In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
November, 2007
Regional Report

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Springs Preserve demonstration garden in Las Vegas presented these creative raised bed options.

Raise It Up

I love the earthy smell released when plunging a trowel into garden soil. No longer blessed with childhood's nimble knees, I prefer that rich scent to be closer to my nose without a lot of bending and stooping. Raised beds are the answer!

How High Can You Go?
Many desert gardeners build low raised beds just to avoid digging into a hard, rocky soil. Root systems of annual flowers, vegetables, and herbs need a minimum depth of 12 inches, but 18 to 24 inches is better for promoting good drainage. But if easier accessibility is your motive, it might be best to go higher. Recommendations for wheelchair-accessible raised beds are 2 to 2-1/2 feet high; gardeners with limited mobility often find beds that are 3 feet high to be suitable. Before building, determine the most comfortable level for you. Will you garden standing upright, sitting on a garden stool, or in a wheelchair?

Another factor is width. If a bed is accessible from only one side, make it no wider than 2 feet. If you can access it from two sides, a bed can be 4 feet wide. Circular beds can be 4 feet in diameter. Your goal is to be able to work all the area without standing on and compacting the soil.

Think Outside the Box
Typical raised beds are constructed from brick, cement block, or wood in square or rectangular shapes on the ground. Big containers are another easy option. However, I was wowed by the creativity shown at the recently opened Springs Preserve demonstration garden in Las Vegas, Nevada. They addressed the issue of limited gardening space in many new developments by going vertical. For example, multiple metal wok-shaped bowls were attached to a 6-foot-tall metal frame. The soil depth was limited but they would look great with succulents. The familiar strawberry pot, with multiple openings to poke plants into, took on a more contemporary appearance with tall (about 8 feet) 4-sided columns with numerous square openings on all sides. I also liked the angular steel frames faced with wire mesh and stuffed with moss to plant into. It wasn't yet planted but I look forward to visiting again when it might be a solid wall of green or bright colors. What a great privacy feature this could be.

These and other raised beds made strong visual and artistic statements. Poke around in your imagination to see what you can dream up!


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