Not everyone has the space to experiment with gardening, which leads many to believe growing your own vegetables and flowers is a lost cause. That’s where a raised garden bed comes into play.
With a raised garden bed, you can transform a small space into a gorgeous garden. Raised garden beds are easier to establish and maintain than traditional gardens, and you can put them just about anywhere: your back porch, your apartment balcony, even your front yard.
Location for a raised garden bed
Consider your space
How much space do you have for your new gardening venture? Most raised garden beds are 4 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long. Some beds sit directly on the ground, like the one we’re going to show you how to make. Others are table-style garden beds, which you can easily purchase if you don’t want to make your own.
One of our favorite table-style garden beds is made by Greenes Fence. It’s smaller than the standard ground-resting bed at 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, but for some people, it’s the perfect size.
Consider sunlight exposure
Space is not the only consideration when deciding where to put a garden bed. Most plants need at least six hours of sunlight per day to fare well. Spend a day or two monitoring the degree of sunlight received by various areas of your outdoor space to determine where your chosen plants would thrive.
What you’ll need to build a raised garden bed
If you choose to build your own raised garden bed, you’re going to need a few materials and tools:
- Rebar or sturdy garden posts
- Rubber mallet
- Deck screws
- Flattened cardboard boxes
- High-quality topsoil
Steps to build a raised garden bed
Gather your lumber. We recommend four planks of wood: two 2 x 12s that are 10 feet long and two 2 x 12s that are 4 feet long. Use these planks to assemble a rectangular frame on the ground.
With your rubber mallet, hammer the rebar or garden stakes into the ground in such a way that they support the vertical standing planks. We suggest placing two stakes on each of the longer sides and one stake on each of the shorter sides. Your bed should now be taking shape.
Line the inside of your bed with flattened cardboard boxes. Wet the boxes.
Fill your boxes with a mixture of quality garden soil and compost. If you don’t compost, now is a great time to start. One of our favorite composters is made by Miracle-Gro. Within four to six weeks, it breaks down compost with the help of its efficient internal mixing bars, and it holds nearly 18.5 gallons at a time — helpful to have on hand for your gardening projects.
Now the fun part: it’s time to plant. A raised bed that receives lots of sunlight is an apt place to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. If you want to plant fruits, consider planting strawberries and melons like cantaloupe and honeydew. Herbs like basil and rosemary also thrive in bright sun, as do flowers like geraniums and zinnias.
A raised bed in partial shade is conducive to growing carrots, lettuce and other leafy greens. Impatiens, hostas, hellebores, and ferns also grow beautifully in a shaded raised bed.
- When choosing your lumber, bear in mind that cedar and redwood are water-resistant. Hemlock and pine cost less and are easier to find, but they are not as durable.
- You can make your garden bed any shape you want, but remember you’ll need to be able to reach across it. For this reason, most garden beds are no more than 4 feet wide.
- Instead of wooden planks, you can also use cinder blocks, bricks, or stones to frame a raised garden bed.
- Plant onions and chives to deter bunnies, chipmunks, and other foragers who may fancy your garden bed to be their salad bar.
- The best time to do your watering is the morning. This is because the sun hasn’t been out long enough to evaporate the water you put in. If you’re not an early bird, consider using a water timer to make watering a seamless task.
Melissa Nott is a writer for BestReviews, a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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2021 plant trends
Rare plants and smaller terrarium species will continue to captivate plant fans, as they allow owners “to have the ‘look’ but keep things manageable sizewise,” said Leaf and Spine owner Dustin Bulaon.
“There’s a big trend for high-humidity plants, especially with the aid of the Ikea Milsbo cabinets that people are customizing to create mini greenhouse/terrariums. Expect hoyas to continue to be popular with collectors and the succulent stapeliads, which are prized for their unique flowers.”
Pink is alive and well, especially in high-maintenance plants that Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of Potted in L.A., likes to call “supermodel” plants (gorgeous but difficult): calatheas and Chinese evergreen “Pink Valentine.”
“Pink plants, in general, are huge right now,” she said.
Many experts predicted Costa Farms’ Raven ZZ plant would be the one of the year’s hottest houseplants. The slow grower has a striking, gothic look with bright green growth that matures to a rich, purple-black hue.
A spokesman for Costa Farms, which has the exclusive rights to produce and sell the plant, said the rare ZZ, a popular topic on Reddit, will be shipping to California stores that purchase its Trending Tropicals collection.
If gothic is not your thing, Costa Farms reports that Scindapsus treubii "Moonlight" is already a popular choice for 2021.
Neon is in
Neon plants will make a big splash in spring and throughout summer, according to Jaime Curtis of Greenwood Shop in Valley Village.
“Neon pothos, neon cordatum and Dracaena fragrans ‘Limelight’ as well as the more exotic plants like the philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’ or ‘Florida Ghost’ will be in high demand.”
Plants as therapy
As the pandemic continued and people stayed home, Americans turned to their plants for reassurance.
Gutierrez said that at times she feels like a therapist. “We had one woman come in yesterday who brought her plant in as if it were a child,” she said. “She was so distraught because the plant kept wilting and not thriving. We had a therapy session, and she left feeling like less of a failure and armed with a little more knowledge and support. I love seeing how people are connecting with each other regarding their plant problems and successes. Maybe that’s the trend: plants as emotional-support decor.”
It used to be that plants set the stage for offices. Now they set the stage for Zoom meetings, classes and video calls that can land you on Twitter accounts like Room Rater. Because our homes have become our offices, several stores, including Plants.com and the Sill, now offer plants specifically for the home office.
Because of the pandemic, several plant stores have been forced to host virtual classes and workshops in place of in-person events.
Felix Navarro of the Juicy Leaf hosts regular potting classes on Instagram. Bloomscape’s Rookie Plant Care class often has as many as 70 participants.
Workshops at the Sill, a garden center in Los Angeles, were extremely popular last year — the store even hosted an astrology night with plant pairings — and served as a “great way to stay connected to our customers,” according to Erin Marino, brand director at the Sill.
Thanks to the allure of growing your own food, edible plants will continue to grow in popularity as people continue to spend time at home, said Bloomscape plant expert Joyce Mast. Many herbs, including common culinary herbs such as basil and oregano, can be grown on a kitchen windowsill, as long as you have about four to six hours of sunlight. Some hybrids are designed to be grown indoors in your kitchen or on a sunny windowsill.
The weirder the better
A big way to make a statement is with plants, and according to Mickey Hargitay of Mickey Hargitay Plants, the weirder the better.
“People are now appreciating the unique exposed stems and the curves and bends that are created with age,” he said. “Lush and fresh off the truck is still in high demand, but more and more we are seeing customers looking for something with a little more architectural charm.”
Philodendron varieties, anthuriums and the black olive (Bucida buceras) also are popular right now.
“These are not an easy plant to care for, and they are pretty expensive, but people are still insisting on taking one home,” Hargitay said. “They have that sparse architectural look to them.”
Look for Ficus altissima and Ficus benghalensis to replace the popular but finicky Ficus lyrata, otherwise known as fiddle-leaf fig.
“I feel they’ve been so ubiquitous for the past 10 years that designers are starting to shy away from using them for fear their work will look dated,” said interior designer Orlando Soria.
Last year, Bloomscape’s top-selling plant was the mini money tree, which is purported to bring positive energy and good luck to the owner.
Look for other miniatures to trend this year, including string-of-pearls, happy bean and petite terrarium plants.
Plant propagation will be particularly big in the next year as many first-time plant owners perfect their horticultural skills.
“I think as people understand their environments better, they will get more into propagating the plants they have and sharing them with friends,” said Curtis. “When we are all vaccinated and can see each other again, I expect a ton of plant swaps and prop parties to happen and hope to host them here, as well!”