Raised bed gardening is a type of gardening where soil is contained in beds a few feet wide. Soil is raised to the top of the bed, usually encased by a wooden frame. Vegetables are spaced much more closely than in a conventional garden, so that when the vegetables are fully grown, the leaves start to touch each other. This creates a kind of microclimate where moisture is better conserved and weed growth suppressed.
Raised beds are used for a variety of reasons. They extend the planting season and reduce the reliance on local soil. They wonít get walked over by gardeners and become compacted by the pressure, and is less likely to be attacked by pets or wildlife. The close planting of vegetables and the use compost means that raised beds will usually produce higher yields. Many people like raised beds because they are at waist height and can be more easily maintained by the elderly or disabled.
Raised beds can be used to control soil erosion and make the best possible use of all water and nutrients, by grading the height of the beds on sloped ground. They also make more space available for the growing of crops.
Railway sleepers are ideal for creating raised beds, as robust items which are relatively easy to preserve. Using timber railway sleepers, many people create raised beds in their own garden.
Using rot-resistant wood, construct a bed which at least one foot deep, and no more than three to four feet wide. If beds are much wider than this, it can be hard to reach the centre to adequately water all the plants. The beds can be any length. The wood can be strengthened with preservatives. Once the bed is built, loosen the soil at the bottom and fill up with compost and top soil.
Once the beds are full of compost, you can get planting your favourite vegetables, herbs and flowers. When watering, concentrate the water tightly around the plants and make sure you donít compact the soil by stepping or leaning on it. Taller plants should be planted against a wall or at the north side of the raised bed.
Raised beds have a tendency to dry up faster than traditional garden beds, so make sure you water regularly. Remember that the amount of soil available to the plants for food is less than in a traditional garden bed, so fertilise regularly with plant food and mulch.