Raised beds can help gardeners' aching backs

If your knees creak and your back aches when you are gardening, perhaps you should build some raised beds to make your life easier.
There are several advantages to raised beds. The first and most obvious benefit is to your health and wellbeing Regardless of your age, kneeling or bending over your plants even for a few minutes can cause aches and pains. After a while, you can be tempted to leave plants untended and bed beds unweeded. A raised bed avoids that temptation!
Additionally, standing or walking on your garden can compact the soil which can adversely affect drainage and the flow of oxygen to the plants' roots. Hopefully, you wouldn't be standing on a raised bed!
When you have a raised bed, you can plant, weed and harvest while sitting or standing, which eliminates pressure on the soil and on your bones and muscles. In many cases you can't plant earlier in the spring and harvest later in the fall because raised beds warm up earlier in the spring and stay warm later in the fall. And a raised bed is the ideal location for potentially invasive plants such as horseradish or mint.
If someone in your family is elderly or physically challenged, a raised bed can allow them to enjoy gardening again, perhaps for the first time in many years. A recent Plant Man column on the subject of gardening for the physically challenged brought a number of responses from readers, showing me just how important a topic this is. Here's an e-mail I received from Shelby Snider in Virginia.
"As a Virginia Master Gardener, I do Horticultural Therapy at an Assisted Living home near me. With the help of a few good companies donating material and the help of my husband with the labor, we put in a therapy garden for the residents a couple of years ago.
"I am sending some pictures of the residents working there. Sometimes the residents just go out and sit in the chairs and enjoy the gardens. Before this there was nothing there but grass.
"We have two brick companies near us and they donated brick pavers for all the walking area. A block company donated concrete blocks for the raised beds which are four feet wide by 10 ft long. After we put the blocks up for the beds I sprayed the inside of the beds with a spray adhesive and lined the beds with a heavy grade of black plastic. I did this so the concrete blocks would not change the pH of my soil. I folded the top of the plastic back under the concrete caps that were put on top of the wall. I then painted the blocks and did a faux finish on the outside.
"I like the blocks because if the residents want to sit while they work or just enjoy the garden, they have a place to sit. This same concept could be done on a smaller scale. Yes, you can use concrete blocks if you do what I did."
Although building a raised bed can be quite a labor-intensive project, it is not exceptionally difficult nor does it require advanced carpentry skills. You can find a lot of information on the Internet when you initiate a search for "raised plant beds."
You can use concrete blocks, as Shelby did, or opt for wood instead. For a low bed, railroad ties or landscape timbers are fine. For taller beds, 2 x 12 lumber is a better choice.
Whether it's for practical reasons or purely aesthetic, a raised bed can be a great addition to your garden. The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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Also, Tyler Arboretum uses raised beds to make a walking garden for blind people. That way they can walk along the bed and feel and smell the plants easily. It works well for people in wheel chairs also.
http://www.tylerarboretum.org /
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Two of my garden plots are 30 in. high. My "short stuff" is there. They are 8x8 and are very nice for radishes, lettuce, spinach, etc. My mantra is: "High beds for short stuff; short beds for tall stuff".
cheers
oz
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