Introduction to Building Raised Garden Beds:
Building raised beds is actually easier than you might think! It doesn't take a degree in engineering, or years of experience in carpentry to put together a raised flower bed that is functional, practical, and aesthetically pleasing. While the basic design of a raised garden is pretty straight forward, there are many different options on how to build them.
Now we've already got another article that gets into the process of building raised garden beds, but in that article we focused more on the basics, a step by step How To guide for beginners if you will. We didn't spend a great deal of time exploring the finer points of the build however because we didn't want to over complicate the process. Here I figured we would focus on some more specific ideas that might help you narrow down your choices on building a raised garden.
Materials for Building Raised Garden Beds:
Most people think that building raised beds is just a matter of bolting together a few pieces of lumber and filling it with soil, and to be truthful, that is actually correct…at its most basic level. The reality is there are a wide range of ways you can build a raised garden, and some of them you may have seen countless times and never gave it much thought.
Most gardeners already have a pretty good idea how to take a few pieces of lumber and screw them together to form a flower bed, so I'm not going to waste a lot of time discussing that here. If you want to learn how to build a basic wooden flower bed as a starter project, read our article titled "Constructing Raised Bed Gardens". That article will give you great advice on building garden beds if you have never attempted one before.
These days, a great many landscapers and gardeners have turned to landscaping stones as their material of choice for building raised garden beds. I happen to be a fan of this material myself and have used it on countless projects. While they aren't the cheapest material on the market, they sure are durable and if laid out properly, they will last indefinitely.
Building Raised Garden Beds with Stone:
Another great material for raised flower beds is natural stone. This is great for those gardeners who aren't crazy about the uniform look of landscaping stones. These types of stone are generally available in most cities and towns at landscaping supply companies. Again they aren't cheap as you can expect to pay around $200 per skid worth of stone.
The benefit to using natural stone is you don't have to worry as much about the rows being level, like you do with the landscaping blocks. Natural stone is much more forgiving to those gardeners like myself who tend to go after a project with a mental image, rather than plans drawn up on paper. I personally like building raised garden beds alongside ponds and fountains, using pallets of natural stone. It isn't great on the back hauling a few tons of stone by hand, but in the end the look is incredible.
Building Raised Garden Beds with Block:
If you happen to have a mason in the family, or one who is willing to work cheap, amazing things can be done with cinder blocks and/or bricks. Now you might initially cringe that the thought of cinder blocks, but I'm not talking about building raised beds out of plain old grey foundation blocks. There are numerous styles of architectural blocks available that have a wide range of colors and relief patterns on them. I personally am not all that skilled at mason work so I tend to avoid it, but that said I have seen some incredible raised gardens that were built entirely out of architectural blocks. They are definitely something to consider.
If you want to really pull of something impressive, you can also consider building raised garden beds with cinder blocks, then tiling the sides of your planters and then capping them with decorative stone. Now before you scoff at the idea because it seems complicated, let me give you a few tips. We built a planter like this for a friend and it turned out incredible!
Since none of us were masons we stacked up plain old cinder blocks that were laying around, overlapping them as you normally would, but without mortaring them together. Once the wall was built, you had all that open space inside the hollow blocks. We dumped cheap bags of concrete into the wall, making sure to soak it thoroughly throughout the process. Once the walls was filled we troweled the top and capped it with uniform flat landscaping stones.
Then using regular tile mortar available at any hardware store, we laid cheap tile across the outer face of the wall. Since it wasn't an interior build, we discovered we weren't that particular about the look and we even mixed and matched color coordinated tiles for a different look. With the wall filled with concrete, it made an excellent backing for the tile. People that see the wall think it cost a fortune to build, but the end result was only a few hundred dollars for something that looks like it cost thousands.
Building Raised Garden Beds with Just Soil:
Another option for building garden beds requires no more material than the soil that is already present. It's very common for professional landscapers to mound up flower bed 10 - 12" over the existing ground. This is one form of a raised garden. There are two ways you can do it, you can truck in a few tons of topsoil and dump it where you want it, or you can layout your garden with pathways and planting beds, and begin digging down on the pathways. The soil you take from the paths, you toss up into the planting beds.
Once you're done building raised garden beds, then you will need to give them a generous coating of mulch to ensure that the mounds do not erode and wash away over time. This method only requires a little shovel work and time, no additional materials needed.
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