Raised-bed gardening is an easy way to overcome poor soil or drainage and to bring the plants higher for easier access and maintenance. The soil doesn't get compacted by walking on it, and because the soil warms up quicker, an earlier start on the garden is possible.
Creating raised beds are very easy for a do-it-yourselfer, or attractive kits can be purchased and installed by almost anyone.
Survey your property and determine the best place to build the raised beds. Considerations are a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of directly sunlight, easy access to water and a short walking distance from the house. While the length of the beds can vary tremendously, the width of a bed is usually only 3 to 4 feet across to ensure accessibility to the plants from both sides.
Construct the beds using a variety of techniques. A single row of concrete building blocks set directly onto the ground can be laid out within minutes and changed when circumstances change. You can build a simple box frame of 2 by 4 studs driven into the ground in an 4-by-8-foot rectangle with appropriately lengths of 1-by-12-inch pine planks nailed between them for well under $20.
Many home and garden stores are beginning to offer pre-made "raised bed packages" made from plastics. Follow the set-up instructions and a professional looking raised bed is completed with only a few minutes work.
Leveling the frame is good but there is no need to be exact.
Dig out the existing soil and turn it over. That's the idea way to start the garden. This helps to ensure that the previous grass and weeds have no opportunity to grow back. If there is no time or desire to do this, an alternative is to put several layers of cardboard over the existing area before placing the soil into the bed. This smothers the grass yet decomposes within a few weeks to allow proper root growth
Fill the bed within an inch from the top with a mixture of good topsoil and compost. If the existing yard-soil is poor then bring the soil in from the outside. Tailor the mixture to the specific plants that you are growing, with particular attention applied to the amount of existing fertilizers and the soil pH.
Plan the crops so that they can be rotated between two raised beds for best results. Nightshade plants such as eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos can go together in one raised bed, while beans, leafy vegetables and herbs can go in another. The next year, shift the crops from one box to the other.
Check often for dry soil. Raised beds can get hotter faster and dry out quicker than normal gardens. Mulch can prevent weeds, making your gardening experience productive and worry free.