Raised beds are a perfect gardening medium.

The elevated frames are suitable for areas afflicted with tainted soil. The barriers ward off winding weeds and the higher elevation improves moisture retention. The format is friendly for both vertical and vining plants, offering a cacophony of possibilities for flower and vegetable arrangements.

But raised garden beds are coolest as extensions of own craftsmanship, design, and personal taste. You can get really clever with how they look as well as what’s on the inside. Here are some tips for getting started:garden1

  • Location is key. Choose a spot that receives full sunlight and is out of the way of high-traffic areas and kids’ playgrounds. Make sure the area is level, accessible to a hose, and properly irrigated. Excessively wet areas may help foster disease.
  • Size doesn’t matter. Green gardeners may want to start out small. “A good raised bed size for beginning gardeners is four feet by four feet. This is a manageable size, and it’s easy to access the plants from all angles,” said Elizabeth Roche, educator of agriculture and natural resources for Ohio State University Extension Cuyahoga County. The height is your choice. Raised beds are also great teaching tools for kids and a way to expose them to gardening responsibilities, so try and keep the elevation at their level.
  • Build from the ground up. Layer the bottom with landscape fabric, which acts as a barrier between the bed and the soil beneath. “Landscape fabric is especially ideal when you’re dealing with poor quality soil or contaminated soil,” Roche said. You can use a variety of materials to build the border, like stones, bricks, rot-resistant lumber, old window frames, picnic benches, pallets, used tires, and troughs. Retailers also sell premade garden kits.
  • Be whimsical in what you plant, but strategic with selection and spacing. Line the exterior of the raised bed with sunflowers or marigolds to attract pollinators. Keep ample growing space in between flowers and vegetables. A raspberry bush will need more root space than a hot pepper stalk. Lettuce, cherry tomatoes (hardier than their heirloom counterparts), cucumbers, and peppers are suitable go-tos because they are easy to cultivate and are basic ingredients for a swath of dishes and drinks. “Peppers are great, too, because you get different colors and flavor,” said Ben Bebenroth of Spice Acres. Larger, mattress-sized raised beds are optimal for leafy vegetables, like cabbage, kale, and broccoli. “You have to have healthy soil to support good quantities of cruciferous vegetables because of their heavy amount of nutrient density,” he said.
  • Diversify the beds, and rotate the crops each growing season to promote productive soil composition. Fertile soil with organic matter promotes healthy plant structure, balanced tilth, water absorption, and prevents unwanted pest infestations. Plants that are distressed as a result of bad soil are more susceptible to pest invasions and disease.