Rosemary adds a dramatic aspect to the garden.

 

 









Raised bed possible answer to winter gardening slump

Published on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 by Rhiannon Allen

Read More In The Garden

Do you have poor soil? Does your back complain as you bend over to garden? Are you eager to jump-start your garden in spring? One solution to these problems is raised bed gardening: the use of garden beds raised above the natural level of your garden.

Raising a garden bed expands the growing season by creating a bed that warms more quickly in spring. Soil – like water – changes temperature more slowly than air, and larger volumes change temperature even more slowly. So in spring, a raised bed surrounded by air on all sides except the bottom will warm up much more quickly than the vast volume of soil in a flat garden. If you want to start warm season herbs and vegetables like basil, tomatoes and peppers, a raised bed will allow you to start planting in early May rather than waiting until June.

A raised bed also gives you better control over a number of factors. If you have clay soil or overly sandy soil, then a truckload of soil, compost or sand/compost mix from the hardware store, a nursery or Fraser Richmond can yield soil that is ideal for growing what you want. These products can constitute the full volume of your raised bed, or can be mixed with existing soil to produce the kind of planting medium and drainage that you want.

Raised beds are also less likely to be invaded by tree roots, grass or other creeping vegetation that you do not want in your garden bed. Cedar roots can gradually invade a raised bed unless you’ve put landscape fabric underneath your bed, but any raised bed will give you some extra years of tree root-free gardening. And finally, it is easier to keep certain pests out of raised beds.

You can apply copper tape or stripping to the top of a raised wall to keep out slugs. Netting to stop carrot fly can be staked around the edges of a bed of carrot seedlings. Netting can also be rolled over the top of the bed to discourage birds, or glass placed over top to form a cold frame.

A final advantage of raised beds is ease of tending. A bed that is raised even six inches above the ground means six inches less bending. As our backs age along with the rest of us, a foot-high bed can make a difference to our quality of life.

So if you’ve decided to go the raised bed route, winter is the perfect time to plan and build. Any material that will hold soil is good for the walls of a raised bed. The only exception is pressure-treated lumber for vegetable gardens. Pressure-treated lumber contains toxic compounds like arsenic that can leach into the soil and subsequently be taken up by plants.

Cedar is the most long-lasting natural lumber available here, and either our hardware store or Home Hardware in Tsawwassen is likely to have the dimensions you need. Wood walls will need to be secured well to resist collapsing outward with the weight of the garden soil you’ll be putting in the bed. If you’re a good carpenter with good tools, you can do all sorts of fancy jointing and stacking. But anyone can take spikes or long screws to bind together the corners of a simple raised wooden bed. If you’re willing to spend, corners and connecting brackets for joining raised bed lumbers are sold by Lee Valley Tools and GardenersSupply.com. These companies also sell plastic boards – some in cheerful colors – that are longer-lasting than natural lumber.

If you don’t want a rectangular raised bed, then consider rock or retaining wall products for your walls. These give you much more flexibility in shape, and are generally used to construct the round and free-form beds preferred for ornamental gardening and rockeries. If you can’t find appropriate materials in Point Roberts, then go to BC Brick in Richmond to check out their retaining wall blocks. Lee Valley Tools and GardenersSupply.com also sell pivoting metal brackets that allow you to connect and stack boards to one another in straight-sided non-rectangular shapes like a hexagon, star or trapezoid.

If you will need to do a lot of weeding or harvesting, a final consideration in designing your raised bed is to ensure that you will be able to reach all parts of the bed. For this reason, a rectangular bed three feet wide by six feet long by one or two feet high is considered ideal. If you don’t like those constraints, then at least leave pathways in the bed so that you can wander and not step on plants.

Drive around and peek at people’s gardens for more ideas. And check out the community garden beds behind the community center for examples of raised vegetable beds.

 Have fun planning!
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