I know a woman who works in the White House, and she said that Michelle Obama didn’t want to build raised beds for her garden because it sounded too hard for people. I agree it can sound intimidating. However, so is standing before a patch of grass grown in concrete-like dirt that needs to be turned into a garden.
Raised beds are actually the easiest way to get started with a garden, since you just start right on top of the grass and bring in fresh soil and compost (so you don’t have to worry about your old soil being too contaminated—although it’s always a smart thing to get your soil tested before planting).
The best source for tools for raised beds is Gardener’s Supply Company, a fantastically, devotedly organic catalog that has been around for as long as I can remember. They offer kits of all sorts, from corners for putting your own wood together to recycled-plastic beds that look like wood, or my new favorite, galvanized-steel sheet metal! For all price ranges and styles, you can’t beat Gardener’s Supply as a source for raised-bed gardening.
Once you get the sides, you can do it the lazy, easy way or the meticulous, hard way—depending on your desired outcome and personality type. Lazy way: Stick the sides in place, cover the grass with layers of cardboard, newspaper, leaves, or straw, and then pile on the compost and topsoil. Then plant! The hard(er) way: Dig up the grass and loosen the soil underneath—either by hand or with a rototiller—stick the sides in place, and then pile on the compost and topsoil. See, that’s not so hard either!
Remember, the quality of the soil you put into your raised bed is what will make your gardening successful. Where to get good soil will depend on your location and region. In my area, I love Hawk Valley’s mushroom soil mix. It’s light and fluffy, and so rich in nutrients!