Gardening for Life!

Garden Beds

"The City recommends any consumables should be in raised beds with clean soil / mulch / loam,  though fruit bearing shrubs, etc. can be planted in the land (group
takes risk on themselves)."  City of Calgary Parks Community Strategist staff
Garden Beds
  • Plan for different heights of raised beds.  Beds of 6 to 8 inches high are fine for leafy crops, but root vegetables such as potatoes need 18 inches.
  • Make beds 4 feet across or less. This way, gardeners can always reach to the middle of a garden bed without stepping on the soil.
  • Avoid walking on soil where plants are growing.  Plants need air in the soil and stepping on soil squeezes out the air.
  • Remember to make a portion of the beds accessible for gardeners who sit in wheelchairs, on mobility scooters, use walkers or garden while in a lawn chair.
Benefits of Raised Beds

Raised beds are a great option for Calgary community gardens because they make it possible to:

  • Extend the longer growing season because the heat is collecting above ground level
  • Plan for larger crop yields using methods such as square foot gardening
  • Absorb and drain water easily from the garden bed
  • Water regularly during dry spells
  • Use in-bed drip irrigation to conserve water
  • Provide high quality soil with lots of nutrients for food growing
  • Keep the soil loose with lots of air in it.  (Soil that is walked on gets pressed down and plant roots cannot spread as they grow.)
  • Mark out gardening rental space
  • Plant so that roots can connect to the soil below
  • Use a weed barrier so grass or weeds do not overwhelm the food crops
Building Materials for Raised Garden Beds

There is a wide range of materials to use to construct raised garden beds. Take a look at Organicgardening.com and see how garden beds are made with:

Concrete Block or Plant & Rebar or Sand Bag

Wattle or Logs



Wood

It's important not to use treated wood of any kind, especially where food crops or children might be involved.  Even the new wood treatments leach copper into the soil. This can then rise to toxic levels in a confined space. Choices for raised beds include:

  • Mounded soil shaped by landscape edging
  • Untreated spruce or cedar wood 
  • Cement block
  • Plastic lumber
  • Any other material that is food-safe and does not release harmful chemicals when damp
Raised Garden Bed Construction Considerations
  • Use screws instead of nails if you are building wooden garden beds.  After a single growing season, nails will pop out of wood and become a safety hazard.
  • Limit the length of the beds to 8 or 10 feet or less. Otherwise, the pressure of the moist earth will cause the wood to warp in as little as one year.
  • Spend your funding on purchasing really good soil with 25 to 50 percent compost.
  • For accessible beds, aim for a width of 22 to 24 inches and a height of 22 to 24 inches.  While this won't work for absolutely everyone, in our experience, it is a good fit for most.
  • If you're planning to accommodate those with mobility issues, keep in mind that every wheelchair, walker and scooter has its own height so it's hard to find a universal size that works for everyone.   The person using a wheelchair, scooter or walker with seat or lawn chair can often adjust the comfort of gardening to their individual needs by using longer handled garden tools.