Gardeners with steeply sloped or poorly drained sites can improve their growing situation with raised beds. Because clay soils hold water, creating raised beds can help improve drainage by encouraging water to run off. Raised beds can be a simple mound of soil, or can be constructed out of wood, brick, stone, used crossties, concrete blocks or other rot-resistant materials. It is best to build narrow beds (about 3 to 4 feet wide) that allow the gardener to reach the center of the bed without stepping on the soil in the beds. Raised beds can offer a more structures appearance making them as much a part of the formal planned landscape as any other part of such yards. They are easier to take care of, as only the area being used for production has to be weeded, irrigated, and mulched. Raised beds save space, prevent soil compaction and can produce better-quality vegetables.
When planning carefully layout the beds location and design them on paper if needed. Place the beds in a site that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day and preferably near a water source. Beds can be as long as desired, but as narrow as three to four feet or that can be easily worked from either side. To lessen compaction in smaller beds, make the size of the beds so you can reach the middle without stepping in the bed. The goal is to build beds that you never walk in once they have been constructed. All cultivation, planting and harvesting is done from the path between the beds. Paths should be at least 1 to 2 feet wide. The paths can have turf grass growing in them or they can be mulched. When the dimensions have been determined, mark out the garden with stakes and string before beginning to build.
Before construction of the sides that will “raise” the beds. Begin by working the soil that is going to be under the added soil. Working the soil as deeply as possible, especially if the soil is compact, wait until it is dry enough to break into small chunks. Adding an additional source of nitrogen will help the organic material break down. A soil test will indicate whether other nutrients are needed. To insure good drainage, aeration, and growth before filling the bed till or dig down into the existing soil at least eight inches, the deeper the better. This will allow the plants’ roots to grow below the “raised” areas soil and will allow the soils to drain better. It is best to use a soil that is a topsoil/clay(less the twenty-five percent)/compost/manure mix. The use of a “soil-less soil mix” will cause the beds to dry out more quickly and the components will degrade quickly and loose most of the “good” aspects in just a few years. By using a good soil mix and continuing to add organic matter to your raised beds you will keep your soil healthy and productive which will produce healthy productive plants.