I was a confirmed in-the-ground veggie gardener until last season. That was when I decided to try several types of commercially-produced raised beds. My goodness, what a difference they made to both the beauty of my garden and my harvest!
In no particular order, I’m going to tell you about the products of five different companies which I have in my own garden.
Gronomics in Minnesota uses Western red cedar to handcraft their raised garden beds, making them naturally resistant to rotting and insect attack. I have to say that the classic styling of the beds and the rich look of the wood make this one of the most handsome elements in my garden. It was the easiest bed to put together (no tools needed) and one of the sturdiest. Even the substantial cedar-framed trellis took minimal time and effort to attach to the raised bed.
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My bed is 34″W x 95″L x 13″H. I grew pickling cucumber and sweet peas along one edge and trained them to climb up the trellis. Along the other side, I grew peppers interspersed with nasturtiums. And down the middle, I planted a row of leeks, each six inches apart. Starting in mid-July here in the Northeast, I continually harvested cukes for pickle-making right up until frost. Ripened red peppers were produced in profusion from mid-August on, but my biggest surprise was the leeks. Before this I had no luck growing them in my garden. Now I saw the leeks growing fatter day-by-day as I mounded the friable, moist soil around their stems. Finally, in September I pulled six thick, white leeks from the bed and used them to make the best potato-leek soup I had ever tasted. This raised bed idea is a good thing, I thought. My leek harvest continued well into November.
Gronomics cedar beds are available in many sizes and configurations. Take a look at their site. You can choose rough-sawn cedar, smooth cedar, or cedar that has been treated with a food-grade finish. My bed is constructed with the latter and it is truly lovely as well as practical.
Frame It All claims to be revolutionizing vegetable gardening with their “green” raised beds made with wood fibers and recycled plastic that will never rot, splinter or warp. Each of their kits – and there are many sizes and configurations available – contains the requisite number of composite timbers and packs of stacking joints. The assembly is more complicated than Gronomics cedar beds and requires a screwdriver and hammer, but is well within the realm of possibility for a do-it-yourselfer. One of the things I like best about this company’s product is that you can keep stacking the side pieces until you reach your desired bed height.
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You can erect one of these garden beds on your deck or even on a concrete surface. Just make sure to lay a piece of landscape fabric in the bottom of the bed before you fill it with soil. Extend it several inches up the sides. This will keep the soil from running out. The double-walled construction of the side pieces makes them very strong, and the airspace keeps the soil in the bed from getting too hot.
I grew Pony Yellow watermelons and alpine strawberries in my two-tiered raised bed with fantastic results. The addition of a layer of floating row cover in the fall extended my season for another few weeks. I liked the performance of my Frame It All bed very much and recommend it without hesitation.
Gardener’s Supply Company is the exclusive purveyor of the Forever Raised Bed. I have to admit that I was a little taken back by the weight of the composite recycled wood and plastic side pieces, but I like their silvery, aged cedar look. I can believe that they won’t split or rot, and will practically last “forever”. The sides are screwed into aluminum corner brackets which keep the box straight and true. Pre-drill the holes and use a power screwdriver. It also doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of hands to hold the pieces in place while assembling. Two sizes are available – 3×3 and 3×6, both with a depth of over ten inches.
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I lined the bottom of my bed with one of their double-layer polypropylene fabric Grow Bed Liners hoping to keep out burrowing varmints, then planted carrots and beets. It worked! I had the biggest and most flavorful crop of those root vegetables that I had ever grown. I can’t wait to plant my Forever Raised Bed again this spring.
Another Gardener’s Supply Company exclusive is their Copper Cap Raised Bed. Built in Vermont of durable, rot-resistant red cedar, this bed looks very classy in my garden. The kit contains everything you need for assembly including aluminum angles and Phillips screws to attach the cedar boards to the four corner posts. Pre-drilling corner posts make the job easier, as does a power screwdriver. Again this raised bed comes in two sizes – 3 x 3 and 3 x 6 – both with a depth over ten inches. My bed is the larger size. The eighteen broccoli and cauliflower plants I put in the bed grew very large and yielded magnificently. I was picking side shoots off the broccoli in November!
An innovative raised bed gardening system is called The Guarden. Durable recycled content plastic components snap together with push-in fasteners. The almost two-inch-thick side walls have three air cells inside to moderate the heat of the soil. There are no sharp corners. All the pieces are rounded and well-made. I felt the white color (only choice) was a bit bright, so I placed this bed in the back of my garden where it was camouflaged by the greenery growing in front of it. I imagine that the light color would be an advantage in the south, helping to reflect some of the sun’s heat.
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The real advantage to this raised bed system comes in the accessories available for purchase. By adding the arched supports (hoops) which come in 18, 30 and 43-inch heights, and the appropriate cover, you have a mini-greenhouse to extend your growing season in both the spring and the fall. Insect and pest netting are also available. All in all, I found the Guarden system to be very effective in protecting my plants from the elements, birds and small animals.