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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org