Raised garden beds: Do's and don't's

Raised garden beds are perfect for urban dwellers with limited growing space, or anyone...

Raised garden beds are perfect for urban dwellers with limited growing space, or anyone who wants a smaller, easier garden space to maintain. You can purchase pre-made kits at area hardware stores, or buy or repurposed material to create one yourself.

While a high level of maintenance is generally not required, you may want to keep the following thoughts in mind to safeguard your efforts.

Do create something aesthetically pleasing.

Raised garden beds add a touch of neatness to your property by giving it a sense of orderliness. If you're working with a large yard, map out precisely where you want the beds to go. Consider what kind of plants and flowers you're going to use and how they will compare with other foliage in the surrounding area. Another thought: Take a tip from some of England's royal gardens of old and create a few eye-catching geometric patterns. It adds an artistic touch.

Don't stomp all over it.

Not that you would intentionally, but after you've placed your soil an before you've installed any plants or dropped any seed in the bed, it's easy to assume stepping on the loosely compacted soil is relatively harmless. It isn't. Your body weight puts direct pressure on the dirt, which in turn leaves it denser and more compact. That can make it substantially more difficult for plants to take root. Add a few decorative stones, bricks or pavers, and use those for footage if you absolutely have to step inside a bed.

Do make sure you've got the right goods.

Remember that the spot you choose to place your raised bed on must be level, and spare no expense here. Make sure your soil and compost are of the highest quality. In places like Atlanta, it's a good idea to use a soaker hose to keep your raised garden bed properly watered. Overly wet foliage is frequently prone to any number of plant diseases.

Don't make it any more complicated than necessary.

Your garden bed never be more than four to five feet wide, and eight feet is plenty long. This size makes access easier and cuts down on back and knee strain. If you decide to build a frame yourself, use something easy and light, like thinly cut wood, lighter weight logs or larger tree branches. Stay away from heavy materials like railroad ties and concrete blocks. If you decide to move the garden later, they can be a serious pain.

Consult your local landscaper for ideas and materials, or to build a garden for you.

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