A raised bed is quite simply a way of growing in soil that’s raised above ground level. It can be made of so many things from a mound of soil, a brick build structure or a raised bed made from thick wooden sleepers.
It can also be any depth from one brick high- which will let you grow salads, to a deep bed thats waist height which means you don’t need to bend as much. A deeper bed lets you grow a larger variety of plants with deeper roots.
The depth you make your bed really depends on your needs.
There’s no need to dig the soil, weeds or grass under the raised bed though, as the newspaper or cardboard placed in the bottom of the raised bed before filling it with soil will keep the light from the weeds and grass and prevent them from growing. It decompose, adding nutrients to the bed.
So why use raised beds?
Using a raised bed means you have so much control over every aspect of the entire bed from choosing the soil, moisture leveles, and fertility, as well as the plants you want to grow. The deeper the bed, the more you can grow.
The idea is to make your bed as wide and as deep as pace allows for the most growing opportunities.
The Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening
There are many benefits to growing in raised bed.
- Raised beds have much better drainage.
- The soil inside tends to be on the drier side as it’s raised up from the natural soil level
- the water filters through.
So if you have thick sticky soil in the ground, a raised bed would really help make growing easier.
Try growing your seeds in seed pots while you build your raised bed so you can pop them in to your raised bed straight away. Have a look at these posts to see how.
There are less weeds to deal with in a raised bed too, those that do grow tend to be easier to remove from the drier soil. Raising your beds up means there is no pathways or grassy areas for weeds to grow out from, like buttercup that spreads itself around by pushing its shoots into fresh areas of soil and rooting there.
Raising your soil up also prevents it from being walked on and being compacted, and they serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails.
There are many pros and cons to growing edibles in a raised bed.
- You can usually grow in them alot earlier than in the ground which takes longer to warm up in spring.
- It gives your soil protection from washing away or being compacted from walking on
- Tend to be drier and need more watering
- Take time to build and need soil to fill them
Tips for growing in raised planters
- Start with good quality soil with plenty of nutrients.
- Use empty plastic bottles, soda cans or packing material to fill the bottom of your planter to reduce the amount of soil you need to fill your planter. Aim to have about 30 to 40cm of soil.
- Understand the plants you want to grow ie.place your planter in bright sunny areas if your.growing corn, pumpkins etc but for in shaded areas for lettuces, brassica etc.
- Start small you can always add more.
What size should it be?
With a raised bed the worlds your oyster in terms of size. For us a raised bed can be a container, a pot or even a vertical planter on the wall. Tradituonally though, a good Rule of thumb when sizing your beds is.to ensure they are accessible from all sides. Make sure you can easily tend all parts of the bad without having to lean over or stand on the bed.
A good metre and a half wide and 2 metres long would be plenty of space. This allows you to reach in to plant and weed without compacting the soil.
Consider depth too, if your intending on growing long rooted plants like carrots or potatoes you need deep soil. You don’t want your prize carrots ending up at a 45° angle because they’ve hit the bottom of the planter.
The bottom of a raised garden bed should be a layer of grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, straw, and other organic material. The cardboard should be placed on top of that layer. The organic material will turn into compost, while the cardboard will prevent weeds. It will slowly compost and feed your plants too.
Should I line my raised bed with plastic?
You can line your raised bed to make it more durable and to prevent toxics from leaching into the soil but it’s not essential. If you would like to line the inside, I would use some weed membrane or landscape fabric.
I ordered mine online but you can pick this up from garden centres. We have also used left-over materials from curtain making like rolls of cotton etc. I would stay away from plastic linings. It can stop water escaping and keep useful worms and insects out.
How do you fill a raised bed cheaply?
The cheapest way to fill raised beds is to reuse your garden materials. In our garden we fill the bottom of our deep beds with plastic bottles so less soil is needed. If your beds aren’t this deep and your placing your bed onto grass or bare ground then,
- Place a layer of grass clippings on the soil and cover with a layer of cardboard.
- We then use last years pots of soil which will have very low nutrient levels but lots of fibrous roots and materials that will breakdown and hold water.
- We then top up with garden soil with worms and bacteria or our own garden compost. Try this compost in a bottle activity with kids to teach them how compost is made.
- You can also add horse manure that’s been well rotted if your growing really hungry crops like pumpkins, potatoes or fruit. Contact local stables and ask if they have spare and I’m sure they will love it if you come and take some away.
Your local council might also have soil, wood chips, and compost available for free (or low cost) that can be used in your raised beds it doesn’t hurt to give them a call.
So there’s our guide to what is a raised bed. Whether you want to grow vegetables, fruit or flowers.
A raised bed is a valuable place to grow anywhere from a balcony to patio and kitchen garden so give it a go today. Remember to comment and tell us what you put in your raised beds.