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Modern Garden Maintenance Using Raised Beds

By Edited Aug 27, 2016 0 2

Making raised beds

If you can manage to procure some long lengths of lumber then you can use the wood to create a box which will allow you to frame off various sections of the garden. You can retain a vegetable patch or an area for shrubs but still have a nice grassy area too. The framework helps you to divide your property into lots and the divider helps with the control of pests too. The raised beds can be used for carrots, onions, potatoes or any vegetable crop although potatoes are best grown in a drill or a lazy bed without wooden sides. The wooden sides would prevent the earthing up of the potatoes as they grow. The raised bed is particularly good for carrot growing as the high sides of the bed prevent the troublesome carrot fly from attacking your crop.

Raised beds
Skinny raised beds

Keep the raised beds narrow because this allows you to do your gardening more easily because you can reach comfortably toward the middle of the bed from both sides. Too many times I have seen raised beds that were simply too wide and the gardener had to walk on the bed to get to some of the crop. It is best if you do not walk upon the soil of the raised bed as it will become compacted and harder to work. Another advantage of the raised beds is that they make grass cutting so much easier because of the straight edges of the timber. This helps with garden maintenance because it allows you to weed the bed at an acceptable height and prevents wear and tear on the knee joints.

Trimming raised beds

An unexpected bonus of having the raised beds is that you have automatically reduced the amount of grass that you need to cut. I would advise, however, that you buy a brush cutter to keep the edges of the boards trimmed neatly. The regular ride on or gas powered or self drive grass cutting machines will not get close enough to the edges of the raised beds to keep them neat and tidy. The corded cutter will trim your grass close to the base of the wooden bed. More about choosing a quality brush cutter is given below.

Raised Beds

To begin a new vegetable patch on a grassy area I used small stakes (roughly 2 inches x 1 inch x 2 foot long) to hold the lumber in place and these I positioned on the inside of the new rectangular bed. It is important to secure the wood on the inside of the bed as this facilitates you cut the grass right up to the timber exterior sides of the new bed. Next job is to add the fertilizer (it helps if you have cows in the field next to you) which might be provided by a neighbor’s cattle, or from your own compost heap. I cover the entire bed with about 2 inches of manure followed by a further 2 inches of topsoil.

Raised bed
Preparing the bed over winter

If you create the bed in wintertime it is best to cover it until required. You can attach a black (or dark color) cover over the full bed. This cover prevents the bed from growing annoying weeds. This arrangement can be left until early spring and when you can remove this cover and the ground is ready for planting your onions, carrots and cabbages. Any grass will have died away and there will be no weeds just some ‘ready to grow’ earth suitable even for young plants. In subsequent years it is a good idea to cover this ground, over the winter period, when it is not in use, thus preventing the weeds from growing. Uncover it whenever it is required and have a head start on early planting of potatoes and other root vegetables.

Basic tools required for raising beds

Raised bed edge
The wooden frame is so important to getting a good crop of vegetables from your soil so you may need to buy some basic carpentry tools for use in the garden so that you can make up the frames. You do not need to be a master craftsman or craftswoman to knock the frame together. A hammer and nails are the basics but a cordless power drill works very well if you decide to screw the frame together. A hand saw will be required to cut some of the wood to the correct length. A carpenter’s level will be needed to check the flatness and level of the frame by placing a long straight length of wood across the square or rectangular base and placing the level on top. The level (spirit level) will show you which end needs to be moved to obtain the levelness you require.

Garden maintenance guide to buying a brush cutter

Buying an inexpensive brush cutter does not represent good value for money. I discovered this the hard way after I hade bought 2 or 3 cheap versions which failed miserable and were ineffectual anyway on rough areas of the garden. I bought an expensive 4 stroke cutter and it is a joy to work with and can easily cope with heavy brush and tough thorns. It is vital that you use the correct safety equipment with these cutters as they can be dangerous. Safety glasses are important as is the face guard but I found that the double harness was the greatest boon for using a brush cutter. The support offered by the double strap harness is excellent and Regardless of the make of tool you prefer do insist on the double harness as it makes your work so much easier and protects you lower back from so much strain.

Raised beds for neglected areas of the garden

Raised bed s can be used for unkempt parts of the garden too, as sometimes an area needs to be set aside for wild things to grow. Wild flowers can be stunning and many trees will self seed too. It is often adventurous to allow a patch to grow wild and you might discover a new wild rose or perhaps get small elder trees to grow from which you can use the flowers to make elderflower drinks. If you have a wet or boggy section in the garden this will be a good spot for allowing nature to take over. If it all gets too wild you can attack it with a brush cutter to tame it back again. 

Sectioning a garden

If you have an especially big garden then the thoughts of working in the garden are often too much and very off putting. If you section your garden, then the tasks become more manageable because you can focus attention on different parts and add variety to tiresome gardening maintenance tasks. Happy gardening to all who have managed to read this far and thank you for your attention.  



Feb 29, 2012 5:57pm
Yes, too often you see raised beds that are too wide. We did our own version of composting in place over the winter. It worked pretty well!
Mar 1, 2012 3:19pm
Thank you, Deb, for the comment and visit. I tried to maximize space and made my beds too wide before I learned my lesson. Much more manageable, now that I have rehashed them to suit. Yes, composting is great. It still surprises me how many people do not compost their vegetable matter.
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