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The Perfect Raised Bed – Good for 20 Years!

Jay Gould, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee

No experienced Florida gardener will deny that vegetable gardening requires raised beds, but they seldom recommend the same design. Most will agree that it must contain amended soil and not wider than four feet but could be eight, ten, twelve feet or longer. Also, the depth could be as shallow as six inches, but eight is better and twelve is better still.

So, how do you construct a bed that will last 20 years?

What’s the number one raised bed destroyer? The amended soil in contact with the bed construction materials. But the soil is essential, so we have to fortify the walls containing the soil. Using standard lumber is a temporary solution that requires replacing every three years. Upgrading to pressure treated lumber extends useful life probably up to five years.

wood comparison photo

After three years of soil contact, the left section face of pressure treated decking is ready for replacement. The right section face was not touching soil.

HERE’s the solution after 15 years of experimentation!

Line the inside of a 2X4 frame with floor tiles on their sides. Baked tiles from Roman times look brand new after being unearthed in May 2020.

The wood frame prevents the tiles from falling backwards and the inside soil keeps them upright. The 2X4 frame is raised above the native soil on small bricks or other spacer so NO wood is in contact with soil.

No contact; no rotting; no replacement for years!

raised bed photo

Choose tiles to suit your style and taste and you can even paint the wood to match if you like.

And, you can often pick up odd lots and leftover tile at tile dealers for a deep discount or even FREE. You don’t care if the colors don’t match and they can’t sell a lot of 7 or 10 tiles.

Notice that you can increase the bed soil depth by simply inserting a second band of tile. Voila, your bed could be 18” deep and last as long as the Romans!