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Creating a Re-purposed Garden
by Kelly Bledsoe - posted 07/03/19

Raised-bed gardens are wonderful for many different reasons. Raised garden beds keep pathway weeds out of your garden, provide good drainage, prevent soil compaction and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. The sides of the beds keep your valuable garden soil from eroding or being washed away during heavy rains. In many regions, gardeners are able to plant earlier and harvest later in the season because the soil is warmer when it is above ground level. 

There are also great advantages for you, the gardener, as well. Raised beds allow you to tend your garden from the comfort of the garden path or a stool – no more bending over to pull weeds or trim plants. They tend to bring more order and a pleasing geometry to your garden.  

There are numerous “ready-to-go” raised-bed gardens that can be purchased, but as my father is so fond of saying, “Why not use something indigenous to the area?” In other words, recycle what you already have in your yard. 

Building a recycled raised bed is pretty basic, and you can use almost anything. Just get your creative juices flowing, and keep your eyes open for treasures that come your way.

Last summer I was looking down at the shoreline of the lake behind my house, and there in the cove, covered in slime and halfway submerged, was a pier floater that had seen better days. It took some time and muscle to wrestle the plastic floater to the right spot in my yard, but the pleasure was worth all the pain. I leveled the ground under the floater and drilled holes for drainage in the bottom. I enclosed the structure with pressure-treated lumber and filled it with a perfect mixture of soil, compost and fertilizers. To my great satisfaction I harvested some of the biggest tomatoes and some of the best basil of my gardening career. 

Raised beds also allow garden enthusiasts to grow plants in limited spaces, converting your balcony or porch into a real harvesting ground. As long as you have adequate sunlight and water you can grow flowers, vegetables, herbs or just about anything else you’d like. 

Larger spaces allow you to build more customized containers to the desired height and shape of your choice. You can get really creative given the right space and the right motivation. 

Thankfully, raised-bed gardens require very little maintenance. In the spring or fall, it’s a good idea to top-dress with fresh compost and manure, or if your bed only holds plants for part of the year, go ahead and dig the compost or manure into the top several inches of soil. As with any garden, mulching will help retain moisture and keep weeds down. Moisture retention is important because raised beds tend to drain faster than conventional beds.

Raised-bed gardens are the saviors of gardeners with poor soil and limited space everywhere. And the recycled raised bed gives new purpose to discarded materials, making your garden that much more useful.



This article appeared in a previous State-by-State Gardening pulication.


Kelly Bledsoe is a gardener, journalist, and photographer.