Looking for a gardening challenge next spring? Try a raised bed | Lifestyles
Are raised beds on your project list for next year?
Raised beds can add a neat, formal look to any garden. Beds need to be in balance with the area of the garden in which you will be placing them.
Start by laying out garden hoses or random boards in shapes to represent your ideas. Let them sit for a couple of days and double-check your shapes / sizes before you start. For vegetable patches, placement should be in full sun, which usually means it is free standing (not against a building).
The size of the beds varies depending on the height. If the beds are lower and you can step in, width is not an issue. With higher beds, you need to be able to reach in comfortably halfway. Over the years I have had many made from a wide variety of materials myself: railway sleepers, 2×10 treated boards, concrete block, stone, old tires, etc. Ten points for the appearance, two points for long-term success. While the stacked car tires weren’t attractive, they were technically a “raised bed”.
Which building material should you use? Beds made of boards must have cross braces inside. Even then, they’ll eventually disappear. Wood that gets wet and lays on the floor year after year twists and warps, so this may not be the best choice in the long run. Large stone beds can take a lot of heavy lifting to get them home and then into place, but they are very durable.
Since stones do not fit closely together due to their random shape, they must be lined on the inside so that the earth does not leak. I find that the plastic edges attached to the inside of the bed don’t stand out and do the job. Large metal cattle-type water tanks come on the stage as raised beds. The metal will look trendier so decide if you will still love it 10 years from now. Wooden or stone beds would be more neutral.
Before you begin filling the raised bed, if it was an area with weeds, put a few layers of flattened cardboard in the ground. If you use plastic, even with numerous holes in it, it won’t drain as it should. If you have very large beds, you may need to have soil transported; otherwise, buy bags from stores. Your mix should be a mix of heavier packaged garden soil, medium-weight potting soil, and some light materials like vermiculite or peat. These should be mixed up with a shovel, watered lightly, and planted a few days before planting.
You can also mix in a slow release fertilizer at this point. My longstanding success with workable soil in raised beds has not been good. In the first year it is a great, fluffy soft soil, the weeds pop out almost by themselves. Compaction began in the second year; it’s still workable, but you wonder what happened to the fluffiness. In the third year, you break a tine tine trying to penetrate your concrete flooring mass. Compaction, my friends.
A finished look like a raised bed can be achieved with edging and paving materials like I do. There’s no need to create a real raised bed, just install edging pavers to create a split and help mow lines or paths. No plastic edge has been invented that actually stays in place for a year or two – yes, even the species with six-inch spikes shifts regularly. If you can afford it, avoid the hassle of plastic and use hard materials like stone, brick, or plaster. Yes, even some of these may need to be readjusted over time, but it’s much better value than messing around with plastic over and over again.
Now that you have created beds to beautify your area, this is the time to mow those edges or weed them. You can always spray a narrow strip of grass killer along the edge to help. The final and most important consideration is: Have you ever worked in the garden? Raised beds are somewhat permanent and a lot of work to install. New gardeners, before taking the plunge, try the container garden or a small garden in the ground first. Make sure you love it before investing your TME (time, money, and effort).
The winter dates for the Mankato Farmer’s Market in the Drummer’s Garden Center are: December 18, January 8 and 22, and February 5 and 19. All appointments are 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.