Ready to start gardening in raised beds but feeling uncertain? Have no fear! We’re here to guide you every step of the way. We’ve gathered frequently asked questions from our brilliant customers to help get you going. Learn how to choose the right raised garden bed, fill your bed, and select the best plants for your garden. Don’t put it off any longer – let’s get growing today!
Are Ergonomic Gardens’ raised beds made of the best materials?
- Yes, our garden beds are made of the best materials for raised garden beds. Our beds are made with zinc and iron. Both are essential micronutrients for plant and human life. A number of crops respond positively to the presence of zinc in soil.,
- The zinc in galvanized steel is very stable, and oxidation is slow, on the order of years to decades. This process is dependent on factors like soil type, pH, hydration, and what fertilizers are applied. A soil pH below 5 is quite acidic and not recommended. Once liberated, zinc is strongly complexed in soil and a small percentage of it is bioavailable based on pH and soil type. Your plants will regulate the amount of zinc they take up and provide in fruits and vegetables.
When is the best time for starting a raised bed garden with an Ergonomic Gardens garden bed?
- Autumn is an excellent time. The weather is good and there are plenty of materials available from fall cleanup to build your hügelkultur method biome. You won’t be rushed to get them filled in the fall. Your beds can settle in over the winter and in the spring, you can top them off with amendments and plant. You will be surprised how early you can work the soil in the spring if you get your raised beds set up in the fall. Get your frost tolerant vegetables started earlier than ever. We set up a garden bed in late fall of 2023 with garden and yard waste topped off with compost (YouTube S2 E6 Tall Raised Bed Upgrade).
- Spring is a fine time. We, and many of our customers, have filled beds in the spring successfully. Be prepared for extra watering while the soil biome builds up and hügelkultur materials break down. Settling is a little less convenient to deal with than a fall bed but not a reason to wait.
- Like planting a tree, the best time to start your raised bed was yesterday ;-). We are ready for your order as soon as the snow breaks and any time through the summer and fall.
What plants work well in Ergonomic Gardens’ Tall Garden Beds?
- Plants that are difficult to weed are the first you want to put in an Ergonomic Gardens raised bed since the height makes it so easy to work. In our garden, we grow almost everything in raised beds, except for a few things that just grow better on the ground, like potatoes. With Maine’s clay soil, potatoes thrive in our garden. And we’ve found that our beds work best with “no-dig” methods, which means we don’t disturb the soil much and let it naturally improve its soil biome over time. We’re not too adamant about no-dig gardening since shallow-rooted plants like onions and shallots do so well in our garden beds.
- We do caution against planting perennials like blueberries in our very tall garden beds since they do settle and it’s difficult to top off the soil around them. A good blueberry bush will last a decade and you’ll be blocked from topping off. However, we’re super excited about our asparagus beds, where topping off with compost works so well.
- Very tall plants like corn and sunflowers risk blowing over with the added height of gardening in raised beds.
- Trellises help keep almost every climbing thing within easy reach but peas because they grow straight up. A very good pea patch will have you climbing a ladder like I did this past summer.
- Follow these general guidelines and you’ll have the most enjoyable garden you’ve had in years.
There are other metal raised garden beds on the market that are cheaper. Why buy an Ergonomic Gardens bed?
- We designed our garden beds to be the best elevated planters on the market.
- There is more steel in our beds than shorter, thin-walled alternatives.
- We chose the very best fasteners, comfort top trim and USA sourced steel we could find.
- We were careful to select the best materials for raised garden beds that we wanted in contact with our garden soil.
- Our garden beds are manufactured by us, right here in Maine, USA.
- The biggest investment you will make is your time in filling and tending these garden beds. You are only doing this once. Do it right.
What if we are not in your delivery zones? What do we do?
Can we see the beds before buying?
Do these garden beds have a bottom?
- Our raised garden beds don’t have a bottom. They are fully open to the ground. This is best for the soil biome, drainage, and soil temperature.
What is the best wood to use for a raised garden bed?
- Wood rots away fast. If you have wooden raised beds you know all about this. The best material for gardening in raised beds is USA sourced steel.
Will you deliver in the winter and around the gifting seasons?
- Yes, but we would avoid delivering them while the roads are wet and salted. We just need to work around the weather.
Is assembly difficult?
- Not at all, we assembled and placed all the raised beds we delivered in 2023 as part of our service. It is very easy and chatting about your garden while we do that is the best part of our job. Our raised beds can be assembled in under 15 minutes with the fewest bolts and panels on the market. We have a YouTube video that shows assembly. So far, we haven’t found a bed that is easier to assemble. They are sheet metal, so assembly requires protective gloves, shoes, and sleeves. A high quality top trim edge is supplied with our beds.
What is the best fill for a raised garden bed?
- Don’t rely on valuable (expensive) soil to fill these beds! We recommend the hügelkultur method. It is cost effective and creates an excellent soil biome while offering a good balance of drainage and water retention. Ideally, logs and sticks are followed by layers of brush, leaves and eventually compost and topsoil. Allowing a few months for the bed soil biome to establish is best but we’ve gardened in raised beds right away and did well.
- Obtaining logs can be a logistical challenge and they are not easy to handle (heavy and different sizes and shapes). We like wood chips as a compromise. Wood chips are much easier to source, move and handle while filling beds. Fresh wood chips are not perfect, they drain a little fast at first and can require some fertilizer to replenish nitrogen lost in breaking them down. After a couple of months though, wood chips swell and do a better job at water retention. Fall storms keep arborists busy making wood chips so it is a perfect time to start a raised garden bed.
- Take care! A big pile of green wood chips can get very hot and even reach combustion temperatures. Flatten the pile out so it does not retain as much heat, keep it away from structures. We took temperature readings of 110 oF on cool days in beds newly filled with fresh wood chips due to biological processes! After 3-4 weeks, the beds cooled off. After a few months, woodchips are on their way to becoming soil in a bed that is regularly watered.
- Either way, prepare for several inches of settling in the first year of gardening in raised beds. Crown the beds up and/or have a plan for adding soil amendments in the fall or spring. Soil amendments are an easy and awesome boost to a great garden.
- For raised garden bed soil we prefer to buy yards of compost from a trusted farmer. Bags of raised garden bed soil are very expensive and hard to move. Plus, if you find a local source you can trust, you’ll have a good idea what you are buying.
Is it hard work to set up an Ergonomic Gardens raised bed garden?
- Yes, they are tall and hold more volume. But it was nothing compared to the years of breaking ground and summer-long battles with weeds we used to face.
- Filling one mid-sized Evolution Garden bed and topping it off with soil can be done by lunch and then you’ll have it for years.
- We filled 17 of our beds in one season and many of them were 12 to 14 footers. It was just the two of us with two wheelbarrows and a pile of woodchips. We don’t recommend that many beds at once. We often advise our customers to do a couple every year to get to their ideal garden. This has the added benefit of providing a place for all the hügelkultur materials made in your yard throughout the years.
- Don’t settle for a smaller garden bed just to make setting up easier. That could put you back down on the ground or bending over in a bad way for years.
How long will Ergonomic Gardens beds last?
- Selecting the best raised garden bed materials will show in longevity
- Our galvanization is ~20 micrometers thick on each side.
- Under normal gardening conditions, this coating will protect the underlying steel for 20-50 years in contact with soil.
- Under ideal conditions, they could last more than 50 years!
- A worst-case combination of saturated, acidic soil (pH < 5) and high chloride content may reduce life dramatically. This would be difficult to achieve and maintain. We do not recommend these conditions, even if you find something that can grow in it.
- We chose a heavier gauge steel than our competitors and a composition specific to agricultural applications so that we will be “best in class” for raised garden bed longevity. Competitive beds commonly last ~10 years.
- Galvanized steel over time will eventually oxidize and surface patina is possible. This may occur near cut edges and fastener holes and may take 20, 10 or 5 years depending on environmental conditions. For example, a high salt/chloride, high moisture, acidic condition will drive the process faster. Isolated surface staining will not hurt your plants or shorten the life of your bed.
Where can I put my Ergonomic Gardens bed?
- On the ground! Plan paths for wheelbarrows and other implements. Once filled, these beds are heavy. You’ll be watering them often. Connection with the ground is best for maintaining soil hydration, soil biome and temperature. Decks and other structures are not compatible with these heavy, open bottom elevated planters. Concrete and paved surfaces may hold the weight but may also present hydration, biome, and temperature challenges. If you live on ledge/rock, put the raised beds right on there, level them out and start gardening!
 Zinc for crop production. Apurba K. Sutradhar, Daniel E. Kaiser & Carl J. Rosen; University of Minnesota Extension.
 Zinc in soils, water and food crops. Noulas, Tziouvalekas & Karyotis; Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology Vol 49, 2018, p.252-260.
 Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel’s Contribution to Zinc Levels in the Soil Environment. American Galvanizers Association, 2013 https://galvanizeit.org/uploads/publications/Galvanized_Steel_Contribution_Zinc_Soil_Environment.pdf
 Service Life of Galvanized Steel Articles in Soil Applications. American Galvanizers Association, 2011. https://galvanizeit.org/hot-dip-galvanizing/how-long-does-hdg-last/in-soil/soil-corrosion-dat