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Raised Bed Gardens - Should You Use Cinder Or Cedar?
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Raised Bed Gardens   -   Should You Use Cinder Or Cedar?

Do you live in an area where the soil is less than desirable for growing a garden? Perhaps your soil is sandy. Or maybe it is dense and clay-like. Whatever the current condition for your soil, I have the solution. Raised Bed Gardens.

When we decided to double the size of our garden, I began researching how to expand it considering the poor conditions of our soil. I learned that a raised bed garden is one of the best options available to grow a large amount of vegetables in a small space.

What is a raised bed garden?

A raised bed garden is an area that is typically 3' or 4' wide and any dimension in length that fits your needs. You can built a raised bed garden out of cement or wood and it can be anywhere from 8 inches high to waist high.

People choose raised bed gardening for many reasons. Some people use them out of necessity due to their soil conditions, some use them for aesthetics, and others use them for ergonomic reasons.

Since you will fill the raised bed with fantastic gardening soil, raised bed gardening is great for areas where your soil is not suitable for a garden.

And since you can build your raised bed to your own needs, you can make it shallow or deep. The depth of your raised bed should be determined by 1. what you will be growing and 2. your ergonomic needs.

Since raised beds can be any height you wish, many people make them waist high to eliminate the need to kneel down or bend over while gardening. It takes the "back braking" work out of gardening!

Types of Raised Bed Gardens

Cement

With cement raised beds you use cinder blocks or bricks to build the outer layers of your bed. One benefit is the cement keeps your soil warm as the weather cools, so your plants will continue to produce into the fall months. Additionally, cement will not decay and is much sturdier for building taller raised beds.

Wood

Wooden raised beds are made from just about every type of wood, however it is recommend that they be made with cedar or redwood as they decay the slowest. You can make them with pressurized wood, but I have read concerns over the chemicals used to pressurize the wood and how it may affect organic gardening.

Composite Wood

Raised bed kits are available through the internet as well as most garden and warehouse stores. Most of these kits are made with composite wood, which is a mixture of wood fibers and plastic. Since they are "faux" wood, there are no concerns for decay with these types of beds.

Save Money Building Your Raised Bed Garden

Regardless of what type of materials you choose for building your raised bed garden, one thing is certain. Raised bed gardening can be as expensive as you want it to be.

Some raised bed kits are $200 or more for composite wood (this is only 1 bed high). They go together easily by sliding the pieces into the correct spots - no hammers required.

However, if you are looking for a taller garden (2 or 3 beds high), you will want to go a more economical route. One option is to used pressurized wood, which can be obtained for less than $10 per 4"x4"x8' piece. For a 4'x8'x16" bed, it would cost you about $100 to construct it yourself.

Another option is to look in your local classifieds to find free supplies. We checked this weekend and found many people giving away cinder blocks; all you needed was to haul them away. Additionally, wood pallets are wonderful to break down and use for free wood for your raised beds. Look for free wood pallets in your local neighborhoods as well as behind your local stores. Just make sure to ask first, as many stores reuse their pallets.

No matter what your budget, you can create a raised bed to grow a large garden in no time!


Street Talk

We are planning on using this method where we live. Thanks for the tips.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

You're welcome!

Reply
  about 6 years ago
JoshuaM  

Liked the article...nicely written and informative! In my experience the only time I wouldn't use cedar is if the soil to surface area of the cedar box was small enough it might allow roots to absorb cedar-soaked water. That's for only edibles, of coarse, cause the roots poke through plastic often enough I thought I could taste and smell the cedar in my salad. Cedar produces toxins almost as apalling in smell and flavor as treated wood, though cedar oils and chems are technically organic. But my lettuce box wasn't very large volume, so the surface area of cedar to soil was small and allowed too much contact I guess. A box big enough not to root bind would probably do fine, especially if there was high quality inert plastic lining it. For ornamentals I really like cedar for its antifungal, antibug, characteristics. Thanks for the article!

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Thanks, Joshua, for sharing your insight! We built our box with cedar, so I appreciate the tips on keeping lettuce, etc away from the sides. We were considering seasoning the cedar with lindseed oil for additional protection from decay. Do you have any experience with that? I'm a little concerned about how that would affect the veggies, so I'm leaning away from it.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
JoshuaM  

No never tried lindseed oil. I usually get a high quality (not vapor barrier and the like) inert plastic to line my boxes and tables with to combat rot and chemicals from seeping when I water. You could check out How to Build a Hydroponic Table From Scratch In a Few Hours, an article I wrote on Knoji, if you want. I also put in cheap hydroponic drain plugs to further seal the water away from the wood (instead of just poking holes in the bottom or letting them drain naturally). I found the combo of plastic and a drain plug prevents water from ever contacting the wood, regardless of type of wood, and makes wooden grow tables/boxes last a whole lot longer. Te plugs are available at nurseries and garden supply shops that sell hydro stuff, come in different sizes, and screw together through a hole drilled in the bottom. You can then attach a hydro hose to the nipple and direct your water to basins, etc. Makes it nice for checking soil and water quality, pH, etc and reuse of h2o. You can also then set up a pump and go full hydro if so inclined, but you don't have to all at once, which is kinda nice. Just draining into a basin from your boxes can give you he advantage over nutrient issues and the like, we call it "Hillbilly Hydro" and it works without all the pumps and stuf just about as well as the automated systems do. Just remember to water. And no contact between box and water means you can use any construction material and it will last pretty good. I got my experience growing indoors under lights in extremely cold weather (-50° F) over nine month winters, so I had to deal with dew points and learn how to keep chem leaching, humidity, mold, and nutrient balance under tight reigns or my whole house would go up with black molds, etc, in the walls! Hope some of this info is helpful or interesting.

  
  about 6 years ago
  

Hydroponics is an area I have not yet explored. Your insight intrigues me to learn more. Thank you!

  
  about 6 years ago

Great article, AJ. This is so interesting. I'm going to try a raised garden bed. Thanks.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Give it a go, Georgia!

Reply
  about 6 years ago

A great article, got me ready to start my garden in summer

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Thanks, Carlos! What do you usually plant in your garden?

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi AJ, Our vege garden is a raised bed garden. Just 2 sleepers high so an easy step in. I didn't think about it until now so I found this very interesting. It works really well. I'd do it again if we made more garden.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Hi Heather! Have you finished planting your fall / winter garden yet? Our seeds are just starting to sprout - we're so excited :)

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi AJ. No, busy is here at the moment. I was standing right there at the nursery (with an umbrella in the rain) on wednesday and realised that if this rain keeps up the new seedlings would just drown. Our garden is right below a retaining wall from the neighbours yard and I think it's just too wet at the moment. It's great you're is happening! Wonderful to have this success and potential!

  
  about 6 years ago

Another good article AJ no, Great article.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Thanks, Rob!

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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