My favourite way to establish a garden is with raised garden beds. There are many pros and cons, but I feel the benefits outway the negatives.
My garden has twelve raised beds set up in a grid with mulch in the walkways. It also has a perimeter fence to keep out animals. This has been my favourite garden and has made working and maintaining the garden very easy.
Construction & Materials
There are many materials that raised beds can be made of such as metal or brick, but the most common is rot-resistant wood. My garden beds are made of cedar, the boards are approximately 1-1/2″ thick and make up the 3-foot by 12-foot bed which is 8 to 10 inches tall. The three-foot width of the bed allows you to comfortably reach into the middle without hurting your back. In my experience, a length of more than 12-feet long results in longer paths around the garden which leads to more steps. The 3-foot by 12-foot bed has been a great size in my garden.
When building the garden beds I recommend using blocking in the corners to ensure a strong connection. Also, add a roughly two-inch by two-inch piece in the center bottom of the bed to hold the sides together.
Benefits of Raised Beds
When starting a garden there are many benefits to building with raised beds including managing weeds, drainage and amending your soil.
- Weeds – when establishing a garden a good first step is to evaluate what existing grasses or weeds already exist. When installing raised beds you can use a landscape cloth or other materials to block the existing ground cover.
- Drainage – when evaluating your garden location ensuring that the water will drain away is another important factor. Raised beds allow for the water to drain away from your plants when heavy rains or snow melts occur. Depending on your climate this could be a challenge and something to consider.
- Soil – depending on your location the existing soil may not be well suited for a garden. By building raised this allows you to add compost or other amendments to suit your growing needs.
Another benefit of raised garden beds includes faster warming of the soil to allow for earlier planting. I find that raised beds are also easy to cover with insect netting to keep out pests like cabbage moths.
Disadvantages of Raised Beds
The main disadvantage in my experience of a raised bed garden is the increased upfront cost. This includes both the building materials as well as the soil to fill the beds. Checking multiple local sources can be one way to try and minimize these costs or even make your own compost.
Overall I am a big fan of a raised bed garden, I enjoy that it allows for an organized and well-planned garden that is easy to maintain. Within the Garden Plan download in my Planning your Garden post, you will find a layout that can be used for planning a raised bed garden.