Grow For It! Build raised garden beds: A summer project for fall planting

By From page B3 | July 23, 2014

Master Gardener David HaleLet’s have a show of hands: Who needs improved growing conditions for their gardening? Better soil; easier planting and harvesting; less/easier weeding.

Growing in raised garden beds means you chose your own soils and you can sit on the edge of the bed to avoid bending — thus saving the back.

Here is how to make your own raised garden beds.

Pick your spot — preferably level and in a sunny location with a fence to keep the deer out. Minor leveling can be accomplished with gravel under the bed frame.

Width can range from 2 to 4 feet to allow for easily reaching across for planting, harvesting and weeding, and the ideal length is typically 8 to 12 feet.

If the frame will bow, due to the weight of the soil, then staking along the frame sides every 4 feet is recommended.

Soil depth should allow good root development: 8 to 12 inches or more, depending on what will be planted. The top of the bed should be at least 1 inch above the soil line.

I used two 2-inch by 8-inch boards, which, when stacked on edge gives me a finished bed height of 15 inches which is plenty deep for most flowers and vegetables.

Pick your materials — we recommend rot-resistant wood materials, such as cedar or redwood.

If those aren’t in the budget, then pressure-treated wood can be used. Use 4- by 4-posts inside each corner for attaching the frame boards. Flush-cut the posts to be even with the top of the bed boards. Use galvanized screws or deck screws, as nails tend to loosen over time.

Optional liner — A physical barrier of 6 mil black plastic is recommended between the inside of the bed and the soil to keep dirt and roots from peeking out from between the boards. Attach the plastic an inch above the soil line with plastic cap nails, spaced about every foot and allow the plastic to drape below the frame an inch or two.

Exclude the pests — If your area is prone to pocket gophers, then using a galvanized screen called hardware cloth is a must. This is a fairly stout screen with ½ inch openings.

Although chicken wire would seem a cheaper alternative, the openings of the chicken wire will allow a gopher to pass and the wire itself will rust over time.

Simply staple the hardware cloth to the bottom of the bed frame using galvanized staples (3/4-inch staples work fine).

Add your soil — Create a mixture of topsoil and organic material such as compost or manure. Once the soil is added and the bed is planted, make it a policy to never step on the bed as this will compact the soil, reduce aeration and impact root growth.

Pets should also be trained to stay off the raised beds. Instead, use a spanner board to sit or stand on the bed frame.

Join UCCE Master Gardener and retired meteorologist Steve Savage to learn about gardening in the unique foothill environment Saturday, July 26.

“Gardening in the Foothills” examines microclimates, climate zones and weather. Plant hardiness zones and effects of light, heat, frost and terrain will be discussed, as well as how to make short-range forecasts of your own. The free, three-hour class starts at 9 a.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building, 130 Placerville Drive, Placerville.

UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County are available to answer home gardening questions at local farmers markets and at its office Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m.-noon by calling 530-621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome at the office, located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.

Master Gardeners are seeking the public’s opinion on where, when and what subjects should be taught at the free public education gardening classes.

Help them understand how to best serve the community by filling out a brief online survey at Paper copies of the survey are also available at the Master Gardener office.

For more information about the public education classes and activities go to the Master Gardener Website at Sign up to receive the online notices and e-newsletter at You can also find Master Gardeners on Facebook.

Dave Hale

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