Raised beds are definitely the in thing to have at the moment, but don’t just let the current fad persuade you. The benefits offered are manifold; added height reduces kneeling down, back ache, and generally improves the gardening experience. To construct deep beds correctly, however, takes a lot of hard work and can be quite expensive in terms of materials, but once completed they are easy to maintain and should last for many years to come and, when installed correctly, look stunning, creating a beautiful focal point.
Considering that last year was the year of bio-diversity, and that most people like to see something different within a garden feature, I would urge you to think out of the box if you can and look to recycle the likes of an old galvanised water tank or even a butler sink! You would be amazed at what you can find at a reclamation, auction, or salvage yard, and for not many pennies.
Old railway sleepers have always proved popular and are great for general landscaping, but, due to them containing high levels of arsenic, I wouldn’t recommend their use. Pressure treated timber sleepers can be sourced new for not much money, as too can ready-made do it yourself kits.
Another great idea is to use scaffold planks, or any similar solid but shabby looking shuttering which can be built to different heights, and then covered willow panels raised above the bed, thus creating shelter for fledgling plants.
Your bed can be any length or shape but it is suggested that it shouldn’t be more than 4 feet wide at any point, to allow ease of access from any side. I would recommend starting with 4 feet square beds. Should you want a longer bed, why not try splitting it with paths in-between? It will make maintenance so much easier and is more pleasing on the eye.
When planting your raised beds you will also find that weeds are suppressed due to the close planting, but weeding will still be required, which should be done by hand. This does take longer than the conventional use of a hoe but psychologically, deep beds are easier to keep in order as you can work on one bed at a time rather than coping with a whole plot.
Remember that not all vegetables are ideal for raised beds, and for some vegetables you will probably need to select varieties that are suitable for close spacing. This condensed way of gardening will yield more per square foot but, taking in to account the space taken up by paths, you should have a similar yield to a conventional plot of the same overall size but with all the benefits mentioned above, and a real wow factor.
If you start planning and foraging for materials now, you will be ready to get started as soon as you can get your spade in the ground!