How to Make Cheap Garden Beds

You’ll have your best garden ever if you create permanent garden beds — whether they’re raised beds, at ground level, framed or unframed.


| April/May 2013


Sometimes garden writers make things involve more work and expense than necessary. Raised garden beds are one example. Your crops will grow fine whether your beds are level, raised or even sunken (a good choice in dry, windy regions).

Maintaining dedicated beds — where you plant crops — and dedicated pathways where you walk is the important piece.

Compacted soil is the enemy of strong plant growth. The more easily a plant can send roots into the soil, the faster the plant can absorb the nutrients it needs and the more drought-resistant it becomes. If the plant has to spend energy pushing roots into hardened soil, the plant has less energy to grow and produce well.

In nature, meadow mice, moles, earthworms and other critters tunnel throughout the soil — and thus counteract compaction — and humans and other large critters do not walk over the soil often. But in a garden, we walk back and forth a great deal, and our footsteps definitely compact the soil. “One winter, we took a shortcut across a fallow field, using the path almost daily,” reports market gardener Anthony Boutard in his splendid book, Beautiful Corn. “When I looked at an aerial photograph taken three years later, I could still see that pathway reflected in the reduced growth of the crop planted there.”

The best way to minimize soil compaction is to lay out defined areas for growing and defined areas for walking. First, measure the entire area and make a drawing on paper (or use our nifty Garden Planner software). Choose a bed width that lets you easily reach to its center from the path. Think about where you want composting areas, where you will want gates if you fence the garden, and where to leave room for a worktable or two and a bench with a nice view.

You can make paths as narrow as 1 foot if your space is limited, but always make a few main paths wide enough to accommodate a garden cart or wheelbarrow comfortably. If your garden area slopes, arrange the permanent garden beds across the slope rather than down it to minimize erosion. Build most of your beds the same size so you can use row covers, critter protectors and chicken tunnels interchangeably. Use wooden stakes, pipes or rebar to mark the corners of the beds. The stakes can do double duty as hose guides — simply slip a length of plastic pipe loosely over each, and hoses will slide around them easily.

Carol
12/22/2017 6:16:56 PM

To barkway You might try getting a farm cat. If you feed it and give it shelter it will probably stay. The cat should take care of your rodent problem if he is a good mouser. Cats will also chase squirrels away.


Carol
12/22/2017 6:16:54 PM

To barkway Try getting a farm cat. If you feed the cat and give it a shelter it will stay. The cat will keep your rodent and squirrel problem bay.


barkway
7/29/2013 12:25:26 PM

our problem isn't with beds or soil. It's with squirrels, rats, and bugs eating every blessed thing we plant before it even ripens kr matures. We finally put a wire cage over one of the beds but to cage in every garden bed we have to keep them out is going to be expensive and time consuming.






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