The benefits of raised bed gardening are well known and embraced by those who appreciate structure and organization. The ability to bypass non-ideal soil conditions, maintain good drainage with proper moisture retention, creating a contained yet accessible growing environment, and protect against weeds and pests means higher yields and less headaches for the modern gardener. Depending upon your skill level, construction know-how, or time availability there are different approaches you can take to readying your growing area. Below is a quick 101 on two design methods: Traditional (DIY) and Modular Kits.
Traditional Garden Bed (DIY)
Traditional Raised Garden Beds utilize wood boards attached together with screws or nails to make a rectangular frame. The frame is then filled with soil and planting commences.
To construct the traditional garden bed frame, you will need the following tools and materials: Tape measure, marking pencil, saw, hammer or screwdriver/drill, nails or screws, and enough board length to make your desired raised garden layout. Cedar wood is generally used due to it’s longevity and natural resistance to insects. You’ll measure the boards and mark them to be cut at your desired length, saw the boards at the marks, position the boards in your desired layout and carefully nail/screw the corners of the layout together making sure not to split the board ends.
If your gardening aspirations exceed the confines of your current garden bed, you can expand your bed by carefully dismantling one end of your garden by removing the nails or screws from two corners, adding additional lengths of board with a backing board or anchor post for the new board ends and now open old board ends to attach to, and then reattaching the end board to the now larger garden. Note: Be careful when removing nails or screws from boards and then reattaching them. The wood will have a higher chance of splitting.
Are Traditional Raised Beds Right for You?
While certainly an attractive technique for a handy DIYer, traditional methods can be cumbersome to time-strapped gardeners or those who are not super handy.
If you fall into the latter categories and don’t want to a spend a few hours designing and constructing or you struggle with constructing in general, entrepreneurial spirits have prevailed at making raised bed gardening easier and more accessible for you.
Modular Garden Beds (Gardening ‘Lincoln Logs’)
Modular raised garden kits feature boards (typically cedar as well) that are pre-cut and designed to slot together by hand with connecting pins that slide into the boards holding them together. This design forgoes the traditional need for a saws, hammers, drills, screw or nails, reducing assembly time to minutes. Due to the plug and play design, a litany of layouts can be created in short time by simply adding more boards and/or stacking them to created deeper sections.
Expanding modular raised garden beds is a quick task. Gardeners simply pull out the connecting pin mentioned above, this is done by hand hand but may need some persuading if the wood of your modular bed has shifted, and additional boards are slotted into the now open end of the garden bed. (if these sound like gardening ‘Lincoln Logs’, then you have the right idea!). After sliding board ends together the connecting pins are slid back into the pre-drilled hole on the top of the board ends, holding everything together firmly. So no cutting, screwing/nailing, or anchor posts to be concerned with.
Compared to traditional raised garden methods modular garden beds are usually more expensive, however this added cost is to be weighed against time and effort saved for assembly and future versatility.
If starting a raised garden is on your to-do list but you aren’t confident in your carpentry skills or thrilled with the idea of bending over planks of wood, consider a modular raised garden kit. If you’re a confident DIYer and then traditional methods should suit you fine. Whichever your preferred method, at the end of the day what matters most is that you get out and grow!Bryan Traficante co-founded GardenInMinutes in 2013, turning a passion for home gardening and innovation into a family-owned venture to make starting a quality garden, easier. Bryan and his family invented the Garden Grid watering system which combines square-foot planting principles with ground-level adjustable irrigation and no complicated assembly. They also craft tool-free, modular garden kits and provide time saving gardening insights on their blog and social media pages. Find Bryan and GardenInMinutes on Facebook and Twitter, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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