Why I Use Raised Garden Beds

Article written by Saturday6' blogger Eric Rochow from GardenFork

This spring it was time to make new raised garden vegetable beds in my yard. I built some 10 years ago and they have held up well, but are now falling apart.

I love using raised beds for  vegetable gardening - it makes it so much easier to tend to plants so you aren't straining any major body parts just to garden. If you need to weed or plant, you can just sit on the edge of the bed and work; you aren't down on the ground.

A key benefit of using raised garden beds for me is that raised beds warm up faster in spring than the yard around it. I cover my beds with black plastic in the fall, which kills weeds and then in the spring helps warm up the beds for earlier planting. I do find some mouse tunnels under the plastic, but nature happens.

I have built some mini greenhouses that fit right on top of the beds to extend the season. The raised bed makes it easy to secure them so they don't blow over.

It's also easy to manage the soil of a raised bed. I use the lasagna method of building garden soil with layers of compost, soil, cardboard, straw, etc. With the raised beds, you can quickly build up healthy garden soil.

I use a soaker hose watering system in the beds. I built a simple manifold at one end of the bed and soaker hoses run down the length of the bed (usually four or five hoses per bed).

Another added benefit is that I can attach a trellis to the side of the raised bed with a few screws and it stays upright. I don't need to hammer the trellis ends into the ground. In early spring, I sow sugar snap peas at the ends of each bed, and put up a quick trellis with a 1 x 2 lumber and string running up and down. I staple the string to the top of the raised bed and the top of the trellis, and I'm done. The hardest part is keeping my Labradors from eating the peas.

I use 2" x 10" lumber for my beds - pick what width works for you. The question of using treated lumber or not is up to you. The new copper-based wood preservatives are an improvement, from what I understand. You can also coat untreated wood with linseed oil, allow it to dry and then assemble the beds. I used linseed oil on my first beds, and they've held up fairly well.

The beds can be held together with any sort of metal brackets you have in the shop. I have used shelf brackets, angle brackets and metal roof truss brackets - they all work well. In the middle of the wide span of the bed, I hammer in a pipe or metal stake, and attach it to the side board with metal strapping. This keeps the sides of the raised bed from bowing out.

So there you go - a few reasons why I used raised beds. If you're still not sure about going this route, start with one bed and see how you like it.