Question:

What are the basics of constructing a terraced garden?

How High Does This Elevated Garden Go?

Everyone's talking about slant, spin and bias. The only slant you're concerned with is the slope where you're creating your terraced garden designs. While pundits blather on cable networks about how to beat Big Oil or win the war on terror, you chatter about how to build a terraced garden. When you're building elevated gardens, you only need to know two angles--and no, they aren't "liberal" and "conservative." You need to know:

  1. The rise of the slope--the vertical distance from the bottom of the slope to the top.
  2. The run of the slope--the horizontal distance between the top and bottom.

Remember your geometry? Plot the rise and run on a graph. Say that your rise is ten feet and your run is twenty-four feet. You can build six beds that are four feet wide (the ideal width for a raised bed and terraced garden). Each elevated garden bed will be 1 2/3 feet high.

Knowing the slant isn't always a negative. in your case, it keeps you away from the TV so you spend more time planting fresh vegetables! Hey, that's one way to cut your food and gas costs.

We Built This Garden

You were the one who built Windsor Castle with your Erector set. You know how to build a terraced garden. Don't you? Actually, you've never built anything on an incline. The principles of Erector sets will help you with your terraced garden designs. Here's a crash course:

  1. Connect the joints--use 18-inch pipes or spikes to connect timbers. Anchor with timber posts if the slope and the ground permit. Use heavy cornerstones and mortar to anchor rock frames for elevated gardens.
  2. Start from the bottom--if your terrace is at the bottom, it will typically be a low-riser--bury timbers, railroad ties and stone to about half their thickness to create an elevated garden frame.
  3. Have a firm foundation--even in hard soil, make sure the trench bottom is firmly planted.
  4. Even it out--digthe sides of your terraced garden trenches so they are level with the bottom of the first trench.
  5. Build on the foundation--use the back timber of your first tier for the front of your second tier.
  6. Have all your tools at hand--there's no need to leave spaces for wheelbarrows when you're lining elevated gardens with soil--though if you create paths with railings down the slope, you'll find filling your elevated gardens to be easier.

Mix your compost beforehand--you can even blend it with the soil so you don't have to make two trips. Everyone said you wasted your time with Erector sets--now you can have the least laugh and a beautiful terraced garden.

Terraced Garden Plants

Will tomatoes grow in your elevated garden or will they rock and roll down the slope? Talk about fast food! Part of the fun of deciding how to build a garden, especially planning how to build a terraced garden, is choosing what to plant.

Celebrity gardener Rebecca Kolls advises that if you have a steep incline that won't lent itself well to terraced garden borders of rock and wood, you can plant border flowers such as parahebe. Inside the borders of elevated gardens, you can plant ajuga.

Hostas are a huge topic, and a hugely popular plant. In your terraced garden designs, you can plant a hosta as a cover for golden bleeding heart. Just make sure that your terraced garden plants are perennials, which are easier to care for and low-maintenance the first year you plant.

As for those tomatoes, anchor them in enclosed beds with trellises or tepees to keep them from succumbing to gravity and you won't have to worry about scraping spaghetti sauce off the hill.

Raised Garden Frequently Asked Questions

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I bought plants on sale and can't plant them, can Paul James help?

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Byron White