Thinking of using raised beds in your garden this year? Raised beds have become a common practice in gardening for good reason. Some benefits of planting in a raised bed include: more growing space, less weeds, easier on your back, better drainage, warmer soil, and less compaction especially from human traffic. There are several important things to consider when designing a raised bed garden.
Location Factors: The majority of produce we grow requires 8 hours of sunlight, so a location that receives ample sun will be the first step to consider when designing your raised bed. If wind is a concern, place beds where they are protected from prevailing winds by fences, buildings, or other structures. Beds should not be located in frost pockets or where air circulation is poor. If the location is predominantly clay soil, it should be amended with at least one third by volume of coarse sand, organic matter, or a coarse grade of perlite to improve drainage. Do not select a location in a marshy area where it will sit in water. Prepare the land by removing any grass or perennial weeds that can be found. An easy way this can be done is by layering cardboard and smothering them out.
What to grow: Once you know the location of your raised bed, the next factor to consider is what you plan to grow and how much. This will determine how many beds you need, if your space allows for multiple raised beds. Keep in mind your hardiness zone (a previous Ask Aggie post) to optimize garden success. If you are planning on growing crops that climb or vine, build the vertical support before you plant in the bed.
Size Considerations: Beds should be no more than 4 feet wide. This width allows for an individual to reach across the raised bed without needing to step into the bed. If the raised bed is against a structure, do not make the bed wider than your arm reach. Another factor to consider is walking space in between beds or other structures. Beds can be as long as desired, just keep in mind the cost of soil and amendments if those will need to be purchased. Most raised beds average between 4 to12 feet in length. Beds need to be at a minimum of 8 inches in height. Ideally, your bed should be 12-24 inches deep, this also depends on the type of plants you are growing (larger plants will need a more extensive root system). Keep in mind root crops such as potatoes and carrots will need deeper beds as well.
Stay tuned for a follow up post on designing a raised bed!