Raised beds made of window wells. Photo: Deborah McColley, pinterest.com
If you’re looking for a quick-to-install yet long-lasting raised bed, how about fixing two galvanized window wells together with a few nuts and bolts and filling them with soil? You’ll find there is a wide variety of lengths, widths and heights of window well and also various shapes, so you could have a rectangular bed with rounded corners if you used standard window wells or an oval bed if you used semicircular wells.
Galvanized steel is covered with zinc to make it weather resistant and zinc, a natural element, doesn’t leach into surrounding soil to any degree, its use is accepted in organic gardening. That means you can grow vegetables in your window well bed without worrying about contamination. A galvanized steel bed will last for decades (the usual guarantee is 30 years, but many window wells are still functional 80 or 90 years after their installation). It will, though, eventually lose its original shiny appearance and take on a dull gray color, but won’t rust to any great degree, other than possibly the nuts and bolts.
A window well garden 12 inches (30 cm) high would be enough for most annuals and small vegetables, although 22 inches (56 cm), a standard size and therefore easy to find, would be better for root vegetables like carrots and parsnips as well as large vegetables, perennials and shrubs. Raised beds with even taller sides will require more soil, but they are easier on your back because you don’t have to bend down to reach the plants. Many people find 3 feet (90 cm), about waist height, to be very practical.
Fill ’Er Up!
If you’ll be growing vegetables, you’ll want the best, richest soil you can get, at least for the top 12 inches (30 cm). Below, you could always fill in with cheaper grade of topsoil. Other plantings (flowers, shrubs, etc.) would be fine with ordinary topsoil at all levels.
Don’t make the mistake of filling in with gravel or other so-called “drainage materials”: they simply lead to stressful growing conditions for the plants you cultivate and why would you want that? For long-term gardening, and certainly if you might ever want to grow plants with deep roots, you’ll want soil from top to bottom.
Prepared Garden Beds
Manufacturers of window wells have seen the interest in this kind of product and some now offer raised beds specifically developed for gardening, notably wider beds in a convenient array of sizes. For example, Conquest Steel in Canada offers a whole range of models.
Or you may see another galvanized steel product called a tree surround (designed as edging for trees to keep lawn grasses out) that would also make a great garden bed.
Check out the prices and see. Maybe a galvanized steel raised bed is exactly what you’re looking for!