With spring in the air, the strategy of the raised garden bed will no doubt be the subject of discussion amongst those homeowners looking to grow their own prized tomatoes and zucchinis.
The raison d’être, or the “why’s” to building a raised garden bed, which is essentially a bunch of ground poured into a raised frame, lies primarily in the simple fact this structure raises, or elevates, the planted vegetables to a more accommodating height, thereby alleviating the knee joint and lower back pain normally associated with the task of gardening.
Psychologically, the raised garden bed, or box, is a good value because it makes gardening easier, with the good results rewarding the homeowner with sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Physically, the raised garden box delivers all of the health benefits associated with a person simply being outdoors, thereby allowing them to enjoy a little sunshine, while participating in a relatively light duty activity at their own pace.
Money wise? Well… and depending of course on several factors relating to the manor of construction, and the types of materials used, the ROI (return on investment) on the average raised garden box is not stellar. Essentially, you’d be better off putting your disposable income into a travelling petting zoo, the local Ponzi scheme, or a series of honor system, unmanned lemonade stand franchises. However, the pride associated with growing your own fresh vegetables usually outweighs the fact your cherry tomatoes are probably going to cost you about a buck a piece to produce.
If you’ve never built a raised garden box before, go small, making this first build something in the 4’ X 4’ or max 4’ X 8’ size. If this is your second or third build, then you’re obviously familiar with the process, and realize it’s probably time to go big, incorporating a screened-in, removable cage over a more permanent, beefier type of raised box made of 6 X 6 timbers. However, with this being your first attempt at a box, let’s not break the bank on this project, and perhaps choose a plan that’ll have you investing about an afternoon of your time.
A raised garden box could be made out of a number of products, including concrete blocks, stacked stones, or the very classy choices, and definitely worthy of front lawn display, old bathtub on legs, or tractor tire. Otherwise, 2” X 8” lumber is probably your best choice, due to it being lightweight, with a pretty easy assembly strategy. If this raised garden is to be something totally experimental, due to you being unsure of where to place it on your lot, your commitment to watering, or the fact you might be adding a deck or installing a pool in its place next summer, and all you might need is a couple of seasons out of this structure, go with spruce boards. If this is to be a longer term project, or more permanent structure, then cedar or BC fir would be the better choice. Although treated lumber would seem a logical choice, since the arsenic element in the treatment process has been replaced with a stronger copper content, which has been deemed an environmentally friendlier alternative by the powers that be, I would suggest avoiding the use of any chemically sealed or infused product around food. Retired railway ties would also be a poor option. Theoretically, treated lumber could be painted, or sealed from the ground with a plastic membrane, but why risk the chance of contaminating the soil.
Using 4” x 4” lumber for the corners, and pieces of 2” x 4” lumber every few feet along the perimeter, create a frame by stacking 2” x 8” planks, 2 boards high. Using 2” x 8” lumber, create a triangular seat in every corner, which will also provide strength to the structure. This plan provides you with about 15 inches of raised bed, a good start. Any higher will require a lot more ground, and a doubling up of the framework.