If you're short on space or have bad soils where your veggies just won't take, a raised bed can be a cost effective and time saving solution.
Ever dreamed of a lush, productive garden but hit rock every time you pick up a shovel? Or maybe your backyard is more of a concrete jungle than a gardener's paradise. Maybe you're a renter, and the thought of leaving behind a beloved garden you've poured your blood, sweat and tears into is just too much to bear. Or further still, maybe you're a seasoned, avid gardener, but your knees and back just aren't what they used to be.
All of these gardening woes can be resolved with the creation of raised garden beds. You can start a raised garden almost anywhere: on top of a concrete slab, in a corner of the garden, or even on an old kitchen trolley - as long as it's in a place that gets plenty of sunlight, you're good to go!
Here's our beginner's guide to starting your own raised garden bed at home.
HOW TO CREATE A RAISED GARDEN BED
Raised garden beds can either be constructed onsite from recycled timber, sleepers, or corrugated iron. Stone and brick are popular choices too, but are permanent structures that will require construction and long-term commitment.
If DIY is not your thing, however, there's always the option of purchasing a pre-fabricated garden bed (often made from timber, corrugated iron or plastic), and prices start from as little as $20.
Depending on how sophisticated you want the set up to be, consider installing drip irrigation, which is the most efficient way to water your garden.
BEST WOOD FOR RAISED GARDEN BEDS AUSTRALIA
If you do decide to build your own garden bed from wood, it is always a good idea, where possible, to choose reclaimed timber.
If you don't have access to reclaimed timber you can buy sleepers from your local hardware store. Just ensure that the type of wood you select hasn't been treated with toxic chemicals.
Treated pine is available everywhere, but not all types are ideal for a veggie patch. Older versions of treated pine (called CCA treated pine) were preserved with copper and chrome arsenate (containing arsenic). While studies have shown that only a very small amount of these chemicals end up in some root vegetables, organic gardeners will want to steer clear.
With many gardeners seeking organic and environmentally friendly ways to grow their own produce, newer pine treatments – such as ACQ treated pine are available. ACQ pine undergoes a water-based wood-preservation process, making it perfect for home vegetable gardens.
Other popular choices include Jarrah or cypress, which are naturally resistant to decay and termite damage.
When constructing your own raised garden bed, it's important to select the right material for your climate and purpose.
LINING A RAISED GARDEN BED
While some gardeners argue against lining their raised garden beds with weed matting (as it is believed that allowing the roots of the plants to penetrate the natural soil level is beneficial), most say the pros far outweigh the cons.
To line your garden bed, begin by placing a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard on the ground (if using cardboard, ensure you remove any sticky tape and stickers first). Then line the sides and base with weed matting.
Raising the garden bed off the ground can save your knees. To save your back, keep a garden stool handy to sit down comfortably as you garden.
HOW TO FILL A RAISED GARDEN BED
One of the biggest advantages to creating raised garden beds is that the soil conditions are completely customisable.
Do away with shovelling into rock-solid clay, or working out how to make things grow in soil that doesn't drain very well. It's no wonder raised garden beds are also called 'no-dig' gardens.
The most popular way to fill a raised garden bed is to layer it with a combination of soil organic materials, including hay, compost and manure.
Also known as 'lasagne gardening' or 'sheet mulching,' this will help create healthy, fertile soil that drains well and is adequately aerated (plants need air in the soil to thrive).
WHY YOU SHOULD LINE A RAISED GARDEN BED
SOIL LAYERING EXAMPLE
Once you have prepped your garden bed with a layer of newspaper and a weed mat, you can begin to layer your soil.
Here's an example of how you can layer the soil in your garden bed:
Once your garden bed is filled, water it well. Then you can plant your vegetables straight into the compost layer!
PORTABLE RAISED GARDEN BEDS
Raised garden beds can also be made renter friendly with the addition of wheels. Take an old kitchen trolley, or a rusted wheelbarrow, and fill it with your favourite plants.
Wheel it around from time to time to chase the sunlight. Just ensure that the vessel you are using use has adequate drainage.