Raise A Bed – A Good Way To Upgrade The Soil

shovel in the dirt, getting ready for garden tilling.

We spend a lot of time talking about how to make our garden soil better. It is the lifelong quest of the home gardener to have great soil! We add compost – we till – we add more compost then manure then… you know the drill. There is another way – ok – it is cheating a bit – but we can call this cheating way a ‘landscape design element’ and get away with it!

Raised beds!

Yup – raise the bed and add all new ‘good’ soil – and now we are off to the races without worrying about soil improvements (at least in the first year)

The ‘raised’ garden is any garden that has been framed – typically with wood – raising the soil line above that of the ground. You can use wood, field stone, bricks, treated 6×6 timbers or anything that will hold dirt in to frame and raise a garden. Ideally the framing material will be attractive to look at and will not rot. Also avoid railway ties as they usually contain a wood preservative called creosote that will hurt your plants. We usually use pressure treated lumber but check out the garden centre as there are kits available to help with this project.

Reasons to raise a flower or veggie bed?

Artistic – a raised bed can look very nifty and sharp. Our backyard veggie garden is raised and we added all sorts of fun angles to it just because we could.

Improve the soil – a raised bed is usually filled with ‘good soil’ that often is better than the icky clay or whatever is in the garden. New subdivisions are notorious for poor quality fill and a raised veggie bed is a quick fix. If you are ordering dirt to fill a raised bed with – remember spending a few dollars extra in solid quality dirt will pay dividends.

Also add a bunch of compost or organic matter (ok – we still like doing this part – but that is because it really works!)

Save your back – real reason I put my garden in raised beds is I hate weeding as it can be back breaking work. So my solution was to raise the veggie garden, make it closer to me so I have to bend very little. Yup –I raised my beds over 60 cm (24”) – and put in lots of walkways so I do not ever have to reach too far– so now I can pour a glass of nice wine and stroll each evening through my raised beds and gently pull out a weed here and there. Pipe in classical music for full effect and suddenly weeding is now a cultural event and not a chore!! Now a 60cm raised bed is real luxury – even a 15cm (6”) raised bed will improve your yield, but remember the higher you raise it the less you have to bend to pull weeds.

A few tips:

Always fill with good dirt

Always use materials to frame your bed that will not immediately rot – pressure treated lumber is good, avoid creosote treated lumber.

Always add walkways to help in weeding – Have fun with them and be artistic – build funny angles.