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Garden Help Desk: Raising your garden bed and finding the right green-thumb gift

By USU Extension - | Dec 11, 2021

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

There are many raised bed kits on the market. Some, like this one, are complete kits with everything you'd need. You can also purchase parts separately and use materials you have on hand to finish your project.

Question: I am putting in a 17″ high vegetable bed in my yard. I have seen that some recommend putting small logs in first to take up some of the space and then adding good garden soil to fill it the rest of the way. What is a good way to fill our new raised garden bed?

Answer: Raised beds are a great way to upgrade a vegetable garden. It’s easier to control weeds, thin seedlings, and conserve water in a raised garden bed. The best way to fill your new bed will depend on why you want a 17″ bed. Is it to raise your gardening to a more comfortable height? Or to give your larger vegetables more rooting depth?

If better rooting depth was your goal, you wouldn’t want to use logs in the bed. Instead, you would till the native soil in the bottom of the bed, then till in a few inches of new soil before adding the rest of your new soil to the bed. You’d be using more soil than you would if you added logs in the bottom of your bed, but you would have exceptional rooting depth for your vegetables.

If you simply want to raise the height of your garden bed to make your work more comfortable without spending extra money on soil, adding logs is one way to do that. It’s a common practice, and your vegetable plants should do well, but you’ll want to make sure you leave at least 8 to 12 inches of rooting depth to accommodate larger, deeper-rooted plants like indeterminate tomatoes and squash. Over time, the logs in the bottom of your bed will break down and you’ll need to top off the soil.

You can fill your raised bed with a mix of compost and native soil collected from other areas in your yard, or you can use a combination of soil and one or more of these amendments — soilless grow mix, vermiculite, perlite, compost or other organic matter.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Stones make an attractive, rustic raised bed that can be inexpensive, depending on the kind of stones used.

Today we’re sharing some gift suggestions for any gardeners on your list. Once you’ve looked through this list, you’ll probably be able to come up with several ideas of your own.

  • Garden wear. Gloves, wide-brimmed hat or even a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt for sun protection. Gardeners need sun protection even when the weather isn’t hot.
  • A kneeling pad. Some are simple foam pad but there are also kneelers that have hand grips that make it easier to stand up again.
  • Plant tags. Small ones for gardeners who like to start their own seeds or larger ones to identify varieties in the garden.
  • A gift card. Nurseries, seed catalogs, retail greenhouses and florists are all options.
  • New tools. A good hoe, rake, shovel, or set nice trowels. Good tools make gardening easier.
  • A pollinator house or bat house. Solitary bees and butterflies are important pollinators in the garden. Bats can eat more than their weight in insects every night, giving garden pest management a boost.
  • An outdoor thermometer or simple weather station. Having on-site weather information helps with garden management.
  • A soil thermometer. It’s inexpensive and lets gardeners check the temperature of their garden soil to determine whether certain seed species will germinate well.
  • An adjustable hose nozzle. Being able to change the spray pattern on a nozzle from mist to gentle shower to strong spray is useful.
  • A garden sculpture or decorative container. There are many styles, colors, and materials to choose; something for every gardening style.
  • Membership to a botanical garden.
  • Tuition for the Master Gardener course. Registration is open now. You’ll find the information you need at “USU Extension Master Gardener — Utah County” on Eventbrite. Registration closes Jan. 17 and twice-weekly classes begin Jan. 25.
  • An LED grow light. High-quality lighting is important for growing healthy transplants. There are several options available that are easy to use.
  • A heat mat and thermostat. Gentle heat from below seed flats can make germination faster and more uniform.
  • A cold frame. A cold frame gives plants several degrees of protection from cold weather, extending the garden season earlier into the spring and later into the fall. Ready-to-assemble kits or plans and instructions for do-it-yourself cold frames can be found online.
  • A roll of floating row cover. Floating row cover is used to provide a few degrees of frost protection for early or late season growing out in the garden. Ultra-lightweight row cover is used to exclude insects and keep plants pest-free.

There are many salvaged and repurposed materials that can be used to make raised beds. This raised bed is made from old guard rails.


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