Building a raised garden bed is a great way to make the most of your green space. Even those with a not-so-green thumb can benefit from garden beds, which are designed to prevent weeds, deter critters and create naturally better drainage.
These easily made rectangular wood-frame containers can accommodate a variety of plantings, from aesthetically pleasing flowers to nourishing and delicious herbs and vegetables — and talk about a true farm-to-table experience. Herricks Herbs & Heirlooms Organic Nursery owners Tom Williams and Nicole Orens-Williams shared their tips for assembling your own raised garden bed.
Map out a location. A sunny spot in the yard is best for a garden bed, Orens-Williams said.
“Most veggies and herbs need full sun, so that’s why I recommend placing the beds in the sunniest spot in the yard,” she said. “When I troubleshoot for people who are not having success with their gardens, it’s often because their beds are not receiving enough sun.”
“Full sun” translates to would be a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight a day, she added, noting that a spot that receives less than that (or light that is somewhat filtered or dappled because of trees) would not be the ideal location.
Construct your framework. Be sure to choose wood that isn’t prone to rot. The couple recommends two-inch-thick cedar or more cost-effective Douglas fir, which can last about five years. The wood should be non-treated.
First-timers should be conservative about size. A frame that measuring 4-by-4 or 4-by-6 and about 8 inches high is suggested.
“Don’t go any wider than four feet because then it becomes impossible to reach across your whole bed,” Orens-Williams said. “If it is wider than four feet in width it can get out of hand.”
Use hammer and nails (or a nail gun) to secure the four sides in place.
Prepare the ground. This can be done in a number of ways, depending on what’s already on the ground in the location you select. Once the plot has been identified, it can be rid of existing grass by laying a tarp on top. The couple then recommends turning the soil below using a “double dig” method.
“In the bed, take a spade, and flip the soil over,” Orens-Williams said. “You’re not stirring it up like with a rototiller, you’re loosing it up about 10 inches below [the ground].”
It is possible to fill the bed with soil without touching the ground below, but she does not recommend that method.
Fill it will soil. The couple recommends filling the bed with half chemical-free topsoil, half compost to provide the healthiest growing conditions for flowers and vegetables.
“We stir it together to create the planting medium,” Orens-Williams said.
Plant. Depending on what you’re growing, this process can start and end at different times of the season. Seeds and plantings typically come with proper growing instructions. It is important to note, however, that you’ll need more than one garden bed, because the same plantings should not be grown in the same bed every year.
“You’re going to want rotate things every year,” Orens-Williams explained. “Each plant family pulls different things from the soil and you don’t want to overdo that. It also wards off pest and diseases. I’ve had success rotating and I always recommend people do that from the very beginning.”
Herricks Herbs & Heirlooms Organic Nursery plans to host classes this spring on a variety of garden-related subjects, including building raised garden beds. Visit herrickslanefarm.com for event details and read more about the farm in this month’s issue of northforker magazine.