4 Ways to Make Raised Garden Beds Last
Photo of Almy family’s raised garden bed
Just for the record…What exactly constitutes a raised Garden?
Raised Garden beds are simply a framed in garden space, that raises soil levels from ground level to “tending levels” for easier management. While there is no specific height these raised beds must be, they tend to be roughly 2-3.5 feet from ground level. Raised garden beds are fantastic if you would like to do a little less bending and stooping to weed and feed your plants. They are also wonderful for giving your plants a balanced start, with proper drainage and soil balance for the types of plants you intend to grow. (Always be sure to research what soil type and light preferences your “bedfellows” will have! Growing pumpkins and potatoes in the same soil would be awfully difficult due to difference in soil nutrient preference and light preference.) Since nature doesn’t exactly offer up raised Garden beds often… the opportunity to influence the soil quality from the get go is worth investing a few research hours in.
So, how can you make a raised garden bed last longer?
- Pick the right materials for your environment.
- Treat the materials, and plan out the raised bed design so if you need to remove a panel for some reason, it will be easy to replace
- Add drainage on the bottom of the beds
- Treat the soil in accordance with the preference of the plants that will grow there, that way soil doesn’t have to be treated every season prior to planting.
(Pro tip: Working from the bottom up when considering plant growth is important! As the roots of the plants reach downwards, they are typically “grateful” for higher quantities/concentration of essential minerals. In my experience, pumpkins love potassium! I create a 6” layer on the bottom of the raised bed, just above the drainage rocks with increased levels of potassium. When the plants are established and are roughly 8 weeks-12 weeks old, they take off in green growth and start flowering multiple times shortly after. Increased potassium levels in the soil as they grow downward has increased the viability of the plants which I intentionally adjusted mineral levels for, compared to the test plants which had standard miracle grow soil alone.)
Photo of Ronnie inspecting a bag of Hi-Yield Mineral Bag from Ace Hardware
Constructing a raised garden bed isn’t so difficult to do, as long as the “constructor” has a strong will, and half decent tools the job is fairly simple to complete. Many folks choose to build a raised bed out of left over wood from various projects, some prefer to purchase ready-made metal beds and others yet prefer recycled plastic. Being the overachievers that we are, we’ve used all 3! Each has pros and cons depending on the native soil/ environmental factors, and the gardening style of the gardener!
(See our previous blog HERE to see how we went about building a wooden raised bed out of recycled pallet boards, blood, sweat, and a few 4 letter words!)
The common problems and a few solutions
Common ways raised garden beds will bust apart, begins with the rot at the bottoms, and ends at seams bursting. As to be expected, any weak points will be tested over time and there will be failure. Wood rots and burns, metal corrodes, and some plastics can become brittle.
Common problems amongst wood and brittle plastic types, is that they are weakened by sunlight on one side but not the other, or are even effected by frost over time. (This is not the same story for the Full Circle Plastics containers, as they are engineered to be a thicker, more pliable plastic mix.) If you notice that the boards are becoming brittle on the “sun baked side”, you might consider adding a double wall. Adding in a second layer would make it easier to remove the outside brittle panel, but still maintain the overall structure and avoid having to remove the soil pressure to fix an original wall panel.
Wooden raised garden beds can be the most affordable of the bunch, since using a mishmash of leftover wood is just-as-much-of a solution as using epoxy-dipped-cedar. The hazard of using wood overall is that with time, moisture invariably penetrates the wood and begins to cause soft spots and rot. This is less of a problem in arid climates, though in arid climates wood will have a tendency to split over time.
CLIFFHANGER…Sorry to disappoint folks but Ronnie has been pushing my buttons (pun intended), so I will post part two of this blog as soon as he is done messing about and back to work.
Toby-Jeanne is the Cat’s Claw Queen, who infrequently gets roped into writing articles due to her crabby nature while word-smithing. She is a plant enthusiast, though none of her indoor plants have survived to adulthood. Fortunately, Ronnie the Cat’s Claw Cat is a little less picky about sunlight and watering schedules, so Toby-Jeanne has managed to keep him on the Cat’s Claw payroll since day 1. If you have any ideas or questions, forward them to Chava@catsclawfasteners.com because we do not even pretend Toby-Jeanne is good about remembering to answer emails. And don’t forget to keep up with Cat’s Claw Fasteners on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!