Raised Garden Beds Encourage Family Gardening
If you have a budding gardener under your roof, a raised garden is a wonderful project to take on as a family. This style of gardening involves building a frame and containing soil inside. The soil is built up to a level that is easy to reach and maintain, and plants are grown inside, providing children with opportunities to learn, explore and have fun.
Raised bed gardens come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be composed of rot-resistant wood (cedar and redwood are excellent choices), brick pavers, cement or stone. Creative families have even repurposed an old sandbox to create a raised garden, and savvy shoppers have found a great selection of premade frames available online and in stores.
Building your own wooden raised garden bed is a relatively simple process and one that your family can likely tackle in a weekend.
- Begin by gathering your tools and supplies. You will need a hand saw, tape measurer, level and box of screws. Choose wood that is rot-resistant, purchased from a home improvement store or reclaimed from an old deck, shed or other fixture.
- When building your raised bed, it really can be as long as you would like, but keep the maximum width of the bed to no greater than 4 feet so that smaller hands can reach to the middle of the bed without stepping inside. The height of your boards on each side of the bed will need to be at 12” to provide adequate space for raising the soil level. If you’re building the bed on concrete or a paved surface, 18-24” is even better. This is pretty easy to accomplish if you gather pieces of lumber that are 6” wide and stack them on top of each other, end to end, using brackets to secure them together, until you get the desirable height.
- Another important factor to consider is the location of your bed in your yard. It’s a good idea to build a raised garden in a more open area, allowing access to it from all sides. Consider the amount of sun the space gets, and make sure it matches the needs of the plants you plan to place inside. Also remember that plants need to be watered, so having a nearby water source is helpful.
- Once you have your space picked out, make sure the ground is relatively level in that spot. While a raised bed can be constructed on any type of surface, it is easier to contain soil inside and prevent unwanted water pooling or runoff when all surfaces are mostly level.
- The building process starts by digging four holes in the ground, one at each corner of your square or rectangle, to place posts in. Dig these holes about 12” deep, and then, bury and secure each post.
- Now, you’re ready to place the pieces of wood that will become your sides and attach them to the posts with screws. Finally, make sure your frame is level on all sides to prevent water from pooling in one area of your bed.
After you have built your bed, add some soil, and you are ready to plant. There’s really no limit to what you can plant in a raised garden, but when including your children, it’s often a good idea to choose plants that are easy to grow, fun to harvest and have a relatively short growing season. This will keep them motivated as they tend their garden and make the hobby more fun. Some suggestions include:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Bush Beans
While planting anything in your garden provides children with a valuable education, and starter plants offer a convenient shortcut, kids will learn the most if you start with seeds. The process of starting seeds indoors and transplanting them to the garden once they develop to seedlings teaches children about the growth cycle and helps them to develop valuable personality traits including patience and perseverance.
As plants begin to grow in your raised bed, make it a point of including your children in every part of the process. Tasks such as weeding, removing slugs, watering, fertilizing, pruning, deadheading and harvesting are easy for even the youngest of children to accomplish with a little guidance, supervision and support. Children have fun when you involve them in the family garden, and they learn life lessons and tools that will serve them well in later years. This is also a great opportunity for your family to work together, providing opportunities for opening lines of communication and encouraging conversation as you go.
Raised garden beds offer opportunities for the entire family to share in a special hobby. Using a bed makes it easier to grow plants with less maintenance required, and it helps kids to gain a good understanding of many of the most important aspects of gardening. If you are ready to start your own new family tradition, encourage togetherness by building your own raised garden bed.