Raised garden beds add a level of versatility to your gardening that would not otherwise be possible. You can use them to add another layer of pest and animal protection, increase your gardening area, or create an attractive design feature.
Raised garden beds can help you overcome poor soil conditions by allowing you to easily create a soil mix that is ideal for the types of plants you enjoy growing the most. You can quickly build raised garden beds to suit your needs or purchase ready-made versions if you're not handy. Read on to find out more about raised garden beds, how best to use them around your garden, and a few of our
favorite design concepts.
What are Raised Garden Beds?
A raised garden bed is a relatively simple concept where you grow plants in an elevated planter box. Boxes most often sit directly on the ground, but a few variations are raised above ground level. Raised garden beds can be created from a wide array of materials, including straw bales, bricks, stone, and wood, to name a few.
Why Would You Use a Raised Garden Bed?
There are many reasons why a raised garden bed could be a useful addition to your garden. Firstly, just about all types of plants can be grown in them.
The elderly or the infirm can reduce the amount of bending needed for an afternoon in the garden. A raised garden bed also eliminates the labor issues of gardening where the ground may be hard and difficult to dig. For some gardeners, raised garden beds make an attractive addition to their backyard. Many also enjoy how the raised beds make it much easier to compartmentalize and organize their garden into different sections. Here are a few more benefits of using raised garden beds:
Extend the growing season for some plants — raised garden beds allow gardeners to take advantage of microclimates around the yard or quickly move plants indoors during extreme heat or cold conditions.
Improve growing conditions — gardeners won't need to walk over garden beds and possibly damage delicate root systems, which can stunt plant growth.
Create optimal soil conditions — many yards around Arizona have soil that limits the types of plants that can be grown. Raised garden beds allow gardeners to create whatever soil conditions their plants need.
Height and access considerations — If your joints aren't what they used to be, you don't have to give up gardening. Instead, using a raised garden bed allows older people to garden for many more years actively. If you only have access to one side of the bed, a height of no less than 2 ft will be ideal.
Where to Position Your Raised Garden Beds
It will generally depend on what you are growing that will determine the best location for an elevated planter box. A position that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight would work well for many plant species. However, in Arizona, a location that receives more sunlight in winter and less in summer might also
work well for various plant species.
Plants that Work Well in a Raised Garden Bed
While most plants will do perfectly fine in a raised garden bed when the conditions are right, some will struggle. In general, plants that need more care, or prefer rock-free soil will do well. Improving soil conditions for vegetables is a popular reason why many Arizona based gardeners turn to raised garden beds.
What Materials Can Be Used for Making a Raised Garden Bed?
The best kinds of materials to build a raised garden bed include long-lasting materials that will stand up to the elements. Untreated wood planks are a popular option because of their versatility, but so are corrugated iron panels, old tires, and even hay bales. Other than durability, the most important consideration is that your material of choice does not break down into chemicals that may
contaminate your garden.
Ten Raised Garden Bed Ideas
Your imagination is your only limit when using raised garden beds to plan and organize your garden. In case you need some inspiration, here are ten of our favorite design ideas you can use as a jumping-off point.
1. Tiered Boxes
Gardeners who live in the suburbs may find they are limited in the amount of ground space available for planting. Tiered garden beds allow gardeners with small yards to increase the amount of growing area by going upwards. Of course, even when there is plenty of space available, tiered garden beds can still be useful for adding an extra dimension of color and variety to the landscape.
Tiered, raised garden beds have a stair-like structure that is perfect for growing various species in the same space. Try colorful flowers at the top with small shrubs at the bottom, or tall plants with trailing vines. You could also use each raised bed to grow a different herb and create a ready supply of fresh herbs for the kitchen.
2. Garden Box with Trellis
Arizona's gardeners have quite a few choices in climbing plants, and a raised garden box with and an included trellis will help you add some lovely vertical greenery with splashes of color. Climbing plants like rose (Rosa banksiae) can handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and thrive in full sun with moderate water needs. Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) is not quite as hardy but will still manage temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit and loves partial to full sun. Your vertical spaces will be alive with color come summer and fall.
A trellis is also an excellent location for grapes, and many parts of Arizona provide the perfect climate for growing this delicious fruit. Try Thompson Seedless, the Alden, and Golden Muscat (needs shade). You will need to carefully monitor the water levels if your goal is to harvest a lot of fruit; otherwise, grapes can be surprisingly drought hardy.
3. Recycled Tires
The more tires we can recycle, the better it will be for the environment. Fortunately, tires of all sizes can create excellent raised garden beds for growing plants and vegetables. Create a more colorful landscape by adding a coat of paint. It's easy to make a wide variety of layouts and heights. Tires can also be found for free if you have the proper access or some old tires lying around.
4. Concrete Blocks
When you need your raised garden bed to last a long time, concrete blocks are a great material choice. You can go as high or as low as you like, with no limit to creative designs. Fill the brick centers with dirt for stability and a little extra growing space, or add caps to create a convenient seating area.
5. Fenced Boxes
Rabbits and other local wildlife can be a problem for some gardeners in Arizona. Steel mesh or grill will protect your harvest from the local rabbit populations, or even rambunctious pets.
Your raised garden bed will become an easy target during droughts. If you have plants that need regular watering, you will need added protection against rabbits, mice, rats, and javelina.
Fencing will add extra height, but you can use wooden frames to hold the mesh and attach them to the bed with hinges for easy access.
6. Puppy-Proof, Raised Garden Beds
You may need to protect your garden from your own pets, even if it's only for the first few weeks. Puppies will explore everywhere they can reach, and they will like nothing better than digging up a freshly sown garden while you're not watching. If your garden beds aren't very high, you can add a puppy proof barrier by extending the edges a few inches to block them from jumping. Although, this method won't work very well for larger animals, but it does add some extra seating.
7. Raised Planter Stand
If you like to do your gardening in pots, then a raised planter stand will be an attractive addition to your outdoor area. This idea is best for small spaces or when you want to keep bending to a minimum. Keep a small herb garden next to the back door, or if you keep it to a manageable size, you can use it to grow ornamentals both indoors and out.
8. Raised Pyramid Garden Bed
The pyramid shape lends itself well to a raised garden bed. Each level provides a smaller amount of space as you move up the levels. You can get quite creative with this idea and fit many plants into a relatively small area.
9. Hooped Garden Bed
A hooped garden bed is simply a regular raised garden bed with the addition of hoops along its length. Cover the hoops with material to trap in warmth during the winter months, add a little extra shade during the hotter ones, or protect young seedlings from wind, rain, and birds.
10. Straw Bale Garden Beds
If you want the ultimate in eco-friendly raised garden beds, then straw bales are the holy grail. Straw composts quite quickly, so you're getting a raised bed with the added benefit of extra nutrients that are 'drip-fed' into the soil as they straw breaks down. Straw bales aren't the most straightforward material to use as a raised garden bed as they do need some prepping before planting. Plus, you may need to replace them every year or two.
Over eons of agriculture, gardeners have learned that different species of plants benefit each other when planted close together. Despite centuries of anecdotal evidence, many skeptics in the gardening community still dispute the value of companion planting and use the lack of laboratory testing to back up their claims.
The world would be a lifeless husk if we didn't have insects, birds, and other animals to help maintain the ecological balance. Still, that doesn't mean we should let insects have their run of the garden or provide a buffet for the local rabbit population and birdlife. As gardeners, we will always have pests eyeing our hard work as a potential meal, but the goal should be control rather than eradication.
With the COVID-19 pandemic maintaining its grip on the planet, more people are staying at home. An interesting side-effect of a house-bound populace is a sudden surge in interest for gardening. Maintaining a garden at home is one thing. However, gardening is not always a solitary activity - neighbors often share gardening space while others head off to the community garden with friends.