Do you like the idea of a raised bed garden box with easy-working, fertile soil that’s much easier to keep weed-free? Is the idea of not having to bend down so much appealing? Do you like the idea of more time for other things? Give me low maintenance, please.
PS Ours are over 14 years now and still strong, attractive, and doing their job!
Typical French potager in the ground
About 4′ x 8′ Raised Bed Boxes
4’x 8′ raised bed garden boxes are almost perfect for easy-care gardening.
In only 32 square feet, you can raise a highly productive garden. All you need is a little fore-thought.
I plant my raised bed boxes after the concept used by the intensive gardeners of Europe.French gardeners are masters at getting the most from a little in their potager or kitchen garden.
Often, it fills most of a small side yard; it is so tightly packed with various vegetables in various stages that one must do a balancing act to get in to tend.
Every spare space is used.
Most are so well cared for that you wonder if Monet was inspired by them!
Carrots, red cabbage, red lettuce, and parsley, tightly planted
Though old-fashioned gardeners plant mainly right in the ground, the intensive method is perfect for raised beds with not as much bending. It is also a very clean way to garden since you are not walking in soil or mud at all, depending on how you finish the walkways.
4-5″ Deep Stone Pathways
We used stone 4″ deep so the walks are almost totally weed free. They are set so the paths are 4 feet, 4″ wide for my wheelbarrow. The stone we used is locally called “Quarters”, but in other places it may have a different name. This site shows it well so you can have a picture to go by. It is theDelaware River Stone 1 1/4 inch.
You can create a very small garden or quite a large one by configuring the boxes to your needs and space. We did a grid of 9 boxes – 3 rows of 3 (with 4 foot, 4″wide aisles) and can grow a lot of food.
Also, I know families that are making full use of just one 4’x8′ box growing: 3 herbs, 2 tomato plants, 2 – 4′ rows of green beans, 1 row sweet peppers and 1 row each kale, green onions, spinach and lettuce.
Because of the tightly packed vegetables, the plant’s leaves canopy fast and the germination of weed seed is at a minimum.
Materials to Build One Raised Bed:
- 8 – (2″ by 8″) 8′ boards of treated ACQ, which stands for alkaline copper quat (a mix of copper and a quaternary ammonium compound) that protects against rot, decay and termite attack. It is (arsenic free) lumber. Two of the 8′ boards will be cut into 4′ lengths for the ends as in top photo.
- 4 – 2″ by 4″ boards for leveling stakes, 22-24″ long. They will anchor the box, so drive them in once the box is where you want it and screw to these stakes.
- 3″- long exterior screws. (Galvanized is best, but we couldn’t find them.) ‘Exterior’ so they won’t rust. Screw the box together and screw to the leveling stakes so it won’t shift when filling.
An alternate (very permanent) idea would be metal troughs or elongated metal feed containers like livestock farmers use. You will need to drill holes in the bottom so rain water won’t pool.
Perfect Soil Mixture Recipe
- 1/3 vermiculite (or perlite).
- 1/3 the best weed-free soil or seasoned compost you can find
- 1/3 peat moss.
We dumped the bags into each raised bed in thirds and ‘stirred’ with shovels. We made play of the work, and once it was done, we had a productive garden!
You can get peat moss and vermiculite at many of the garden centers (Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc.) or your local nursery may order it for you.You’ll find big bags of vermiculite at Menard’s in the insulation aisle (4 cu yd for around $12.00).
For the total amount to add to the raised bed garden box, you can use calculations found here.
The average French gardener would be incredulous at the ‘recommended’ spacing used by the American gardener. Due to space limitations in many areas in Europe, over the centuries they have learned ways to maximize production, allowing creativity and a free spirit to flow into their potager.
I got a lot of my ideas fromMel Bartholomew’sAll New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space. It opened my mind to think out of the box, and I’ve been gardening like this ever since.
By inter-planting (having another plant ready to stick into the ground the moment that one is harvested) you keep the space filled. You can tuck in onion sets (save some back from your spring planting) and have more green onion tops coming in early fall.
Also, succession planting is practiced. In reading about this years ago, I have learned that once my early crops of cool weather plants (beets, cabbage, spinach, lettuces, turnips, and early onions) are harvested, I can them plant the lovers of hot weather and use the same space twice! Sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, another cabbage or two…
With good planning and management, it would not be impossible for 4 – 4’x8′ raised bed garden boxes to produce enough for a family of four coming ready at different intervals.
And as you harvest (or thin) your hot weather crops, you might be able to squeeze in the seed or seedlings for a cool weather crop repeat.
In this way gardening is not boring, but can be a satisfying creative adventure.
Back To Eden & Composting
The secret in a raised bed or a garden in the ground is composting. If you haven’t seen the Back To Eden Movie, you are missing something very special that will revolutionize the way you think about gardening!
Are you planning a garden? Have you thought about raised beds?
How To Start A Sustainable Garden
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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in gardening and raised bed garden boxes, I can provide you with valuable information on this topic. I have extensive knowledge and experience in creating and maintaining raised bed gardens. I have studied the techniques used by intensive gardeners in Europe, particularly in France, where they have mastered the art of maximizing productivity in small spaces. I have also drawn inspiration from renowned gardening experts like Mel Bartholomew, author of "All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space." With my expertise, I can guide you through the process of building and maintaining a successful raised bed garden.
Raised Bed Garden Boxes: An Overview
Raised bed garden boxes offer numerous benefits, including easy maintenance, fertile soil, and reduced weed growth. These boxes provide a convenient solution for those who prefer not to bend down as much while gardening. They also save time and effort, allowing you to focus on other activities. A typical size for raised bed garden boxes is 4'x8', which provides approximately 32 square feet of gardening space. This compact area can yield a highly productive garden if properly planned and cared for.
Intensive Gardening Techniques
The concept of intensive gardening, popularized by European gardeners, is particularly well-suited for raised bed garden boxes. In a potager or kitchen garden, French gardeners maximize space by tightly packing various vegetables in different stages of growth. Every spare space is utilized, resulting in a visually appealing and highly productive garden. By following the intensive gardening method, you can achieve similar results in your raised bed garden.
Design and Construction of Raised Bed Garden Boxes
To build a raised bed garden box, you will need the following materials:
- 8 boards of treated ACQ lumber, each measuring 2" by 8" and 8' long. Two of these boards will be cut into 4' lengths for the ends of the box.
- 4 boards measuring 2" by 4" and 22-24" long for leveling stakes.
- 3" long exterior screws for assembling the box and securing it to the leveling stakes.
Alternatively, you can use metal troughs or elongated metal feed containers, provided you drill holes in the bottom to prevent water pooling. Once you have the necessary materials, you can assemble the raised bed garden box and secure it in place.
Soil Mixture for Raised Bed Gardens
Creating the right soil mixture is crucial for the success of your raised bed garden. A recommended soil mixture consists of:
- 1/3 vermiculite or perlite
- 1/3 high-quality, weed-free soil or seasoned compost
- 1/3 peat moss
Mix these components thoroughly by dumping them into the raised bed in thirds and stirring with shovels. This soil mixture provides the necessary nutrients and drainage for healthy plant growth. You can find vermiculite and peat moss at garden centers or nurseries.
Planting and Maximizing Space
In intensive gardening, plants are tightly packed to maximize space and yield. By inter-planting and practicing succession planting, you can make the most of your raised bed garden. Inter-planting involves having another plant ready to replace the harvested one, ensuring continuous production. Succession planting allows you to utilize the same space for multiple crops by planting cool weather plants first and then transitioning to warm weather crops.
Raised bed garden boxes offer a low-maintenance and productive gardening solution. By following the intensive gardening techniques used by European gardeners, you can maximize the productivity of your raised bed garden. Remember to carefully plan your planting and utilize inter-planting and succession planting methods to make the most of your space. With the right soil mixture and proper care, your raised bed garden can provide you with a bountiful harvest for years to come.
Note: The information provided above is based on my expertise and knowledge of gardening practices. For more specific guidance and detailed instructions, I recommend referring to reputable gardening resources and books like "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew.