Using raised beds for vegetable gardens is a great way to grow vegetables, especially if you live in the city and do not have a lot of good tillable soil to work with. Raised beds can be made of many materials. The best material for landscaping is used railroad ties. Railroad ties make great beds for your vegetables as well as flower beds. The advantage to a raised bed is that you can work in all the components together to make the best soil possible for your veggies to grow in. Raised beds seem to warm up faster in early spring than the surrounding soil and it drains more quickly after it rains.
Raised beds are easy to cover and protect. You can purchase fabric to place over your garden if frost sets in unexpectedly. There are fine mesh types that will keep out pests and animals. You should apply organic matter to your soil each year. This can be some that you have made or some that can be purchased by the bags or truckload.
What size bed do I need?
The size of the bed will be determined by the space you have available and the amount of work you want to put into your bed. A simple. Rectangular bed, approximately 10 ft. X 4 ft. Wide is easy to build and maintain. The narrow width allows you to reach the center of the bed from one side.
Steps for making a raised bed
1. Mark out the shape of the beds on prepared ground. Hammer posts into the corners, leaving them about 5 inches above the ground level. Cut lengths of lumber to size and fix them to the posts with galvanized nails (These will not rust). Check the tops of the lumber with a level to make sure everything is line up correctly.
2. Dig the soil inside the bed and add your organic materials and any other things that you may need to add to your particular soil. You can make your rows going along the length of your bed if you have a lot of one crop that you would like to keep together. Or, you may want to plant the width of the bed, which will give you shorter rows but will allow you to have a variety of crops that are not all clumped together,
3. Make some supports over the raised beds to hold up crop covers. Insert hoops of PVC pipe or stiff wire hoops over the width of the beds at 2 ft. Intervals. Drape the crop cover over the hoops, securing the edges and ends with stones or rocks to secure it.
4. In early summer, replace the horticultural fabric with very fine plastic mesh, weighing down the edges and ends so pests cannot get in, Crop covers will keep out flying and crawling pests and can be left in place while watering. In winter, remove the crop cover and replace it with clear plastic sheeting if you have any crops that need to winter over.
5. To edge raised beds, use lengths of untreated lumber or set paving slabs on edge, with 12 inches showing above the soil level. Alternatively, you could use bricks or paving blocks either laid loose or cemented in. Railroad ties are heavy and hard to cut, but provide solid edges for larger raised beds. Choose an edge that complements your overall outdoor design.