With simple raised row garden beds, you don’t to have break your back or the bank to have a great garden. Whether you are already an avid gardener, or want to grow vegetables for the first time, raised row garden beds are gardening made easy!
Raised row garden beds are all about simplicity. They allow you to maximize your yields, and minimize the daily and yearly maintenance load. They also allow you to keep the garden neat, tidy, and manageable. Quite frankly, they have allowed us to grow three-quarters of our food each year, without owning a big rototiller, or working countless hours trying to keep weeds and pests at bay.
Raised rows utilize the same concept as raised beds, without the hassle and expense of building walls. Instead of the rock, wood or metal sides used on raised beds, the soil on the edge gently tapers down.
Our raised row garden beds are 3″ to 6″ high x 18″ wide growing rows created by using a combination of organic materials and top soil. We leave 24 inches between the growing rows for walking and maintaining the garden. For the walking rows, we apply a thick layer of mulch to keep weeds out. We now use bark chips, but have used straw and shredded leaves in the past. All work well. In a common “regular” garden, that walking space in between requires a lot of weeding and tilling maintenance. With raised rows, that work load is eliminated.
With that simple adjustment, work and maintenance is more than cut it half. And the advantages only get better from there. By using cover crops and adding compost when planting, your beds will continue to produce each year. All with much less work, and without the need to add synthetic fertilizers. In addition, it allows you to concentrate all of your compost and soil building efforts in the specific 18″ wide space of the row, not wasting them all over the garden.
If you have always wanted to garden – but don’t think you can because you don’t have a rototiller, great soil, or endless hours of extra time – raised row gardening really can be the answer. It has worked wonders for us! So how can you set one up this Spring? Well – it’s easy – and we will take you through the basics below.
Raised Row Garden Beds – Setting Up From Scratch
So there you are. Maybe you have an existing garden space that you have used for many years. Or, perhaps an open area that you have always wanted to plant a garden. Either way, you can create simple raised row garden beds this spring in no time! Here’s how:
If starting from a grassy, never before gardened area, mow the area as close to the ground as possible. This is the one time you can use a rototiller to break up the soil to create your rows. But, don’t worry if you don’t have one, it’s not necessary.
Beyond initial set-up, tilling actually creates more harm than good, in the way of weeds and poor soil structure. So it is the only time a tiller will ever be used, if at all. We created our first raised rows right on top of the grass and just added soil.
You will need to gather organic materials to use as a base in your growing rows. This can be straw, shredded leaves, grass clippings, or a purchased mix of soil and compost. I caution against using hay because it contains a lot of weed seeds. If you do not have existing soil, this is one time where it can pay off to have a load of pulverized top soil delivered to build your beds.
Creating The Rows
Start by marking out the location of your rows. We have found the ideal spacing for our garden’s raised rows to be 18″ wide x 20′ long, with about 24″ between rows for a walking path.
Lay down a thick 4 to 6″ layer of your chosen organic material in the middle 10″ portion of each future raised row. Shredded leaves, straw and compost or a combination of all 3 are perfect.
Then use the existing soil in the garden, or the extra soil you have purchased to rake up over top of each row to create your 18″ growing rows that taper down on each side to ground level. The final height of each row should be about 4 to 6″ in the middle, tapering down to each side. It should not have a steep slope, just a gentle taper.
For your walking rows – you will want to put down a thick layer of straw, leaves, wood bark or wood chips. This will help to eliminate weeds in the spring and summer months, and make for clean and clear walking paths. If you are building your first beds on top of a grass area that was not tilled, you can also put down landscape fabric, newspapers, or even plastic in the walking rows for the first year to help kill off the grass. Just cover them with the leaves, straw or chips.
Now your for planting season! Planting time is right around the corner – for more on that, see our article on how to plant easily with a post hole digger. See: Planting With A Post Hole Digger
Happy Planting! – Jim & Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. This article may contain affiliate links.