[Timber Blog] Focussing on Raised Beds…

cp-new2We’ve advised our customers today that they don’t necessarily need to look for “scaffold boards” to build their raised beds. What they need is unbanded timber (or ungraded scaffold boards) and this is something we can supply in a variety of lengths, helping to reduce wastage.

So, why are more and more people opting for raised beds?

p-allen-beautiful-raised-beds-webRaised beds are an excellent way of growing a range of plants, and seem to be particularly popular for growing fruit and vegetables.  They are a great way of boosting drainage and offer the opportunity to introduce different soil types in to your garden.  They are ideal for people with restricted mobility, as they reduce the need to bend.  In addition to this, they offer a way to add an extra dimension to your garden, making an attractive yet practical design feature.  They are an opportunity to make your garden visually more interesting and break the monotony of a single level area.  Often raised beds create an area for produce as this seems to fit in better visually than an isolated vegetable patch in the middle of the plants or adjacent to the lawn.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of raised beds?

  • Constructing raised beds can be hard work and has an associated cost in terms of materials.  However, once built they are easy to maintain and should last for many years.
  • The yield of produce per square foot is higher with a raised bed.
  • Due to the closer planting in raised beds, weeds are more suppressed however they do still require weeding which generally needs to be done by hand.
  • Help with pest control: It’s easy to protect young plants with horticultural fleece or netting if they are growing in a raised bed.
  • Not all vegetables are suited to raised beds and for some vegetables you may need to select varieties that are suitable for close spacing.
  • Raised beds enable you the opportunity to create high quality areas of deep topsoil if your soil is poor.
  • Raised beds can raise the soil level if you suffer with water logging but they will need watering in dry weather.
  • They are easier to maintain once the hard work of construction is done.
  • Raised beds offer a longer growing season.  The soil in a raised bed warms faster in the spring and this lets you plant earlier and enjoy a longer season.

What are the best materials for making raised beds?

topbed-2The first thing to think about when building a raised bed is what materials are available to you.  Suitable materials for building a raised bed include railway sleepers, wooden boards (including old scaffold boards, treated or untreated and unbanded timber), sawn logs, bricks, stone, or cement blocks.

If you are going to use sleepers or wood, then ensure that the wood hasn’t been treated with a toxic preservative (modern wood treatments are safe). If the wood has been treated with something that you’re unsure about then your raised bed will need to be lined with polythene sheeting on the inside to prevent the toxins from harming your plants.

When choosing how you’re going to construct your raised bed, think about the ease of construction. Raised beds built from brick, stone or concrete blocks are going to be fairly difficult to build, although will likely be long-lasting and durable, if constructed well. Wooden raised beds are quicker and easier to construct and can be removed easily if you decide to change the layout of your garden.

How big should a raised bed be?

New Oak Raised Bed KitThe thing to keep in mind when constructing a raised bed is that you want to be able to maintain the whole area of soil from the edges of the bed.  So the entire soil surface must be reachable without having to step on to the soil. If the bed is to be accessible from all sides then the ideal width is about 1.2m.  If you are creating more than one raised bed and want pathways between your beds, then it’s best to ensure that they’re  30cm or more wide for walking or at least 45cm wide if you want to get a wheelbarrow along the path.

If you’re looking for guides on constructing your raised bed, there are many online.  Carry On Gardening have one to download (here) and Gardeners World have an instructional video (here).

If you need any help with purchasing the correct materials, then you can call us at Forestrall on 01474 444150, email us on sales@forestrall.co.uk or head to our online shop to purchase ungraded scaffold boards here.

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