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Raised Bed Gardens: Gardening Made Easier & More Productive

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

A raised garden bed can make gardening easier to access and more productive. Most often raised garden beds are used to grow vegetables and herbs, but flowers and other plants can be grown. Four things are needed for a raised bed garden: an above ground container, rich soil, plants and a gardener. The size of a raised bed garden can range from a single pot to large beds with lumber sides. The costs of raised bed gardens can range from almost nothing to a lot.

One of the most inspiring urban gardens in the United States is Growing Power in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Of its many innovative ways of gardening is the simple collection of hundreds of black plastic pots grouped together growing greens for restaurants and farmer’s markets. These are the pots that plants are sold in, ranging from gallon size to larger. At Growing Power the pots are filled with the rich soil produced in the worm composting piles that are part of this urban farm’s unique sustainable system. This simple way of raised bed gardening can work on concrete, decks or a spot of land. The challenge is making sure there is enough water and that the black plastic doesn’t get too hot.

There are many other types of containers that can be used for raised bed gardening; from beautiful ceramic pots, to old wheelbarrows, to whatever the imagination can discover to hold heavy soil and grow plants. Raised bed gardens made of lumber sides holding soil is what is often thought of as raised bed gardening. Most of these garden beds are rectangular in shape and vary in height. They can be constructed of old or new lumber. Instructions for using old wood palettes are found online. Metal or plastic corner holders can make the job easier when constructing a bed. Unlike moveable pots, these raised beds aren’t easily going anywhere, so consider carefully before building. These beds can be placed on ground, driveway or patio. Accessibility is important. Three feet across allows a person to reach into the center from both sides. A pathway in between should be wide enough to easily get through. A wire mesh on the bottom and partially up the sides will keep burrowing creatures out. A short wire fence on the top, or tall enough beds, will discourage rabbits.

The soil for raised beds needs to be rich in nutrients. Potting soil is too light and dries out in an instant. Mixing potting soil with garden soil works best. For large raised beds a mixture of compost and topsoil is ideal. St. Louis Compost’s garden mix is used in many community and backyard garden raised beds. There is an online calculator that helps figure out how many yards of soil are needed. For large containers, soil does not need to fill the whole pot. Discarded plant pots covered with landscape fabric can be used to fill the bottoms.

Seeds or starter plants can be planted in a raised bed. For vegetables: seeds of cool weather crops can go outside in March, then ones that thrive in heat and finally fall late crops. Raised beds are ideal for square foot gardening, where seeds and plants are placed according to their size in each square foot of soil.

Like in all gardens, raised bed gardens thrive with the care and love of the gardener. Plants need to be watered and weeds removed. Most vegetables do best with consistent watering, especially tomatoes. And like most of our food crops, pollinators are needed. Make sure there are lots of flowers, especially natives, nearby to attract these insects. They work with us to make raised bed gardens a success.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader.
Visit her blog:
www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog
or website:
www.CreativityForTheSoul.com
Contact her at 314 504-4266

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