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Publications, Videos & Other Resources - Gardening with Raised Beds

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Prepared by Richard J. Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Advantages of a Raised Bed Garden

  • Raised bed garden soils drain excess moisture.
  • Raised bed garden soils warm more quickly than most garden soils.
  • The top soil in a raised bed garden can be made deeper than provided naturally by most New England soils.
  • Raised bed gardens are easier to manage for weed prevention and control as space is compartmentalized.
  • Raised bed gardens are typically more convenient to work (less bending is required by the gardener).
  • Gardeners need not walk on raised beds thus the soil is less apt to compact.
  • Tilling of the soil in a raised bed can be done relatively easily with hand tools.
  • Raised bed gardens can be designed to fit almost any space.
  • Raised bed gardens provide a space for gardening when the soil in the original site may be tainted (i.e. lead or other heavy metals). Soil must be supplied from an outside source for these situations.
  • Hoops can be designed as part of the garden thus providing a structure to cover the garden for frost protection and season extension.
  • A trellis can be designed as part of the garden to conserve space (vertical gardening).
  • Raised bed gardeners tend to use the garden space more efficiently
  • Raised bed gardens can be very productive.

Drawbacks of Raised Bed Gardens

  • Raised bed gardens tend to be more expensive to build (added material costs).
  • Basic tools such as a saw, framing square, drill, and a wrench will be needed to construct a raised bed garden.
  • The wood frames of raised bed gardens tend to attract and harbor slugs when excess moisture exists.
  • The untreated wood of raised bed garden frames will rot and may need to be replaced after about 5 years.
  • Raised bed gardens may limit the types of vegetables, fruits and flowers you can grow.
  • Raised bed garden frames may not remain attractive over time.

Steps to a Successful Raised Bed Garden

  1. Select a suitable site considering space, sunlight and a water source.
  2. Decide on an appropriate size for your raised bed garden. Raised bed gardens are typically 3 to 4 feet wide so that the gardener can reach across the garden with ease.
  3. Obtain materials for your garden frame. Raised bed gardens are at least 8 inches deep — you will need 4 pieces of wood and 8 lag screws. Assemble the frame. Rough sawn hemlock or white cedar measuring at least 2 inches in thickness will provide adequate strength.
  4. Till the soil in the spot where the frame will be placed.
  5. Fill the frame with topsoil or a topsoil / organic matter mixture.
  6. Test the soil to determine pH and nutrient levels. Add lime and/or fertilizer as recommended.
  7. Plan your garden by selecting the type of plants you desire. Select bush-type varieties to conserve garden space.
  8. Build a trellis and attach it securely to the north side of your garden for climbing plants / vines.
  9. Provide poles for staking other plants if needed. Drive stakes securely beside newly planted seedlings.
  10. Provide brackets to secure hoops if hoops are desired.
  11. Sow seeds or transplant seedlings at appropriate times.
  12. Consider providing moisture with a soaker hose for efficiency.
  13. Use mulch around plants to conserve moisture and to control weeds.
  14. Monitor for pests in your garden at least once each week. Get up close to inspect your plants.
  15. Harvest produce when young, tender and sweet or at the appropriate times.
  16. Cover plants with plastic or cloth fabric to prevent frost damage.
  17. Cover the soil with a mulch or cover crop to protect the soil well before winter weather.
  18. Keep a record of your successes and failures for future reference.

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