The Q&A Archives: Building a Raised Bed

Question: I want to try raising my lettuce etc. in raised beds in my garden area. What size do you recommend, what time of lumber or other material should I use? I also need to know what combination of compost, fertilizer, and top soil to use. Also besides lettuce what other vegetables do well in raised beds? Laura Hopkins Skaneatles, NY

Answer: Most vegetables will grow as well, if not better, in a raised bed as in a conventional garden plot. You can simply mound up the soil into long, flat-topped hills to create your raised beds. Choosing a building material can be tricky. Many peopleprefer not to use pressure-treated lumber for growing vegetable crops, fearing the chemicals used to treat the wood will leach out. Raised beds made from untreated pine will last a few years but will rot and need to be replaced. "Plastic lumber", madefrom recycled plastics is another option--perhaps not as attractive but certainly long-lasting. A mixture consisting about 3/4 good topsoil, and the other quarter made up of aged compost, well-rotted manure and/or shredded leaves or grass clippings should work well. Depending on the soil type, you may want to add some lime to raise pH, and/or some bonemeal for phosphorus. Some root vegetables, such as carrots, require deep soil, so either make the beds quite deep or build them up over existing garden soil.

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