Elevate your garden to a new level

Across the county, the state, the country and the world, when people want to garden they figure out a way. In Nevada, many times our challenge is the soil and the climate. But, we are not that different from gardeners and farmers in other areas who battle with soils low in fertility and organic matter.

To be successful gardeners, we either need to adapt or give up. The second is not an option, so what can you do when your soil is lacking? Move upward – literally. It’s time to elevate your garden, either by amending your native soil with compost, organic matter and soil mixes, or by creating raised beds with or without solid sides.

plants in a raised bed
Raised garden beds make planting, weeding and harvesting easier. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

The term “raised garden bed” simply means that that the vegetable or flower bed is not level with the natural soil line. If you want to grow a raised bed garden, but you are not sure exactly how you would like it laid out or if you do not have the resources to invest in something permanent, you can simply raise the bed by adding amendments. Create your bed by mimicking the height and shape of a raised bed with sides.

This is how it was done, historically, in small gardens throughout the world to manipulate difficult areas. By building raised soil areas, you can amend the soil, increasing the soil fertility and drainage. The traditional size is 4 feet by 4 feet, but you can design whatever will work for the space. It may be that a 2-foot by 8-foot curved bed is best for your area.

There are other reasons to elevate your garden and numerous materials to make raised beds from, such as wood, block or prefabricated materials. Elevating not only allows you to modify and create more nutrient-rich soils with good drainage, but it can help with ergonomics and create an environment where planting, weeding and harvesting is easier. Raised beds allow you to sit or stand, rather than kneel, on the ground.

In many cases, people have become extremely creative, building raised beds that are not only functional and productive, but also aesthetically beautiful in your landscape. Placing raised bed tables on patios and near kitchens allows more opportunities to grow vegetable plants with small root systems. Examples include lettuce, arugula, spinach, mustard and herbs. One of my challenges for this year is to build a small raised bed or table filled with only edible flowers, a creation that will not only be functional, but beautiful.

We no longer need only one standard way of growing vegetables and flowers. We can place plants in containers, raise the soil in our beds or build wooden or stone raised beds. By working with our growing area, we can overcome the challenges of our environment to become successful gardeners.


Wendy Hanson Mazet is the horticulture program coordinator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. For more information on gardening in northern Nevada, attend our Grow Your Own, Nevada! classes held 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, April 3 to 26. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.