If you want to add an extra dimension to your garden, raised beds make an attractive design feature with many practical uses. Raising even a small section adds visual interest to any size of outdoor space whether you want to break the monotony of a single level or create an eye-catching centre piece or display. Have a look at the parks and public gardens around you to see how often professional gardeners make use of raised beds with some spectacular results.
A raised bed is simply an enclosed area of soil or compost that is higher than the rest of the garden. There are lots of different materials you can use which mean a raised bed can be built to suit all budgets and can be either a seasonal or a permanent feature of your outside space. They can be used to grow anything from perennials and alpines to soft fruit, produce or herbs and one of the biggest benefits is that a raised bed can be used to grow plants that the rest of your garden just can’t support due to soil type or conditions.
Aside from being a simple and eye-catching way to add a touch of professional design to your own garden, creating a raised bed can have many practical benefits.
Raised beds can:
Grow a wider variety of plants: You can put different soil in your raised bed to the rest of your garden which is great if you have alkaline soil and want to grow lime-hating plants or herbs. It also means you’ll be able to grow plants that need a different level of drainage to the soil you have in the rest of your plot.
Promote a longer growing season: the soil in a raised bed warms faster in the spring. This lets you plant earlier and enjoy a longer season. If you cover the bed, the soil will warm up even faster and you can start earlier.
Be easier to maintain: once the bed is built, filled with a good quality topsoil and planted, annual maintenance can be as simple as dressing your raised bed with well-rotted compost. Raised beds are also much easier to keep watered than smaller containers or planted pots although in drought conditions you will have to pay them more attention than the rest of your garden.
Save your back: they are a great boost if you have trouble bending or other mobility problems.
Help with pest control: It’s easy to protect young plants with horticultural fleece or netting if they are growing in a raised bed.
Raised beds can add a useful and decorative touch to add to your outdoor space, whether it’s a domestic garden or even an allotment. Many householders who want to add an area for produce or would like to grow soft fruit in their back garden find a separate raised bed fits in better visually than an isolated vegetable patch in the middle of their flowering plants or next to the lawn.
Once you've built your raised bed, what you grow in it is only limited by your imagination and a few practical considerations. If you plan to grow vegetables then it’s a good idea to ask other gardeners about their experiences with different varieties in raised beds as opposed to ordinary beds. Many keen allotment gardeners use raised beds successfully for a salad bed or for root crops such as carrots and parsnips because of the deep fine soil but don’t find them so useful for growing potatoes.
Photo - Harrod Horticultural Raised Beds