How Does Your Garden Grow – An Introduction To Raised Beds

The push towards a “green” lifestyle has inspired many people to consider growing their own food. The growing cost of groceries plays are part as well, and besides, it’s just healthier to eat fresh, organic food. Whatever your particular reason for wanting to grow your own food, there are some things to consider when it comes to building a raised bed.

Not all Beds Are Built Alike

I’ve seen some gorgeous garden arrangements, and I’ve seen some slapdash beds that look so unstable I worried about planting lettuce in them. Wood rot is going to happen, as is some settling, so plan for these when designing your bed. Wet soil with giant cabbages growing it in is considerably heavy, legs built from 2×4’s are going to need some bolstering.

Whether built a few feet off the ground for comfortable sitting, or built at waist height for less bending, the width of your bed should be no more than your arm’s can reach easily. Tending the garden becomes a tedious chore when it cannot be accomplished with comfort and serenity.

Raised Bed Gardening From the Ground Up

  • Use Recycled and Reclaimed Materials – Shopping local for materials which still have plenty of life in them is a cost-effective alternative to buying something which may be treated with toxic chemicals. From wood to marble, there are plenty of attractive options for the garden retreat of your dreams.
  • Use Your Resources – Building a raised bed out of discarded wooden pallets results in a bed that is solid, and attractive. Instructional videos for building different styles of raised beds out of wooden pallets are numerous on Youtube and people practically give pallets away on Craigslist.
  • Create Your Own Compost – Landfills are overfilled as it is, and your garden sure would love to devour the rest of that orange if you’re just going to toss it out. While you’re at it, toss in some coffee grounds, eggshells, lawn clippings, paper waste, and anything made of natural materials (think yellow pages and cotton t-shirts). No animal products like bones, and meat, please, this just invites flies and those are never fun.
  • Plant What You Love – Talk to the experienced growers at your local farmer’s market or community garden to find out what grows best in your region, as well as the ideal time to plant. Plant those things you love to eat, but also plant a variety of different regional favorites. Zucchini is known to be a prolific grower, for example, a few seeds go a long way.
  • Plant What’s Expensive – It’s okay to plant some exotic goodies too, especially if they cost a pretty penny at the market. You may need to put in a little extra effort in the form of shielding plants from the sun, or extreme temperature changes, but it will be well worth it when it comes time to harvest.
  • Keyhole gardens, Ultimate in Efficiency -Recently I’ve become enamored with keyhole gardens. This particular form of raised garden takes advantage of water-shortage situations by using a central composting pit for most of the hydration and nutrients for the plants growing within. The keyhole refers to the little notch in the circular garden that allows easy-access to the compost deposit. Three standard-size keyhole gardens (less than 6” in diameter) will feed a small family comfortably.
  • Or Start Small – Not quite ready for the commitment of a fully-fledged raised bed or keyhole garden? It’s okay, it takes time to develop a green thumb. Build up some confidence by planting some herbs in decorative containers. Not only do herbs smell fantastic, they also taste great in a variety of recipes and they are very forgiving plants.

Water Efficiently

It can be tempting to water your garden beds till the soil is like mud, and that’s okay for some, but it’s also a potential waste of water. In some Florida towns like Clearwater, gutters are important for collecting enough water to keep a garden. There’s nothing better than rain water for hydrating your garden. Growing your own food is not only essential for optimal health, it’s good for the environment too, since it saves from making frequent trips to the grocery store.  

Rachel Cook is a sustainable living enthusiast who loves to pitch in and volunteer her time at organic farms around Hawaii. When Rachel needs inspiration for low-cost maintenance projects that extend a home’s value while remaining eco-friendly, she browses sites like

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