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Beautiful raised bed vegetable gardens
Think of your raised beds as living works of art. Experiment with colors and shapes, and be creative!

By P. Allen Smith

If you’re finding your basic raised bed garden to be a little too, well, basic, explore these three ways to take it to new heights.

Upgrade the Design
While traditional beds are constructed from wood, consider using something different, like stone, concrete, brick, or even corrugated metal. It’s a simple, unexpected way to combine aesthetics and function in the garden.

Elevated raised bed
Place your raised bed on a stack of bricks or cement blocks and you can easily tend it without having to bend over or crouch.

Next, reconsider the standard square and rectangle designs common for raised beds. If you enjoy gardening, but find bending, stooping, and straining to be a real pain, raise your bed and make it more like a table with legs and a bottom. Another option is to make the borders of the bed wide enough to give yourself a nice place to sit while working so you won’t strain your body. You could also try a round, tiered bed, which looks great while providing easy access to plants.

For even more visual appeal, try planting red and green lettuces in a colorful pattern (as in photo above), or plant herbs along the outer borders of the bed. Or, consider building multiple beds, then connecting them with arbors to grow beans.

Discover a Smarter Way to Water
Sure, watering by hand is fine, but if you want to ensure the plants in your raised bed get the ideal amount of water for a bountiful harvest, install an irrigation system. Pick one of these two effective, water-saving options: soaker hoses or drip irrigation.

Soaker hose in raised bed
Lay a soaker hose in your raised bed and watering becomes as easy as turning on the faucet.

Soaker hoses sweat water into the soil to keep it moist while keeping plant foliage dry. You’ll want to snake them 18 to 20 inches apart throughout the bed. Drip irrigation is the slow application of water to the soil through a device called an emitter that’s placed at the base of each plant. This form of irrigation delivers the just right amount of water at the just right rate.

Either way, there’s a wonderful bonus to putting an end to hand-watering: You’ll save a lot of time that you can then use for other things!

Grow Something New

P. Allen Smith standing by raised bed
A raised bed is a great place to experiment with all sorts of new-to-you vegetables and herbs.

Instead of sticking with your old stand-by plants, mix things up a bit. Here are three that can present issues when planted in the ground, but just might thrive in a raised bed:

Artichokes and eggplants. Use a row cover on your raised bed to keep out common pests, like aphids and flea beetles, that can make growing these tasty veggies so difficult.
Sweet potatoes. Originally grown as tropical plants, these richly-colored beauties like it hot. This makes them ideal for raised beds, in which soil warms up sooner and stays warm longer.

Happy growing!

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