Publications, Videos & Other Resources - Gardening with Raised Beds
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
- Select a suitable site considering space, sunlight and a water source.
- 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.
- 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.
- Till the soil in the spot where the frame will be placed.
- Fill the frame with topsoil or a topsoil / organic matter mixture.
- Test the soil to determine pH and nutrient levels. Add lime and/or fertilizer as recommended.
- Plan your garden by selecting the type of plants you desire. Select bush-type varieties to conserve garden space.
- Build a trellis and attach it securely to the north side of your garden for climbing plants / vines.
- Provide poles for staking other plants if needed. Drive stakes securely beside newly planted seedlings.
- Provide brackets to secure hoops if hoops are desired.
- Sow seeds or transplant seedlings at appropriate times.
- Consider providing moisture with a soaker hose for efficiency.
- Use mulch around plants to conserve moisture and to control weeds.
- Monitor for pests in your garden at least once each week. Get up close to inspect your plants.
- Harvest produce when young, tender and sweet or at the appropriate times.
- Cover plants with plastic or cloth fabric to prevent frost damage.
- Cover the soil with a mulch or cover crop to protect the soil well before winter weather.
- Keep a record of your successes and failures for future reference.