PHOTOGRAPH BY BETSIE VAN DER MEER/GETTY
Raised garden beds boost vegetables above potentially waterlogged grounds. Not every gardener deals with a high water table, but there are other good reasons to plant in raised beds:
They are easier to keep free of encroaching grass than ground-level beds.
Elevated soil warms earlier in spring and drains more quickly after a rain.
Soil doesn’t become compacted because you don’t step on the growing area.
Raised beds offer easier access for planting, thinning, weeding, and harvest.
The following five raised beds are built from a variety of materials, described below. Each of these beds measures about 4 feet by 8 feet; you can adjust the dimensions to suit your needs, keeping in mind that anything wider than 4 feet will be more difficult to maintain. Try filling beds with a rich mixture of about two parts soil and one part compost.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PATRICK MONTERO
Hammer 2-foot lengths of rebar into the ground around the perimeter of the bed, spacing them about 16 inches apart and leaving 10 inches of the rebar exposed above ground. Cut long, straight lengths of tree or shrub branches, up to a 1/2 inch in diameter. Weave the sticks or “wattle” through the vertical rebar, basket style; trim the ends at the bed corners as needed. Once the bed sides have reached the top of the rebar, bend 2-foot sticks in half and poke them into the ground over the woven wattle, holding the sticks in place. Pin the sides in this manner every few feet. Line the sides of the bed with burlap to keep soil from sifting through the wattle.
To build a 4-foot by 8-foot bed, you’ll need 18 pieces of rebar, each 24 inches long; a strip of burlap about 18 inches wide and 24 feet long; and about 100 long, flexible sticks.
Choose straight logs about a foot in diameter to create the bed edges. Logs of smaller diameter can be stacked, as pictured here. To avoid having to move massive logs, line up shorter firewood-length sections.
To build a 4-foot by 8-foot bed, you’ll need two 7-foot logs for the sides and two 4-foot logs for the ends.
Place concrete blocks with open ends facing up to outline the raised bed. The openings can be filled with soil and used as planting pockets for small herbs or edible flowers.
To build a 4-foot by 8-foot bed, you’ll need 16 blocks, each meauring 8-by-8-by-16 inches.
This bed can be constructed of leftover lumber of almost any dimension, so long as the wood is untreated. Hold the planks on edge with short lengths of rebar pounded into the ground every 2 or 3 feet.
To build a 4-foot by 8-foot bed, you’ll need two 2-by-12 planks 8 feet long, two 2-by-12 planks 4 feet long, and 12 pieces of rebar, each 24 inches long.
Learn More: Check out our step-by-step guide to building a raised bed from lumber planks.
Using the long, slender bags of sand that are sold as traction sand, outline a bed. Stack the bags two high all the way around the bed.
To build a 4-foot by 8-foot bed, you’ll need 20 sandbags.