You can make a frame for your raised beds with lumber and basic hardware you can buy at any home center. But for those situations where it's easier to have everything you need in one box (such as with a school garden), we tested five different raised-bed kits. We assembled our Naturalyards Raised Garden Bed in minutes with no tools by stacking the rot-resistant cedar boards--bed depths can range from 5 1/2 inches (one board) to 33 inches (6 boards)--and simply joining the corners with the supplied metal pins. A nifty option: You can slip flexible hoops (not included) onto the corner pins and top them with row cover or plastic. This allows you to get a head start on growing super-early tomatoes or perfect spring greens. There are many size choices; we found the 4-foot-by-8-foot-by-11-inch model just right. $265; naturalyards.com
Another option that we found almost as appealing is Durable Plastic Design's Raised Bed Garden Kit, made from recycled milk jugs. It is as attractive as plastic can be and was easily assembled by our team of 13-year-olds. Price for a 4-foot-by-8-foot-by-11-inch bed is $212. We added a top sitting rail for an additional $108. orcaboard.com
Peacock Plant Supports were obviously designed by a gardener-one who knows that we always forget, in June, that zinnias flop and dahlias slump, even though they do it without fail every August. Adaptable to any pose your posies may strike, the last-forever rings, partial rings, and scallops offer myriad support options for your flowers (and here's the good part) even after they've flopped and slumped. Plus they're practically invisible. Start with a half-dozen 50-inch stakes and 21-inch half-circles, $93 from gardentalk.com.
We also liked a simpler staking option we tried: 3-foot Y-stake Supports with bendable arms, $34 for five at gardentalk.com.
We placed half-ring supports in rows of zinnias and giant tithonias and slid the half-rings gradually up the stakes as the plants grew taller. In October, we were still snipping flowers, and the plants were not sprawling all over as in past years.