Plant Professionals: Raised Bed Gardening

Photo by Uriel Mont

By Kathy Valentine

For those with small potential garden spaces, poor or contaminated existing soils or perhaps just a balcony for plants, raised beds are a great solution. For those of us with aging knees and hips, raised beds are easier to plant, tend and harvest. An additional advantage of raised bed gardening is that soils warm up faster in spring and can be planted earlier. That also means covering before a frost will be important.

Raised beds can be made of cedar , untreated or reclaimed lumber, or repurposed wash pans, animal watering troughs or packing crates. Never use wood treated with preservatives, as most are highly toxic and can make fruits and vegetables toxic as well.

Think about the weight of soil, what material strength will be needed for the structure to be safe, what height is practical for your family, and what size and number of beds you will need. Perhaps begin with one or two the first spring ,and add as you see how productive this system can be for your needs.

There are several beautiful kits in wood, composite or metal that can be purchased in garden centers or ordered online. Research options, get ideas, then decide what approach will best suit your skills, space and budget. Like so many construction materials, lumber for raised beds is in short supply.

Be sure that if you use a tub or trough, that you have drainage holes so the garden doesn’t get soggy, and use a quality screened garden soil or bagged soils intended for vegetable plants to fill the planter. Allow for settling when the soil is watered, as it may settle 10% or more. Remember that shallow and narrow containers dry out quickly and will need watering as often as daily once plants are large and well- rooted. Large planters which sit on top of garden soil will hold far more moisture and allow for deep roots.

Think about which crops you wish to grow and what space and root depth those crops require as you plan your raised bed garden.

Kathy Valentine enjoys gardening.  She is senior partner at The Plant Professionals located at 16886 Turner St, Lansing, MI 48906.  It is an interior and exterior  landscape design , installation and service firm  also offering green walls and plants and flowers for events. She may be reached at 517-327-1059.