How Not To Make a Raised Flower Bed

How not to do a raised flower bed

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Two, maybe three, years ago I experimented with two raised gardens. I went to the local hardware store and purchased eight 2x4 boards at 8 feet each. The boards were cut in half and then stacked atop each other so that the height was eight inches rather than just four. I placed a 4' x 4' piece of plywood beneath the raised flower bed frame to prevent grass and weeds from growing up through the bed. I then added a sheet of plastic before pouring in the dirt to prevent the wood from rotting too badly. That year the gardening did not perform well.

The experiment probably would have performed better had I not neglected two important aspects. First, I did not fill each bed completely with dirt. I tried to be cheap and only add what I thought would be enough--it wasn't. Second, I did not punch holes in the plastic so the extra water could drain. Eventually I did create holes in the plastic so that the water would run out. In retrospect, besides the two self-created problems, I should have focused on one raised flower bed. But of course I was overly eager with my idea and did not go about the project the correct way.

In the two raised flower beds, I planted some tomato plants, potatoes, corn, and beans. The tomato plants reached about 1.5 to 2 feet but never produced. The corn did get pretty tall but it never produced either and they ended up dying due to inadequate water as the shallow bed dried out quickly in the Texas summer sun. Surprisingly, the potatoes did fairly well. Despite the shallow nature of the bed, I did harvest roughly a dozen potatoes.

So if you have plans to create a raised flower bed, ensure there is an adequate amount of dirt for the plants to grow within. This is especially important if you put a barrier on the bottom of the bed to prevent grass, weeds, and tree roots from invading. Regarding how much space: I've read anywhere between 6 to 12 inches between the surface of the dirt and the barrier beneath.

Second Attempt Better But Still Problematic

Noting the mistakes that I had committed in my first attempt at a raised flower bed, I pulled all the dead, dieing, or struggling plants out and redid the beds.

On this second attempt I made two changes: I filled the beds with more dirt and actually removed the 4' x 4' piece of plywood beneath. I kept the piece of plastic at the bottom of the bed to prevent grass from invading. The plants did much better but I made yet another mistake plus an inadvertent one.

The first mistake was I negelected to kill and remove the grass beneath. So, naturally, the grass finally reached the top after poking through the thin layer of plastic. I had to start pulling grass until the veggie plants produced their last. Once the plants were gone, I discovered that the grass had really invaded the bed when I pulled up the bed frame and tilled the dirt.

The second mistake was somewhat unintentional. One of the raised veggie bed was placed too close to some bushes I had planted several years before. These bushes blocked sunlight and caused the plants to suffer. The plants grew and produced more than they previously had, but the inadequate sunshine stunted their growth.

So if you create a raised flower bed or a raised vegetable bed, ensure that you rid of the grass upon which the bed will reside.


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