A raised bed garden is made with a frame enclosing a growing medium containing the plants you want to grow (see picture above).
The raised bed garden has many benefits over traditional gardening. The most obvious is that it is less labor intensive since you do not have to dig up a large area. The raised bed frames are placed right on top of the ground. You do not need to work the soil under the frames. By placing several layers of newspaper down first you may place the frame on top of weeds, grass or any level surface. The only area that has to be conditioned is the soil you place inside the frames. Turning the soil, fertilizing, weeding and pest control is only required inside the boxes.
More Benefits of Raised Beds
Due to it's design, you will obtain a larger yield from a smaller area with a raised bed. For example, if you are planting a seed that recommends spacing 6 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart, you can simply plant the entire raised bed area with seeds 6 inches apart in every direction.
Another benefit is that the soil in a raised bed garden warms earlier in the spring and stays warmer in the fall than the traditional garden. Thus your plants will mature earlier and stay productive longer. And finally, for those up in years, you do not have to bend over as far to reach the surface of a raised bed.
How To Build A Raised Bed Garden
First, determine the size of your frames. You can make them as long as you want, usually 6-8 feet. But the width should be no wider than you can reach from the side of the frame to the center of the plot, usually 3-4 feet. This allows you to reach every spot inside the frame without stepping inside the raised bed. You should never step on the soil inside the frames since this compacts the soil. A common size for the raised bed is 4 feet x 8 feet. The height of the sides should be 8-12 inches (6 inches minimum).
The frames may be built from practically any material, but wood is most common. Simply cut the wood to size and nail or screw it together.
Locate the frames in a sunny location being aware of the position of the sun so tall plants do not shade smaller plants as the sun moves.
After locating your frames, cover the ground inside the frames with a minimum 1/2 inch thickness of newspaper. Then layer peat moss, straw, steer manure, compost and planting soil to a minimum depth of 6 inches (more the better). If you do not have all these materials, fill with the best growing materials you have, but be sure to cover the ground with newspaper first to prevent weeds.
Planting a Raised Bed Garden
Seedlings (small established plants) work much better in raised beds simply because you can space them for the most efficient use of your area. Starting from seed is O.K., but you are never sure exactly where they will sprout up. It's much easier to precisely space seedlings since you can see where they are being placed. You can buy seedlings from your local garden shop or grow your own indoors.
Again to prevent one plant from shading another, plant the taller plants (corn, sunflower, beans, peas) at the Northern most end of the garden. Then plant the medium sized plants (tomatoes, peppers, cabbage) in the center of your garden. Last, plant the smaller plants (onions, carrots, radish) at the Southern most end of the garden.
Raised bed gardens tend to dry out faster than traditional gardens so be sure to water when needed. Other than that, provide the same care you would with any other style garden. If you want a showpiece garden, you can cover the walkway's between the raised bed boxes with an attractive ground cover such as rock or redwood chips.
So give it try. Once your Raised Bed Garden is built it will last for years providing you with a beautiful garden that produces more while requiring less effort.