Whether it's Vego garden beds or Birdies' raised beds, modular metal raised beds have made it easier than ever to have your own raised bed garden. You don’t have to be a seasoned DIY’er to enjoy a raised bed garden and reap all the benefits that come from it. With their modular nature, the panels that make up the beds are easy to ship anywhere in the country, so even when they’re not available locally you can still have access to them.
In the following guide, I will show you some common bed configurations, cost cutting measures you can take to get them filled with growing medium and, of course, how to get them irrigated with an efficient drip irrigation system.
Our metal raised beds are available in two base configurations: rectangular and round. What separates these from others, however, is that you’re not limited to these two configurations. The beds are completely modular, so if you had panels from a couple shapes, you could connect them in any way you wish, creating shapes that fit to your landscape or garden needs. You can make L shapes, P shapes, wide rectangles or squares; the possibilities are endless, they can accommodate almost any garden space.
Not only are the beds able to take many shapes, they also come in two different height options: 17” or 32”. The height options serve multiple purposes. The taller beds can be used to reduce crouching, kneeling or hunching. They can also be used for plants with deeper root systems, or plants like potatoes that need to be buried deeper.
Our metal beds are available in three different colors meant to match a variety of landscape aesthetics: grey, ivory and olive. Though it requires the purchase of multiple beds, the modularity of them even allows for the colors of beds to be mixed and matched, you’re not restricted to having a bed of a single color if you wish.
Assembling the Beds
The beds come with everything needed to assemble them: a simple hand wrench for the included nuts, bolts and washers, a rubber strip for the top edge of the beds, and the panels that make up the beds themselves. That’s it, other than a stable surface or location to assemble them and a desire for a healthy, flourishing garden, nothing else is needed.
This is the step where you can assemble your beds into virtually any configuration you want using the two panel types. The two panel types are side panels and corner panels. The side panels are flat, the corner panels are rounded. These two panel types can be used alone or in combination to make the shapes mentioned above. A round bed, for example, uses exclusively corner panels. A side panel between two corner panels could make a wider, or square bed. You are in no way limited to predetermined defaults.
Filling the Beds
Anyone who has looked to purchase soil recently knows that dirt is not dirt cheap. To fill a raised bed completely with soil is a very costly endeavor. Fortunately there is a method that has recently risen to prominence that largely solves this. This method is known as hügelkultur. It has existed for hundreds of years but only recently has it attained popular attention within the gardening and horticulture communities. Hügelkultur is one of those rare things that lowers costs at the same time it increases effectiveness.
How does it accomplish this? By using material other than soil. The additional materials used are all biodegradable and thus eventually break down to become soil, but cost significantly less than bagged soil and can fill up the majority of the bed so that only a portion of it has to be actual soil. Some methods see as low as 5% topsoil used. The below graphic best represents the method we employed.
You’ll find different recommendations regarding what ratio at which to fill the beds with various growing media; some will forgo cardboard entirely, some will opt for larger logs and yet others will use larger amounts of cardboard and less of other material. In our experience, we’ve had success with all of the ratios we have tried. So long as the plants have enough space for their root zone, they won’t care if the bottom layer is composed of cardboard or logs.
Irrigating the Beds
There are a multitude of ways to irrigate metal raised beds, but the generally preferred method is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is efficient and effective, delivering water right to the roots of the plant instead of the spaces between plants, adjacent ground and similar locations.
With their size, our metal raised beds make a great candidate for using ¼” dripline. ¼” dripline is simply ¼” tubing with pre-installed inline emitters at evenly spaced intervals of 6”, 9” or 12” and flows at 0.5 GPH per emitter. ¼” dripline is easy to install and maintain and is flexible enough to snake or “s” shape through a bed that needs extra coverage.
We made some drip irrigation kits for some of the more popular configurations we see made from metal beds. These kits contain everything needed to create a complete drip irrigation system and can be customized if a few small changes need to be made to make it a near perfect fit for your own garden’s needs.
With the modular raised beds and a drip irrigation system, you can have your own garden full of fresh food and watered efficiently with a minimum of hassle so your family can enjoy all the benefits. From the additional physical activity, the exposure to fresh air and vitamin-D inducing sunshine to the nutrients inherent in the fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the beds, the benefits are now within reach of almost anyone with just a little bit of time.
This guide is also available in video form below:
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