Raised Beds for Seniors
Published: Tuesday, 17 September 2013 14:46
Written by Maggie Boriski, Brazos County Master Gardener
I am not talking about a bed one sleeps in but raised planting beds for vegetables, herbs and flowers. Some of us seniors have weak knees and sore lower backs. It would be pleasant if we could garden pain free. Constructing raised planting beds was our solution to dual challenges, personal physical limitations and heavy clay soil that can be found in the Brazos Valley.
If you decide to have a garden bed at ground level, the frame should be bottomless for good drainage. The soil is the floor of your bed. First, we needed a starving Aggie to dig out the existing soil and be available to replace it with compost amended soil. He could also lay down the drip irrigation system.
Bed designs are endless and layout decisions are at your pleasure. Consider a bed height of around two feet with a cap or lip on the top. Two feet above ground level is an acceptable height to sit and work in the bed and to rest.
There are many frame materials to select from: UV-stabilized polypropylene, rock, brick, concrete, or naturally rot-resistant cedar or redwood. Railroad ties are popular but may contain creosote and may have toxins according to MSU Extension article “Raised-Bed Gardening“.
Install flexible pipe frames, either triangular or rounded over your garden beds. They will be in place to put a protective cover over your plantings when needed.
Two rectangular raised beds, three feet by six feet, gave us sufficient space for a harvest of vegetables, herbs and flowers. There are only two of us and we still had plenty to share with neighbors. This size allowed easy installation of a drip irrigation system down the middle with feeding tubes off to the right and left with small emitters attached at each planting.
Better yet, why not get the starving Aggie to construct a raised bed on legs. A four foot by four foot wide bed, eighteen inches deep would be easy to fill with compost or potting soil. Attach heavy casters/wheels to the bottom of the legs. Roll it into the sun during the day and back into the garage at night for protection of the plants, extending the growing season. Roll it closer to the kitchen for harvesting. Add a shelf underneath for gardening tools and potting soil, etc.
If you can add a bench adjacent to or close between beds, you can sit and enjoy your labors and you have a quick place to go to if you are feeling a little light headed. Keeping a cell phone handy is another suggestion for safety. Being a mature age doesn’t mean you have to give up gardening, just be creative in how you do it.