Raised Bed Gardening

Side view of a metal raised garden bed.Metal Raised Bed

The term raised bed gardening is where the ground is brought higher up than it would have been usually. Sometimes the raised bed is 60 -70 cm off the ground but usually they are just about 20 - 30 cm above the ground.

When my friend and I were re-designing his garden, I noticed he was having trouble getting down to the ground so we incorporated a raised bed gardening section to grow some vegetables and flowers.

I have used raised bed when the ground soil has lots of roots that make digging very difficult. Another plus is adding different type of soil to the garden to grow plants that prefer that soil type such as Ericaceous soil.

Raised bed gardening - Facts and information

What is a raised bed?

A raised bed is a bought or made garden structure that can hold soil above ground level and not allow the soil to fall in a heap around an area.

These structures do not usually have a base and just consist of sides and ends held together securely.

Difference between a raised bed and a container for gardening.

Garden pots

The difference between raised beds and container gardening is that containers have a base as a container is a complete object whereas a raised bed isn't.

The containers can be placed on hard surface areas such as patios or use to hide a man hole cover in the garden or to brighten up a dull or dark area with shade loving plants.

Container gardening is just that, a garden in a container. The containers can be any type from different sized plant pots, baskets whether hanging or not, wooden boxes to the more unusual unused wellies or an unused toilet as a garden ornament.

The raised beds are placed in an area where they are going to be used. This could be in a vegetable plot or at the edge of a patio or seating area.

The fact that raised beds do not have a base allows the insects, micro-organisms and worms to venture into the bed and improve the soil that has been placed inside. It also allows the roots of shrubs and perennial plants to delve into the ground below.

What are raised beds made from?

The raised beds can be made out of any material from things you have an abundance of such as old tyres and one is strong enough to hold soil in place. 

They can also be made with edging out of old roof tiles, bricks, slabs, scaffolding boards, wood, fallen tree branches and the list goes on. These can be used on beds that will only be as high as half of the item used. Old roof tiles and slabs will have to be embedded into the ground.

One of the problems if wood or tree branches are used these will need to be replaced as the decomposing issue happens.

By preserving the wood and lining the bed with a non permeable lining before the soil is added can help to prolong the life of this material.

The final height of the raised bed will end up being inhibited by the materials used. Bricks can still be used but these will have to be cemented together to form a walled structure.

Taller raised beds can be bought from garden centres both on the high street and on line.

If you feel adventurous then you can have a go at building one yourself as it did.

What type of soil is placed in a raised bed?

A raised bed full of soil

Like containers on of the advantages of a raised bed is that any soil either similar to the type in the ground or one totally different to the ground soil can be used.

Heavy clay soils can be mixed with straw, leaves and compost to help break the clumps down but can take many months or probably years to get it to a good growing soil.  

Having a raised bed filled with a mixture of compost and top soil or just top soil will give the gardener a growing area quicker. The worms will still take some of the good soil down into the clay.

Uses of raised bed gardening

Improving the soil

As stated above a raised bed can be used to improve the soil whether it is because the ground has a very heavy clay soil or there are a lot of trees which gives a lot of roots in the ground.

Having access to gardening

One of the best properties of raise beds is that they can be high enough for people who are unable to bend down to the ground. 

This could be because of mobility issues, joint problems or age. Getting your hands into soil really feels good and growing or planting can give a great deal of satisfaction especially when you see the results be it for food or flowers.

No dig gardening.

The raised beds can become an edge to an area where there is a no dig method of gardening.

Weed inhibit membrane, paper or cardboard can be put at the bottom and them layers of compost, used mushroom compost and leaf mould can be placed on top where the growing is going to take place. Worms etc will take nutrients down into the ground but as the name states the ground is not touched with a fork or a spade for digging.

Give the garden some zones.

The raised beds can also give zones to the garden and so used as a floral or vegetable barrier. 

Trellis can be added for a hint of privacy in a warm sunny corner or the raised bed can be filled with scented or textured plants for a sensory spot.

Enjoy seeing if your garden could benefit from a raised bed or two.