For gardeners faced with poor, shallow soil, raised beds are the perfect solution. Raised beds can be as easy as mounding rich topsoil to create a suitable planting area.
If your soil is impenetrable below a few inches, you'll need to construct a box to place on top of the garden bed. To construct a raised bed, select a level, sunny site, and dig as deeply as you can to loosen the soil. You can form the above-ground walls with almost any solid material, such as stone, brick, or rot-resistant lumber such as red cedar.
For vegetable and herb gardens, avoid using pressure-treated lumber, which can leach heavy metals into the soil. The walls can extend above the ground from a few inches to a foot or more. Then fill the box with topsoil, compost, well-rotted manure, and other organic matter. The beds shown here, made of 2-by-12-inch rot-resistant lumber, have interior dimensions of 3 feet by 20 feet.