Five Factors to Consider When Choosing a Loft Bed Set
One of the first lessons I've learned as a gardener is that if you don't have good soil, the best gardener in the world won't be able to save your plants. When we moved into our home six years ago, I quickly realized that the dirt in my backyard was not ideal for planting. The dirt was thick and there were so many crossed roots that it was impossible to push the shovel into the dirt without hitting one.

I need a raised bed to fill with soil at garden level before planting the first season plants. I bought some kits made from untreated wood - they're cheap and easy to assemble - and packaged them in a combination of bags of soil and composted kitchen scraps.

It only took me a few years to regret my choice. The side panels were bent, and the planks on the floor were rotting. The rich loam inside began to overflow onto the white cobblestone path around the bed, an eyesore and waste. This spring, I removed them and replaced them with three new raised beds and an herb garden on wheels, but first I talked to three gardening experts and spent a lot of time researching my options.

Material. It is generally recommended to purchase a metal loft bed rather than a wooden one. "When you calculate the longevity of metal versus wood, metal beats wood," he said. "And the price of wood has skyrocketed during the pandemic, so sometimes wood is even more expensive than metal." He notes that a good metal bed can last more than a decade if it's properly maintained, which includes making sure the bed isn't constantly flooded or Always in a humid environment. If you grow crops that require acidic soil, line them with geotextiles or landscape fabrics, which will corrode metal.

size. Beds should be at least a foot high, says Josh Singer, a community garden specialist with the Washington, D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. "Larger crops, like tomatoes and squash, need at least that much room to grow roots," he says, adding that you can even dig an extra foot under the bed to give the plants room to expand. To make sure you can easily reach the full length of the bed, and that the length of the bed isn't so long that the sides don't bow outward, he recommends keeping the bed 2 to 4 feet wide and 4 to 8 feet long.

beauty. “In cities and suburbs, you might just have a patio or a small yard, so you might want to like what you see from the outside,” says Tim Williams, operations manager at design firm Greenstreet Gardens. "But don't worry if you don't like being pretty.

rally. "It's wise to have gloves on your hands," Espiritu said. "I always use a drill assembly kit with a screwdriver bit - set to low torque so you don't overtighten a bolt or strip it - because it's faster. And having someone with you to help build. It's easier." Don't forget to make sure your bed is on level ground, as raised beds on slopes can cause uneven distribution of moisture and possible soil seepage. (Have a spirit level ready if you're not used to visual inspection.)

cost. Last but not least, consider your budget. A metal loft bed set can cost hundreds of dollars, plus shipping if not available locally. The good news, though, is that at this time of year, many kits will be on sale or on clearance in Washington, D.C. "But don't wait too long because they'll become unavailable, and it's too late to grow most things," says William S said.

Here are a few loft bed sets recommended by experts.

17" 6-in-1 Modular Metal Loft Bed from nosstaGarden. If you've been browsing for raised bed options on Instagram, you've probably seen these eye-catching beds with rounded corners. Williams is a fan of it. "It's amazing how much surface area you can get for deep roots," he says. This 17-inch-tall, 10-piece kit can be built in six configurations, including square and rectangular, including 2x2 feet and 5x3½ feet ft. Takes about 35 minutes to assemble. When installing panels from this and other kits, check that the top and bottom line up; if not, simply flip the panels over.

NosstaGarden's 17" 12-in-1 Galvanized Loft Bed. The panels are made of galvanized steel with an galvalume coating designed to reflect sunlight and maintain a consistent soil temperature. The 12-piece kit for the 17-inch-high panels can be converted into more than a dozen configurations, including rectangular and square, including 80x40 inches and 44x24 inches; assembly takes approximately 35 minutes. Singer likes the durability and height of the kit. When filling, he recommends using 90 percent topsoil and 10 percent compost. The latter will break down within a year. “At the beginning of each year, put a few bags of compost in the seedbed to renew the organic matter,” he says, “and because of the soil compaction, you have to do it well every year.”

A bed that always rises. "If you want a bed that isn't wood, but lasts a long time and looks like wood, then this is the one for you," says Espiritu. These bed designs appear to be made from cedar planks, made from reclaimed wood and plastic. They come in 3x3ft or 3x6ft configurations, perfect for smaller backyard gardens. Expect assembly to take about 15 to 20 minutes.