Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Raising your garden up a notch

Master Gardener Intern


We planted our first garden in Tamarack many years ago. After weeks of breaking through thick grasses, weeds and rocks, hauling truckloads of new soil and hours spent finally planting, we stood back with great satisfaction and expectations for a bountiful vegetable garden.

That was in very early June. Aside from a brief visit perhaps a week later, the next time we were able to make the trip north for time in the garden was the Fourth of July. We were shocked to see the “garden” had disappeared into a sea of every kind of weed imaginable. It took the long weekend — and I mean every hour of it — to salvage what remained of our hopes for fresh salsa and buttered green beans.

That incident is forever filed in the “what were we thinking” department. But, on the bright side, mistakes make great teachers, and so the following year we installed a series of raised beds, which are essentially wooden boxes filled with soil. We ended up with about the same square footage planting-wise, but oh… the psychology behind breaking daunting tasks (500 square feet) into manageable pieces (10 50-square foot boxes) is so powerful!

Local Master Gardeners Karen Johnson and Barb Isaacson agree that the relative ease of working raised beds is an advantage. In a recent presentation on the subject, these two experts also noted that soil warms more quickly in a raised bed (a plus this year for sure!) and drainage is also improved. They also pointed out the versatility of raised beds: they can be suitable homes for almost any flower or vegetable. And trellises can be added when necessary to support climbers like morning glories, beans and peas or vining veggies such as cucumbers and squash.

Interested? Find a location away from tree roots, near a water source and, for vegetables, in full sun. Supported raised beds can be constructed with 2x4 boards or landscape timbers anchored by 4x4 timbers dug into the ground. Build beds on legs about 32 inches high to construct accessible raised beds to accommodate gardeners with disabilities. You can also “raise” a bed without supporting it. A ground or mound bed is made by first loosening the soil in the bed. Then, pile the soil from the edges of the area into the middle of the bed. In terms of size, anything goes. Don’t be discouraged if you are limited for space — even a small raised bed can support a surprising number of veggies and flowers.

Barb and Karen recommend removing the sod and weeds under the bed or covering it with a thick layer of newspapers or landscape fabric. Then fill the bed with good garden soil, which is a mixture of sandy/loamy soil, compost and composted manure. A significant advantage of a raised bed is the ability to tinker with the soil to accommodate the needs of particular crops. For example, I have a raised bed of blueberries and the soil test results I received in the mail last week will help me make the proper pH adjustments, as blueberries love acidic soil. More on soil samples next time!

Nothing really eliminates the work involved in gardening, but raised beds can help make the tasks more manageable, physically AND mentally. If you have questions regarding raised beds, please feel free to contact Master Gardeners Karen Johnson at (218) 485-4917 or Barb Isaacson at (218) 485-8143, or the Carlton County Extension Office at (218) 384-3511.


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