Raised Garden Beds

Ever wonder why raised garden beds are becoming so popular? Raised garden beds offer superior soil structure and drainage than traditional ground gardens. Plus, they give you a nice head start in the spring since the soil can warm quicker. On top of that, raised beds have far less issues with annoying perennial weeds. The height of the raised garden bed can also allow for much less stress on your body when gardening. There are several types of raised beds as well as multiple materials available for your raised bed. Let’s talk more about the types of beds, the materials, and the pros and cons of each type.

Raised Garden Bed Types

  • Raised Ground Beds – The most basic of raised ground beds are mounds, about six to eight inches high, with flat tops. To create the raised ground bed, you should add roughly 4-6 inches of rotted manure, peatmoss or compost. Till the additive into the soil and then create a mound about 4-6 inches high with the sides tapering off at about 45 degrees. Be sure to give your bed at least a week to settle before planting. At the end of season add compost as a mulch while growing or after harvest. Drainage can be an issue with this type of bed, so a channel for runoff is recommended. You should keep each mound at 5 feet or less, mostly due to erosion and runoff.
    • Pros – Affordable way to create a raised garden bed.
    • Cons – Size limitations, per bed. Must reshape bed seasonally, still at ground level.
  • Supported Raised Beds – Supported raised beds are the same concept as raised ground beds, but because you’re building edge support you can make the garden larger than five feet. To reach the center or rows of your garden, you can add wide planks of wood as bridges to move around the garden. To create a supported raised garden bed consider using 2” x 6” lumber. Be sure to choose a rot resistant lumber such as cedar. Use the lumber to create an outer frame of your choosing. Give your bed a week to settle and it is plant ready. Note – avoid railroad ties for supporting your raised garden beds. There is a toxic treatment used on railroad ties that can leach arsenic into the surrounding plants and soil.
    • Pros – Affordable way to create a raised garden bed. Can create larger garden areas than unsupported raised beds.
    • Garden still at ground level, so bending and stooping can still be an issue.
  • Containerized Raised Beds – Containerized raised garden bed’s popularity is exploding, and in our opinion, for good reason. Containerized raised beds allow you the most control over the soil and soil drainage with the added benefit of being substantially more ergonomic (body friendly!). Add in the extra protection from pests and weeds…what is not to love about raised beds? With the surge in popularity there is a wide variety of materials and ways to create your containerized raised garden bed. You can create fun or beautiful designs or create simplistic and affordable options that save your back and knees a lot of pain. When designing your containerized bed keep in mind that you’ll need to reach all the way around the bed, so leave room around the structure as well as keep the width where you can easily reach all areas of the bed.

(Note – raised beds are a great choice for those in wheelchairs. 27” is the recommended height for wheelchair accessibility.)

A few additional care tips are:

    • Fill your bed with a mixture of soil and organic matter.
    • Plan on adding soil every year as the existing soil settles and ages.
    • Keep in mind that containerized beds, regardless of size, need more watering than ground beds.

With the containerized raised beds having so many material options, we’ll break it down by material and the pros and cons of each.

  • Wood – Wood by far is the most popular choice in containerized beds. Wood is affordable and you can create the shape and size of your choice. Choose a wood that is naturally resistant to moisture and rot, cedar and redwood are two great options, however, most types of wood will work if you keep in mind that you may have to replace some wood more often. (Don’t forget to stay away from railroad ties due to the toxic treatment they receive, as noted above.)
    • Pros – Cost effective, easy to customize, natural look blends well in garden environments.
    • Cons – Doesn’t last as long as other materials, needs more repair and replacement over time, can rot or become infested by insects.
  • Recycled Plastic– Recycled plastics, typically made from high-density polyethylene are nice because they don’t require staining and sealing like wood does, and it is long lasting and very durable.
    • Pros – Long lasting, no rot, color variety, recycled materials, in some areas can be recycled after use as well.
    • Cons – Expensive, heavy, less linear strength than wood.
  • Composite wood – Composite wood is a lightweight mixture of polypropylene and wood, typically given a wood texture and color. These types of beds typically use a stackable corner joint for assembly.
    • Pros – Long lasting, weather resistant, rot resistant, easy to set up, customize and move.
    • Cons – Can bow outwards at once or over time, can fade over time, weak materials (hollow wood) are easily damaged.
  • Concrete block – Concrete block is a durable way to create your raised garden. The blocks are easily stacked, don’t succumb to rot, and are sure to be long lasting. They are heavy to move around, and once your raised garden has a few years in one spot, moving it can be cumbersome.
    • Pros – Easy to stack, stable, durable, no rot
    • Cons – Heavy, not easily moved, can give an industrial look to your gardens
  • Brick – Brick again provides a nice durable construction for your raised bed. Brick is wonderfully timeless and classic in appearance. Choose your spot wisely since brick is a real chore to move once installed.
    • Pros – Durable, stable, classic
    • Cons – Heavy, difficult to move, expensive
  • Stone – Long lasting, no rot, and extremely durable, stone gives your garden a wonderfully earthy look and feel. Much like concrete and brick, it can be really heavy and difficult to move, so pick your spot wisely!
    • Pros – Long lasting, no rot, wide variety of options, natural beauty
    • Cons – Heavy, hard to move, can be expensive
  • Metal – Last, but far from least is the metal raised bed. Metal is lightweight, easily moved, durable and long lasting. Gaining in popularity there are more options and styles available, and even the old galvanized steel look is in style!
    • Pros – Light, can be stylish, durable, no rot, easy to move
    • Cons – Can become very hot in sunlight, can be expensive

Now that you’re loaded with all the information for raised garden beds, it is time to start planning your own! At Mimbach Fleet Supply, you’ll find our employee owners are dedicated to helping you achieve your gardening goals, from seeds and soil to all the supplies you need to make your garden grow.



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