Kevin Espiritu is an expert gardener who uses a variety of growing techniques to make the most of his small urban space. He shares his tips and advice through Epic Gardening, a blog, podcast and social media following of over half a million people.
He recommends raised beds for their ability to increase soil quality, sequester carbon, retain water and reduce weeding. These beds also offer a neater and easier-to-maintain landscape.
What are Raised Beds?
Raised beds are a key part of the Epic Gardener’s toolkit, and they’re easy to make. They’re a great way to improve your garden no matter what type of soil you have or how much space you have available.
The first thing you should do is decide where you’re going to put your raised bed. Consider any environmental conditions that could affect your finished beds, including runoff from heavy rains or other sources of water, and drainage.
Next, pick a size that’s appropriate for your needs. For most gardeners, a four-foot maximum width is ideal.
Once you’ve chosen a size, fill the bed with a growing medium that contains organic materials like compost, soil from another location, or soilless gardening mix. The growing medium should be mixed well before planting.
How to Build a Raised Bed
Building a raised bed gives you the opportunity to grow your favorite vegetables and herbs in a better environment, enabling you to control the soil. It also reduces the amount of soil compaction and makes weeding easier.
A raised bed can also help prevent pests from entering your garden. For example, a layer of hardware cloth or landscape fabric tacked across the bottom will deter critters.
To build a basic, straight-sided raised bed, start by making a frame with 2x6s and a corner post (Image 2). Measure the length of one board, mark it with a square, and cut the boards to length; then nail two short ends to each corner post for each long side of the bed.
Next, level the sides and end of the bed. Tap down the side with a level and use blocks underneath the frame to keep it even, until it is as level as possible.
A raised bed is a great way to add beauty to your yard. They also provide a lot of room for growing a wide variety of plants, so they’re an essential part of any gardener’s arsenal.
A variety of materials can be used to build a raised garden, including wood, stone, woven willow, plastic, and concrete. The type of material you choose will depend on your preference and your budget.
For example, you can make a slatted planter with old shipping pallets. These can be sourced free from businesses that get shipments.
Another option is to use cinder blocks, which are lightweight and easy to stack up. However, some older cinder blocks can contain fly ash from coal burning, which is not safe for edible crops.
If you’re worried about toxins leaching into your soil, you can line the bottom of your raised bed with plastic. This will help keep chemicals out of the soil, while also allowing roots to grow through and water to escape.
Raised beds are often a more expensive project than traditional in-ground garden beds, as they require more material and labor. This is particularly true if you choose a larger bed frame or hire a professional to build it.
To keep the cost of raised garden beds down, you can look for ways to find cheaper materials. For example, you can make beds out of old wood (like branches or small logs) and fill them with organic materials to hold moisture.
But be aware that this approach may not provide a deep enough base for most vegetables to grow. That’s because a good raised bed soil mix should be thicker than the surface layer.
Despite these limitations, you can still have an affordable and durable garden. It’s just a matter of finding the right options for your needs and budget!