The following was written by a Customer Service Trainee:
The Raised Garden:
Nothing growing in your yard? Put a new one on top of it.
By Thomas Andrews
I was recently helping a certain relative build a raised flower bed to run parallel to the top deck of the pier at his lake house. Seeing as this relative happens to be my father, who seems to think for some reason that he is breaths away from the grave even though he has more hair on top of his head than I do and a tan like a seasoned surfer, “helping” means I did all the digging, lifting, and bending while he stood over me holding his back and complaining about how slowly I was moving. He loves raised gardens; his yard is one giant hill tiered-out like the steps of a Tibetan temple.
Raised gardens seem to pervade discussion in garden blogs lately, or maybe I have just been drawn to them because I am thinking of building one for myself. When it comes to having a successful garden, especially in undesirable conditions, raised beds are an old trick, but an effective one. They function just like an over-sized flower pot; you control exactly what goes in and how it goes in. If your yard has a drainage problem, weak soil, or burrowing pests, your garden doesn’t have to. Furthermore, the final product dramatically changes the layout of your yard, adding impressive depth and character to a flat lawn.
Raised gardens can be constructed out of just about anything, my great-great grandmother used to have a giant tractor tire filled with flowers out in front of her little house, and it worked, not that I’m surprised. I believe that woman could have planted beans in a pot of boiling water and gotten a sprout. Most people use wooden planks, railroad ties, castle stone or landscape timbers. I personally prefer the railroad ties because there is very little actual construction involved and they are fairly inexpensive, usually around ten dollars each. There are raised flower bed “no-tools-needed” kits, which are perfect for those incapable of strenuous physical labor, but they do limit your creativity somewhat and can be quite pricey.
Construction is simple, just like making a children’s sand box. The depth will be the trickiest part, but you can’t really make it too deep (just keep in mind that you are going to have to fill this with soil). However, if you make it too shallow, the soil will dry out too fast and will need constant watering, so shoot for at least twelve inches. You may want to make it deeper depending on which plants you are using and personal aesthetic intentions. It’s a good idea to lay some landscaping fabric or screen in the bottom to keep out critters and unwanted growth. Second, add about an inch or two each of sand and gravel for drainage. Now fill with your soil of choice; if you are planning a large project you may want to order it to be delivered in bulk, especially if your vehicle is not really equipped for carrying dirt. My dad is a contractor and gets the stuff wholesale, so I got to spend all afternoon toting 64 quart sacs of soil, I don’t recommend it. To complete the project, just plant your vegetables or flowers and enjoy your new and improved garden.