Hi Im Tricia an organic gardener I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Gardening in raised beds is an old technique that never seems to go out of style. The benefits of gardening in raised beds are plentiful; good drainage, the soil warms up quickly and usually you have a little bit more productivity.
Raised beds can be as simple as a mound of dirt about three to four feet wide or as elaborate as my redwood raised beds. Framed beds should be at least six inches high mine are two feet tall which is great to make a bigger root zone or if your gardening from a wheelchair. For maximum sun exposure lay out your garden beds for low growing crops in a north-south direction for trellis crops and vines it's recommended that you do an east-west direction. Position your beds away from the roots of big trees or shrubs and make sure you have full sun and enough room between the beds for your wheelbarrow or garden cart.
Your bed should be no more than four feet across you want to be able to reach across and work in them comfortably and you don't want to step in them. Your beds can be as long as you like twenty five feet is ideal because most fertilizer application rates are by the hundred square feet four feet by twenty five feet that's pretty easy math for me. For long beds like that it's important to have supports stakes every six feet or so once you've decided on your location lay out your bed strings and stakes or field paint are great options now it's time to choose your materials. You can make raised beds out of recycled building materials such as cinder blocks bricks wood and composite decking a word of caution about lumber don't use lumber thats treated with either creosote or pentachlorophenol those are toxic. Untreated redwood and cedar will last the longest there are also kits available like this mini farm box that are easy to install.
Once you've chosen your location and your materials, loosen the soil and remove all vegetation, a digging fork or broad fork are the best tools for this job. If you have a gopher problem like i do put down gopher wire and then lay weed fabric on top of the wire to prevent weeds from growing into your beds gopher wire is better than aviary wire the holes are smaller and it's heavier duty and will not rot out as soon as aviary wire. These mini farm boxes are great they come in tables rolling containers or beds as large as four feet by eight feet by seventeen inches these are made from attractive untreated cedar and don't worry about irrigation there are kits available for the mini farm box. Another option especially if your using recycled wood are these decorative garden end braces. Simply slide any two inch lumber into the brace and embrace your garden. End braces are a great option because it's easy to change the size and location of your raised bed later. Out of the box the end braces are not rusted but they will rust overtime if you don't like the rustic look just paint them before installing with a rust proof paint. For really inexpensive raised bed use these three hundred gallon smart pot for a twelve inch rooting zone use this big bag bed. The smart pots last about three to five years just unfold them and fill them up with good potting soil.
Soil for raised beds can usually be purchased in bulk from a landscape supply company if you don't have that resource trying a mix of one part compost or other organic matter, one part perlite and two parts soil. The mini farm boxes, the end braces and the smart pots are great options if you have a small space a patio garden or if you're renting your home if you move you can take your garden with you. So build a raised bed and grow organic for life!