Raised Bed Designs – Part 2

It’s time for another round of raised bed designs here in 2012, where raised bed gardening seems to be as popular as ever. The benefits of using raised beds are (according to Wikipedia):

  • Higher yield
  • Creates a micro-climate in which weed growth is suppressed
  • Moisture is conserved
  • Extends the growing season
  • Plants grow easier due to loose soil
  • Easy on your back due to tall building height

Below you’ll find examples of raised bed designs:

A circular raised bed made from round pressure-treated wooden poles:

Circular Bed
Photo by Karen Blakeman. (Barracks Lane Community Garden, Oxford, England, GB).

I think rounds beds are definitely the most beautiful, but also least efficient when it comes to yield, because you waste grow space in the ‘corners that are not there’, compared to rectangular beds.

There may be a health issue when using pressure-treated wood – take a look at this post for more info: Raised Garden Bed Plans

If the poles have the same length below ground as above ground they are be able to support themselves, held in place by the weight and pressure from the soil.

The next two photos show lots of ordinary raised beds but they are special because they are built on the property of an elementary school:

Classroom Plots
Photo by Billie Greenwood. (Casa Alegre, Santa Fe, NM, US).

Elementary Classroom Raised Beds
Photo by Billie Greenwood. (Casa Alegre, Santa Fe, NM, US).

I haven’t seen anything like that in my country, and certainly not a kitchen garden of this size (although I’m wondering what the grass like plants are, but I’m pretty sure I see lettuce in one of the beds).

Working with raised beds in school is a great way to teach kids about food and energy, and certainly an improvement from my time in school, where the teaching was limited to cress growing in a windowsill 😉

I’m not sure if the next one qualifies as a raised bed:

Finished Garden
Photo by R Berteig. (Monrovista, Monrovia, CA, US).

I guess it depends on whether you took the few steps down into the middle or you’re standing on the normal ground level.

I’ve seen this type of bed used beneath a greenhouse, where the greenhouse is placed on top of the outer wall, although this was in a smaller scale. It probably has to do with the building height of a greenhouse, to be able to get more headroom when working inside, so you lower the “floor”.

Raised beds made out of concrete and stone will last a lifetime, so make sure you get the design right the first time, or be prepared to bring in the heavy machines to clean up any mistakes.

This is the basic raised bed as mentioned by John Seymour in his book about self-sufficiency:

Cameroon Nursery Shade, Raised Bed
Photo by Trees For The Future. (Cameroon).

On average your soil should be warmer since it’s raised above ground (although cold soil shouldn’t be a problem in Cameroon…)

While taking care not to walk on the raised bed soil the members of the Njimacob farming group are building a support to create shade against the burning sun (about 1,000 km / 620 miles from the equator).

The planks in these raised beds look like they are made out of expensive, long lasting wood, because of the dark color:

Raised Bed Designs
Photo by Poppet with a Camera.

A more dark type of wood is probably going to last longer that a light colored type. If it has been treated with oil for preservation it will also be darker, and last longer.

If you want low maintenance aisles between your raised beds you can lay out sheets of plastic for weed suppression between the beds as show in the picture above. I find an aisle width of 50 cm / 20 inches to be sufficient.

I like how tall this next one is:

Raised Bed Designs
Photo by Mike McCune.

This is actually the minimum height every raised bed should have in order to be easy accessible. The challenge is to find enough extra soil to be able to fill it up, but you’ll get fantastic root crops with this height. You can also place a raised bed with this much soil in it on a hard surface like concrete tiles, since the plants already got the room they need and don’t need to dig further into the ground.

The above one looks like it has been painted which will make it last longer. Just make sure the paint is environmentally friendly.

You don’t even need mortar to build a raised bed from stones, if you use strip stones that fit together very well:

Browning Residence, Raised Bed
Photo by Jay@MorphoLA.

This is one of the most robust raised beds I’ve seen – made of bricks and mortar which means it will last a lifetime – or four:

Backyard Raised Bed Designs
Photo by Choking Sun.

It has a good height too, but the only problem is the width, at least for kitchen gardening – it’s impossible to reach the weeds popping up in the middle of the bed without crawling into it and compressing the soil and getting dirty knees, feet and palms. I prefer a raised bed with a maximum width of 1 meter ~ 3.3 ft.

This particular raised bed was most likely built as an ornamental bed for flowers etc., and it matches the house well.

Backyard Raised Bed Designs
Photo by Choking Sun.

A nice looking right-angled raised bed made out of planed timber:

Farm Soil Amendments, Raised Bed
Photo by Milton Taam.

Ordinary raised beds, but with a tall fence around them to keep out animals – or kids 😉 Toddlers don’t know the difference between weeds and vegetables, so if you’re serious about kitchen gardening you might want to consider setting up a fence around the “other babies” (= precious homegrown vegetables 😉 ). This will save you a lot of stress.

Notice the border between the raised bed in the middle and the lawn – the grass grows taller here because the lawnmower is not able to cut that close to the planks:

Fenced Raised Bed
Photo by Amanda B.

You’ll need either a grass trimmer to remove this last line of grass, a pair of scissors and a lot of patience, or perhaps a line of paving stones around the beds, if you don’t want this perfect habitat for slugs right next to your lettuce.

A beautiful garden with a mixture brick and mortar and wooden raised beds:

Bricks, Raised Bed Designs
Photo by PermaCultured. (Newtown Community Garden, corner of Longdown & Stephen St, Newtown Sydney)

A collection of different types of raised bed designs to get ideas from, and perhaps you already know how you want to build yours? Project photos with comments are welcome – please send them in and we’ll do a showcase post here on HappyFarming.com. Contact details are here: Contact HappyFarming.com.

2 comments on “Raised Bed Designs – Part 2

  1. -

    Thank you for the tour. You have some really nice ideas here. I like the masonry ones best.

  2. -

    I like the fact that they will last so long. I’m wondering why there aren’t any really old ones left, but maybe they were never built 100 or 200 years ago… Maybe they can be found near manors, castles, fortresses etc.
    John Seymour traced raised beds back to French Maraichers in the 19th century (1801-1900).

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