Raised beds have many advantages. Water-saving and easy to weed, they are a gardener’s friend. They are a must in areas of poor soil, heat and drought. It takes a little work and time to build a good raised bed, but the labor pays off. Here is the easiest way I found to build one.
Most likely, you’ll be building a new bed on a grassy area. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have lush lawn growing around your home, but perhaps you are like most of us who live in the country and battle wild grasses and weeds. Either way, you’ll have to get rid of the grass first.
If you have the time, you may want to cover the area with a thick layer of mulch for a couple of weeks, so the soil can soften and the grass roots loosen enough for easy pulling. Or you can attempt to build your bed during a time of year when the soil is soft from rain, but not wet and lumpy.
First, you mark off the area. You can use cornmeal or flour to outline the bed. It’s up to you if you want to mow first, but I find it easier to pull the grass when the blades are longer.
With a spade, you dig down around the marked area, about three to four inches deep. Dig straight down, lift the dirt clumps and toss them into the bed area. Once you have an outline, you can place the frame around the bed. Treated 2x6s work well or you can use concrete. Nail the 2x6s together and place them down into the groove. If you use commercial concrete flower bed edging, make sure the edges match up.
Now spade the whole bed, pulling weeds as you go. This is the hardest part. If you do this diligently, you will have years of pleasure from your bed. By the time all the weeds are pulled, you should have nice loose, crumbly dirt. Now is the time to add stuff to improve the soil. What you add will depend on the type of soil you find.
If you have heavy clay, you will need to add sand and peat moss. I also recommend adding a couple of bags of dried sheep manure and/or compost and maybe some leaf mold. You are building the foundation nourishment for your plants. You may also add lime to sweeten the soil. If you have sand, you will need to add lots of humus and peat moss to hold the moisture or you’ll have runoff and will lose your plants in a drought. Really take your time with this step. Work all the additives into your soil.
More than likely, your dirt will reach the top of your enclosure or even bulge above it. Don’t worry. It will pack down after you plant and water. Cover your bed with a thick layer of newspaper and a barrier fabric, if you want. Let it rest a few days.
Now, you’re ready to plant. If you used barrier fabric, you can just cut slits and plant through the fabric. Make the hole big enough to give the roots room to spread and tamper down firmly. Water your plants in and you’re done!
Maintenance is easy with a bed of this kind. Weeds will eventually grow on the barrier fabric, but the roots won’t anchor well. You should be able to pull them easily. If you keep the area around the bed mowed and trimmed, weeds will be less likely to take hold.
Water gently over the top of the fabric, so you won’t pack the soil. You can still use Miracle Grow or a similar fertilizer. Apply your usual organic or chemical pesticides as needed. Winter maintenance requires restocking the additives. Pull the fabric off the top or lift it and apply a thin layer of compost to the top of the bed. Replace the barrier fabric.
If you follow these simple steps, you should have a flower or vegetable bed that is easy-care and prolific for years to come. Your neighbors will want to know your secret!