Raised beds provide a garden area above the level of the ground, usually in an enclosed structure. Not only does this provide an attractive bed for growing flowers and vegetables, it often makes gardening more convenient, as well. The reasons for using raised beds vary from lack of suitable soil for growing to creating an elevated work area for those confined to a wheelchair.
Raised beds vary in size, but should be no wider than 3 to 4 feet to allow the gardener to reach the center of the bed for weeding, plant care and harvesting. Beds placed against buildings, fences or wall should be no wider than two feet to allow easy access. Height depends on the purpose of the bed. Those constructed to allow access for someone in a wheelchair are built at seat level. Simple beds constructed on the ground must be at least 8 to 10 inches high to accommodate the root system of plants.
Raised beds created in areas where the native soil is unsuitable for growing are usually built at the soil level. They are commonly constructed from wood, but can be bordered with natural stone, fallen logs or other natural elements. Those constructed to accommodate the disabled, often found in the yards of nursing homes or elderly housing, can be arranged around benches for seating allowing gardening from a seated position.
Raised beds can be used for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers. When planted with perennials, the gardens survive from year to year with minimal care. In yards with limited space, raised beds can be used to increase production in a small area.
When designing a raised garden, the needs of the gardener must be considered. The height, size and shape of the bed determine the amount of fruits and vegetables that can be produced and who has access to tending the garden.
In areas where the soil is unsuitable for gardening, raised beds provide a garden area to raise flowers or vegetables. Because the soil used is loose and does not compact from walking in the garden, plants can be planted close together. This creates a canopy of vegetation and reduces weeds. Vegetables can be harvested quickly and easily and overall production is increased. Beds built to accommodate disabled or elderly gardeners allow gardening from a seated position encouraging active hobbies that promote a healthy lifestyle.