Style and Function: The How-to of Raised Garden Beds

Raised garden beds can add visual interest to an otherwise ordinary landscape. They can also take the strain out of gardening by bringing the garden closer to your level, eliminating the time you spend stooping and bending to tend to your plants. With a few tools, you can create raised beds yourself.

A Better Way to Grow

Raising garden beds will improve drainage and curb weed growth. Some additional perks include:

  • Isolation of plants that spread, or are invasive
  • Prevention of soil compaction
  • Protection against slugs and snails

Building the beds puts you in charge of the design. You can create multiple levels and mix different types of wood to make a pattern. For example, alternate cedar and maple to create a checkerboard look with a sweet cedar smell. It may take a little time to develop each section, but the results will be impressive.

Make a Plan

Narrow beds such as 3 feet by 6 feet allow you to work from both sides while maintaining the garden. You can make the walls as tall as you want, but keep in mind deep beds will require more soil to fill.

Once you map-out your design on paper, use string or chalk to block-off each section of the yard where the beds will go. Remove a couple inches of earth and fill the space with crushed stone to improve drainage. Smooth the gravel until it is level. For an alternative to gravel or stone, cover the ground in each bed with landscaping fabric. This will reduce weed growth.

Get Busy: The Step-by-Step

Cut the lumber to the proper size using a table saw. For example, to build a bed that measures 8 feet by 4 feet, buy three 8-foot planks and cut one in half to create the end pieces.

Attach the ends to the side planks with screws or, to make the process easier, purchase ready-made, rot-resistant garden bed posts. The posts stick into the earth and have grooves that hold each plank in place. Set up a post at each corner of the bed and slide the wood pieces into the holders.

Fill the frame with soil and add compost and peat moss to create a nutrient-rich environment for the plants going into that area.

Set up an irrigation system. You can put soaker hoses between each bed or use perforated sprinklers. Installing a drip-irrigation system automates the watering process. If you don't have the time or budget to install an irrigation system, you can always water the plants yourself.

Raised beds can give your yard a manicured, high-end look without breaking the bank. You can design and build your own raised beds in a weekend, and enjoy the results for years to come.

Kristine, a music enthusiast, originally hails from Chicago. She has a cat, her best friend, named Walter. She enjoys crafting from music memorabilia and baking organic treats for Walter. In her free time she writes on behalf of Sears and other brands she trusts.

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