If the hard, physical labor involved in gardening has taken some of the joy out of a previously pleasurable hobby, raised beds may be the answer. They eliminate the bending, reaching and digging required with traditional beds.
Raised beds offer a number of advantages to gardeners. The greatest benefit is that they bring the soil surface to a height that is easier to access. This eliminates the need to work on your hands and knees and prevents the strain and injury that repetitive bending and reaching may cause.
Raised beds also make it easier to maintain the garden. The following design is for a 4-foot wide bed, making it easy for the average person to get to the plants from either side. Staking, pruning, harvesting and weeding can all be accomplished without strain, since the entire bed is within easy reach. Another advantage is that raised beds extend the growing season, since the soil will warm earlier and freeze later.
To construct a 10’ by 4’ raised bed, you will need the following supplies:
• Two pieces of 2 x 12 untreated wood, each 10 feet long
• Two pieces of 2 x 12 wood, each 4 feet long
• 8 deck screws, 3-1/2 to 4 inches long
• Saw, measuring tape, screwdriver
• Top soil
Step One: Choose the location for your raised bed. Be sure the location receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day. You’ll want enough room on all sides of the bed to allow you to move freely. If you are constructing more than one bed, leave enough space between them to easily move a wheelbarrow through the paths. Till the soil that will be beneath the new bed to prevent drainage and root penetration problems.
Step Two: Build the frame. Lay the two 10’ boards parallel to each other. Attach one of the 4’ boards to the longer pieces, using two screws to secure each corner. Place the remaining 4’ board at the open end, screwing the corners together to form a rectangle. (Note: To make it easier to insert the screws, drill small starter holes into the wood first.)
Step Three: Add enough top soil and compost or other organic matter to fill the bed, and you’re ready for planting. Be sure to observe the recommended spacing between plants, but disregard instructions for row spacing. Install supports such as cages or stakes right after planting to avoid root damage later.