Guest Author - virginia hixson
This Year’s Star: Raised Garden Beds
Long handled tools are great at helping you reach the ground. They also increase the force you can exert through leverage (i.e. longer handle = more efficient force).
When she bagan having trouble with her knees, my mother’s first attempt to solve the problem of reaching the ground, actually resulted in the opposite approach. Instead of extending her reach by long handles, she decided to bring the level of the ground up to where she could reach it easier.
My father built her a garden box, coming up about 10 inches from the ground (height). It was really large, 6 foot deep by 18 feet long. One 18 foot side was against the fence. Our yard was filled with clay soil, not good for gardening, so he filled it with good top soil and added nutrients.
Mom and I both loved that box – but there were some problems. Six feet deep with the other side backing onto a fence meant that in order to reach anything on the fence side of the box (18 foot length), you had to somehow reach across 5 feet of other growing things.
We made paths and climbed in. This defeated the major purpose of the box. Once we were standing in it, there was no benefit gained from the 10 inch height. The ground was back at our foot level.
If you have cumulative trauma, tendinitis or any other physical limitation (including sore knees or a stiff back), the garden box may help you come back down to earth. By raising the height you change the tool/ground impact angle. This can change the way you hold and exert force through the tool.
Last year I got a small Earth Box for growing onions and peppers. It was excellent. It gave a 10 in raise to the soil bed, was semi-self watering (e.g. it fed from a reservoir that you needed to fill), and was easy to move. I got the basic kit, but there are options for trellises, a stand to raise it to 3 ft height, and other easy modifications. The basic kit sells at Amazon for $49.99. I found it at the local nursery with a little higher cost.
This year the marketers have finally decided that garden boxes will sell, and they have come out with several different versions of the garden box. Thankfully, most are no deeper than 4 feet – a reasonable reach of 2 feet from any side. Depending on your aesthetics, you can get something that looks functional, modernistic, or even rustic. You can choose polymer or wood.
Most garden boxes start with a soil depth of 9 inches, enough for most purposes – maybe not corn, but carrots or beets should work. If you opt for an open bottomed box, your plants can continue from the box soil deeper into the ground.
If you have a handy person handy, the boxes are easy to construct once you look at the designs, and you can save a little money.
The products below are all easy to assemble and work well for the intended purpose. Remember, if you choose a box that’s 9 inches in height, you still have to reach down to the 9 inches. Nine inches of rise is enough for many people but not all.