From cost savings to mental and physical health benefits, gardening can bring about an abundance of benefits not only to your backyard and back pocket. Here, we break down how to go from ground to greatness with your very own raised garden bed.
Store-bought produce comes with increasingly eye-watering price tags, gardening is good for your mental (and physical) health, a well-kept, presentable garden adds value to your home with curb appeal, and nothing beats stepping outdoors to pick fresh salad greens for tonight’s dinner.
Here, we look at the benefits of choosing a raised garden bed over traditional in-ground gardens, what you need to consider to get started, the best things to fill it with and how to keep it looking in top shape. So, grab your gloves, and let’s dig in.
Why it’s a raised garden bed for the win
From good looks to superior fresh produce, here are the four key benefits of choosing a raised garden bed:
- Creates curb appeal – with numerous materials to choose from, a raised garden bed can elevate the overall look of your front yard and let’s face it first impressions count!
- Versatility and flexibility – whether you’ve got a concrete pad, pavers or grass, a raised garden bed can be built anywhere.
- Drain gain – elevation means better drainage, less risk of root rot and even the opportunity to build clever self-watering systems like wicking beds.
- The height is right – heights can be customised to suit, meaning there’s no need for constant bending and back pain.
Getting poised for the project
Before you whip to your local hardware store to get your raised garden bed underway, here’s what you need to know.
- First and foremost, is location – the difference between a thriving garden and an underwhelming one, is often a result of how it’s affected by the elements. You’ll need a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunshine most of the year, one that won’t get bogged down, and a spot that’s fairly level and isn’t exposed to too much wind.
- Pick your aesthetic – from brick to rustic sleepers or steel, the next step is to pick your materials. Often, you’ll be able to repurpose or recycle something that you, a friend or a family member has lying around, making this a sustainable and wallet-friendly project. Just ensure your chosen material is resistant to decay and that any wood used is untreated.
- Get measuring – most plants need at least 30cm of soil depth for happy roots, so your ideal depth should be close to double this. When plotting out the length and width of your bed, make sure you’re going to be able to reach everything from the outer edge.
- A good bed starts with the base – for drainage and to limit weeds and pests, make sure you line the bottom of the garden bed. You can use a weed mat, bark or even layers of cardboard. If you’re up to the challenge, now is also the time to add a water reservoir system.
- Fill it up – grab a few bags (or trailer load) of ready-to-go soil mixture from your local nursery, or make your own with a mix of topsoil, compost, and a splash of sand to keep it free draining.
Time to put down some roots!
Once you’ve constructed and filled your raised garden bed, it’s time to get to the fun and rewarding part – planting. What you choose to grow will depend on your location, climate, and personal preferences, and whether you’re planting for eating or admiring. Here are 10 of our favourites:
- Herbs – relatively low maintenance and endlessly useful; having a handful of homegrown herbs is a real treat. Rosemary, basil, parsley, thyme, and oregano are our standouts.
- Leafy greens – these thrive in the optimal conditions of a raised garden bed and mean you’ll never have an excuse not to eat your greens: plant lettuce, rocket, perpetual spinach, or kale for a continuous supply.
- Tomatoes – nothing beats a homegrown tom! With plenty of support and sunlight, these will flourish in a raised garden bed.
- Berries – from classic strawberries to climbing raspberries, these provide a perfect snack for when you’re working in the garden.
- Edible flowers – impress guests with the odd flower in a salad or artfully arranged on a cake. Nasturtiums, pansies, calendulas, and French marigolds all look beautiful in situ and as part of a meal.
- Petunias – with a trailing growth habit, these look stunning spilling over the edges of the garden bed and cascading colour.
- Spring blooms – bulbs like tulips and daffodils provide a burst of colour and signal warmer days ahead.
- Geraniums – versatile and vibrant, these beautiful blooms thrive in raised garden beds.
- Zinnias – easy to grow and producing a daisy-like bloom; zinnias provide bursts of colour throughout summer.
- Lavender – fragrant and charming, you won’t be able to resist picking a posy as you pass.
Caring for your new bed
Gardening is an ongoing relationship where you get out what you put in. It takes regular care, attention, and a bit of maintenance to keep it thriving and looking good. Here’s what you need to prioritise:
- Watering – raised beds can dry out more quickly than traditional gardens, so keep a close eye on the soil moisture.
- Mulching and weeding – organic mulch applied regularly will help your plants thrive and help keep weeds to a minimum.
- Protect from pests – beneficial plants like marigolds can help with pests, or use natural sprays like neem oil or homemade bug sprays.
- Support – do your plants need support structures or protection from the elements? Providing the correct support gives your plants the best opportunity to flourish.
- Pruning and spacing – follow expert advice on correct spacing and pruning to get the most out of your garden.
- Educate yourself – every plant is different, and understanding these intricacies will go a long way towards your success. The Yates Garden Hub has fantastic how-to-grow and seasonal guides.
Have a blooming good time
Whether it’s a beautiful or bountiful back or front yard you’re looking for, creating a raised bed garden is well worth the time, effort, and love you pour into it. Not only will it add value to your home, but it will also add value to your health and wellbeing. And if you don’t have space to create your own patch, it might be time to find a new one get in touch with your local First National Progressive and be guided on putting down roots somewhere new.