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Get a jump start on growing food and flowers this spring with raised garden beds
February 3 2012
(ARA) - The popularity of urban gardening has exploded over the past couple of years, due in part to increased awareness about food safety, the financial stresses of the economy and a growing desire to be eco-friendly.

Some of the most enjoyable, user-friendly gardens, like vegetable and herb gardens or cut-flower gardens, perform exceptionally well in raised beds. Plants tend to perform better in raised beds than in regular beds because there is less soil compaction (since you're not treading between the plants) and they allow for excellent drainage.

'I've been gardening in raised beds for over 30 years, and I'm convinced they're the best way to grow,' says Paul James, HGTV's Gardener Guy. 'One of the things I like most about raised beds is that they warm up faster in spring and stay warmer longer in the fall, which means a longer growing season and an extended harvest.'

While raised beds are extremely functional, they can also add style to your yard or garden. The organized appearance of the beds lends a handsome structural element.

Quality, durable materials last longer and look better. Western Red Cedar is a strong choice for building garden beds because it is easy to work with, rot-resistant and ages beautifully, maintaining its shape and strength over the years, even when exposed to extreme weather. If you're concerned about the environment, you can take comfort in the fact that it is an authentically sustainable, renewable green building material.

Making your own raised garden beds is an easy and fun project - having a helper will make the job easier. Follow these tips and get growing.

* Plan ahead to keep the bed size manageable. A bed measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet is a good size. You'll want the bed to be at least a foot high - if you want it higher, just add another board, but keep in mind that you'll need to add extra soil.

* Buy the materials you'll need: Western Red Cedar boards (2 x 6 work well) - four 3-foot lengths and four 6-foot lengths; Western Red Cedar posts (4 x 4), for corner supports, cut to 18 inches each; 3-inch galvanized screws, about 35 to 40.

* Cut the ends of the 18-inch post lengths to a sharp point with a saw - these pointed ends will go into the soil to support the bed.

* Lay two post lengths down and place two 3-foot planks on top of them (to equal 12 inches in height) and line up the edges along the sides and to the top of the posts (the unsharpened end). Pre-drill holes using a bit that is smaller than the screws, then put in the screws. Repeat with the other 3-foot boards and 18-inch posts to form the other short end of the bed.

* Now you're ready to add the long sides of the bed. Place one of the short sections you just made on a level surface, with the pointed ends up. Line one of the 6-foot boards up so that it is flush with the face of the short end, pre-drill holes and then add the screws to secure it. Repeat with a second 6-foot board to equal 12 inches in height.

* Align the second short (3-foot) side of the box with the 6-foot board so that the face is flush with the end of the boards. Pre-drill holes and then drill in screws to secure. Finally, add the other two 6-foot boards on the opposite side to complete the final side of the bed.

* Flip the box over - it's now ready to install. Before you put it in, prep the area you'll be using by turning over the soil and then leveling it out as best you can. After you've installed the box, fill it with a blend of soil and compost that is best for the type of plants you'll be growing.

This is just one way to build a raised bed garden. You can add more boards to give the bed extra height or length, or put a cap on top of the boards to provide a place to sit as you garden. For more information about Western Red Cedar and ideas for more do-it-yourself projects, visit Western Red Cedar Lumber Association online at www.wrcla.org or call (866) 778-9096.

Courtesy of ARAcontent
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