I have an aunt who used to follow a yearly tradition. Every spring, she’d spend a few days planting an herb garden in her backyard. Then, over the weeks that followed, she’d watch every last one of those plants wither. That’s not an unusual occurrence for gardeners. There’s no guarantee that your backyard is going to have soil that’s good enough to nurture young plants. In fact, I’ve been hearing that in places like Brooklyn, the soil is actually contaminated with lead and other metals. For situations like that, a raised bed is a must. My relative didn’t have any issues that severe, but she still chose to go with a raised garden bed, which is a simple way of improving your gardening prospects.
A raised bed is simple because most people can complete it in an afternoon. It’s essentially a wooden box that you can fill with good soil to build your garden. While this is an easy project, it’s also one that I see a lot of people make mistakes on. That’s because it’s easy to use the wrong materials. The goal of a raised garden bed is to create a gardening spot when your yard doesn’t support gardening. But if the wood you use to build it rots, or the hardware you fasten your wood with corrodes into the soil, it’s not going to work. That’s why, in my opinion, the biggest challenge in building a bed isn’t the actual building of it. It’s choosing the right raised garden bed hardware. But before you choose the hardware, you need to pick a design.
While a raised garden bed is, at its most basic level, a large planter box, there are a lot of ways to go about building one. You can even choose to build a raised planter box, instead of a bed, if you have some room on your deck or patio (see our post on how to build a raised wooden planter box for tips).A few designs to consider include:
Chances are, like my aunt, you’ll want a real raised garden bed built using 2x4s or 2x6s. When building it, you’re going to need to pay attention to your hardware to ensure that the bed will last and you won’t have zinc or other compounds from the hardware leaching into the soil.
A lot of the simplest DIY options for raised beds will use inexpensive, or even ‘found’ materials. While this might seem like a cheap, green option, it could actually be bad for your garden. To avoid chemicals from your metal hardware getting into your raised bed, choose:
Once I gave my aunt a few recommendations on hardware choice, wood choice, and design, she was confident enough to build her own raised bed, even though she’d hardly ever touched a hammer or drill before. And her raised bed turned out great (and now contains the bushiest basil, oregano, and lavender plants I’ve ever seen)! All you need is great raised garden bed hardware, relatively new pressure-treated wood (older treated wood has dangerous chemicals in it, but the new stuff is won’t leach chemicals into your soil), and a little elbow grease.
I suggested OZCO Building Products to my aunt as a source of screws and fasteners because they carry unique hardware that is galvanized and powder coated, or, in the case of their timber screws, is coated with a special finish that makes them resistant to corrosion and easier to screw in. All of their bolts and screws are designed to work with ACQ lumber, as well. Their ornamental wood ties and connectors come in all types, shapes, and sizes, and are not only powder coated and tough, but also drop-dead gorgeous. And if you’re looking for a project plan for a raised bed, take a look at their plan checklists–they’ve got great inspiration, no matter what your experience level is as a DIYer.