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Siting and building new raised beds

Posted by jockewing 9a (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 13, 13 at 23:57

I plan on building a large raised bed in my backyard for my new collection of roses. Unfortunately, the center of my backyard is really the only suitable place I have with enough sunlight to grow roses. The path of the sun is parallel to my house (front door faces south, back of house faces north). I was planning on creating the beds as two large parallel rows. Should I build the rows parallel to the house, where the beds would face east/west, or build the rows perpendicular to the house, where they would face north/south?

My other question is how do you build your raised beds? Do you use landscape timbers or railroad ties? Brick or blocks of some kind? Or do you not use any actual edging? I would appreciate your suggestions and would appreciate any pictures. Basically I am tearing up the center of my backyard to create this bed, so I want to make it look as attractive as possible.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Siting and building new raised beds

I would go for the east-west placement, where they're likely to get the most sun. As for materials, what style of planting are you wanting? English formal, cottage, ? The materials used are going to help set the tone. My 100% raised bed garden is very relaxed and cottage-y, and the materials I used for my raised beds set that tone...old railroad ties, large pieces of natural wood and lots of grey rocks just piled up. The same materials, which give my garden it's sense of whimsy, would look ridiculous used for a formal rose bed. Decide what you want your flowers to look like first, and that will go a long way towards helping you decide on the materials to use.

RE: Siting and building new raised beds

My opinion is that stone always looks best, and unlike wood you don't have to worry about it rotting away over time, the downside is that it's the most expensive. Have you tried looking through any inspirational photo slideshows? Looking at one type of edging after another gives you a good idea of what's out there and what you do and do not like. For my garden beds I usually have informally placed stone edging, I have quite a few redwood raised beds but most are for edibles. I'll post a couple of pictures of different edging I've used in gardens around my house and my mothers.

Gravel path lined with fieldstone:
 photo path.jpg

Random rocks I collected in the backyard and used to make a small drystacked rock wall:
 photo 8spiralflowers.jpg

Other random rocks from backyard used as edging:
 photo 6spiralflowers.jpg

River rock 'wheel garden' I made at my Mother's:
 photo roseandorchardpics053.jpg
(please forgive the ugly fencing, it's there to keep the dogs from trying to get the gophers that are trying to get the roses.)

I hope that helps!

RE: Siting and building new raised beds

Rows aligned north-south produce better light conditions in full sun. If you only have a half-day sun, align the rows with the direction of the sun.

Have you considered alternatives to rows? How about, for example, an oval or irregular area with paths through it and perennials mixed in with the roses?

Have you considered whether a raised bed is needed? Good reasons would include a rock layer under the topsoil, or poor drainage, such that water sometimes stands in the lawn and the soil smells like sewage 10" down, or a slope that needs leveling into terraces.

If you have a small yard, a geometrical layout with hardscape can look good. But if you prefer a more natural look, don't use a curb, just heap up extra soil and mulch it. Maintain a shallow ditch around the margin for edging and to catch mulch that slides off the slope. If there is a minor drainage issue, just raising the soil 4-6" will improve the growth of plants.

RE: Siting and building new raised beds

Michaelg, where I am in S. Louisiana with heavy clay soil, raised beds are a necessity. It's strange--my yard is only about 150 feet deep--the front yard drains very well but the backyard is always so soggy after a rain. Of course days when it might rain in excess of 3-4 inches are a semi-regular occurrence here, and the last half of my backyard fills up like a swimming pool, especially along the back fence. If I dig a hole when it's dry and fill it with water, it will completely drain within 2-3 hours. Not great drainage, but not terrible with heavy clay. On Friday, we had a "gullywasher" of 3+ inches and the lake formed. Got another 1/2 inch the next day. Most of it has drained out of the grass area, but the holes where I pulled out the roots of some large Sweet Viburnum bushes are still totally full. The funny thing is, the Viburnum bushes that were in the wettest part of the yard grew like gangbusters, and there is even a Parkinsonia aculeata (Jerusalem Thorn) in the area with great growth, and that is really an arid climate tree. Maybe the drainage isn't as bad as I think?

I really wanted to put a bed for roses along this wet back fence too, so a raised bed is absolutely critical here.

I am embarrassed about how the yard looks now, but I'll take some pics so you can see what I'm working with.

RE: Siting and building new raised beds

I can empathize about the lakes forming in the backyard, mine does the same thing but out here in California I'm sure it's a rarer occasion. Nevertheless about half of the winter I have large ponds in my backyard that make it a muddy mess. My next big project is to do some grading and have a dry creek that runs to a dry well to deal with the drainage issues, have you ever thought of changing the grading so you don't get such bad ponding in the rain? I'm not sure what your style is, mine is naturalistic so I love the idea of a rocky dry creek in my yard. Sometimes designing around problems yields the best ideas and most beautiful gardens.

This post was edited by peachymomo on Mon, Jul 15, 13 at 12:06

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