New and experienced gardeners alike are challenged by poor soil quality. Poor soil can be rocky, have poor drainage, or be shallow and difficult to till. You may have given up on growing vegetables in rocky, difficult to dig soil.

Many gardeners use raised garden beds as an answer to poor soil quality. Instead of digging directly into the soil, gardeners build a frame over a shallow trench and fill it with high quality soil. These beds can be large: a 6 foot long frame is common. This offers lots of growing room while making it easy to weed.

What do you need to know when building a raised garden bed?

Raised Garden Bed
Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Sri

Choose untreated wood

Lumber is often treated with pesticides or other toxins. This is great for keeping termites and other pests from eating your house. But treated lumber is a bad choice when building the frame for a raised garden. Select untreated wood to build your frame so that pesticides and toxins don’t seep into the vegetables you plant.

Use a variety of soils

You might have chosen to try raised bed gardening because of poor quality, rocky, or shallow soil. Soil with lots of organic material will help you to grow bigger, stronger plants. Instead of using soil from your yard, look for high quality top soil, compost, and fertilizers. You can often find manure or compost at a local farm.

Install a watering system

Raised garden beds are a great solution in dry, desert climates like the Southwest. Install a drip watering system to ensure that plants have enough water. Drip emitters are available in a variety of sizes, from one half gallon of water per hour to five gallons per hour. Because water drips directly on to the soil, water evaporates more slowly from a drip watering system than from a sprinkler.

Plant your vegetables close together

Raised garden beds allow experienced gardeners to grow more fruits and vegetables in a small space. Because the frames for a raised garden can be packed with rich, organic soil, you will also be able to plant more densely. Closely planted fruits and vegetables can help you to make better use of a small outdoor space. Densely planted gardens have another advantage: plant leaves act as ground cover and prevent soil from drying out.

Whatever your experience level, building or buying a raised garden bed can be a great way to grow fruits and vegetables. They can extend your growing season and cut down on wasted water. Most importantly, they will allow you to grow large, nutritious fruits and vegetables.