Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Raised Beds

I'm planning to build raised beds later this summer or fall, fill them with soily manury goodness and let them percolate over the winter so they're ready for next spring and the rest of our lives.

So now I'm in the planning stages, how big, how deep, how to make the corners, what wood to use, etc, etc. My soil is rocky, and yukky (yukky meaning no topsoil), so I was thinking of making the beds high enough that they don't need to use my dirt. In fact, I was going to cover a few rocks with these babies.

First question - how high do the beds need to be? Do they have to be 18 inches, or is 12 inches good enough?
I was going to use treated 2 x 6s, either 2 or 3 high. I'm aware of the debate over using treated wood, but that just doesn't bother me. I am spending way too much time thinking about the corners though. There are a few places selling corner hardware with integral stakes and other fancy stuff, but the $$ adds up quickly. Should I just use angle brackets from Home Depot, or some other home-brewed system? (One person writes in gardenweb that she used stakes for the sides and no corners at all, for drainage.) Oh, the confusion....
Last question: So far I've planned 3 beds of 4 x 12. I feel like I should have some 4 x 4 beds for asparagus and strawberries too. Does that make sense? It's only me that I'm planning for here. If I get lucky maybe there'll be a Mr Right someday, but I don't want to kill myself with these beds.
PS - cold frames are a planned future addition to at least one of these beds. I suppose that should be part of the initial planning too.


  1. Okay, I'm on my second glass of wine and feeling pretty wound down from the day so I'm anxious to share our experience with raised beds with you.

    A great way to go. When we moved to this piece of property, the area where we now have our raised beds (and field garden) was a graveled parking lot. No, not much good soil there.

    We started with 4' x 8' raised beds, 12" high. Now I wish we had some that were longer, but NOT wider. Harvesting isn't bad but planting those little seeds . . . well, it's hard for me to reach in to the middle of the 4' span. So I don't think there would be anything wrong with 4' x 12' beds. And 12" high (12" of soil) should be ample except for something that has a deep root system . . . like asparagus. There you're gonna have to figure out something else. (I think I've read established asparagus roots can go down 6'.)

    We put our frames together with glue and nails and then reinforced with inexpensive angle brackets. It hasn't been the corners that give out but rather the eventual decay of the boards themselves. (We didn't use treated lumber.)

    Why are you considering 4' x 4' beds? 4' x 8' is the smallest I would go.

    Whoops, back track there a minute, Mama Pea. I know why you should consider some 4' x 4' beds. I can't man-handle our cold frame tops for our 4' x 8' beds myself. It takes two people to put them on and take them off. They're just too unwieldy. You're right on. Make some 4' x 4' beds for the ones you're going to put a cold frame on.

    Hope this helps a little bit. Do what seems right for you . . . and remember I wrote this on two glasses of wine.

  2. I love the long-winded discourse. It helps a bunch - so wine is good! Thanks!