Raised Bed Gardening

Photo by Kyle at suburban dollar

Many people are starting to use raised beds for their gardens instead of the traditional plots of ground that we have grown a garden in for so many years.   We  actually put some raised beds in our own garden this year.  However, we are going to be using some of our own proven techniques in them, rather than the ever-famous square-foot gardening method.  We have tried that method in the past and while there are positives, there are also some things we just don’t agree with.  We will discuss these and that method another day for those who are curious about what we think and feel about square-foot gardening.

We briefly touched on raised bed gardening in our Ask the Gardener column in the May 2010 issue of our newsletter.  But did you know that raised bed gardens actually offer some wonderful advantages to traditional garden plots?  There are some definite advantages to gardening in a raised bed.  Here are just a few of the advantages we love:

  • Raised bed gardening allows you to match the soil to what you want to plant.  You can control the soil conditions and ph levels more easily when you utilize a raised bed.  This is possible because you are working with a smaller and controlled space.
  • You are able to plant earlier in a raised bed.  The soil warms up more quickly in the spring and you are able to work the soil more easily than in a traditional garden.
  • Raised beds are constructed for accessibility.  This keeps the soil from getting compacted.  Loose soil allows the roots of your plants to breathe and stay healthy.
  • Since the soil isn’t compacted, it will drain better.  This keeps your plants from drowning.
  • Less maintenance is required after they are constructed initially.  Saving time is always a good thing.
  • Raised beds offer smaller areas to plant and care for while controlling the hassle of weeding long rows of vegetables and the use of a lot of extra water. You will also be able to incorporate several different planting styles, watering and weeding methods, allowing you to utilize the space more efficiently and increasing your bountiful harvest.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • There are so many different “ready to assemble” kits that are available out on the market; you will need to know what you want to do before you make your purchase.  Many of the kits might not be what you are looking for. Consider the depth that the walls will offer, look at the quality of materials, and realize not everything is going to last forever.  Also think about what tools you will be using to garden with.
  • Plan what you want to grow.  Depending on the size of the raised garden kit, you won’t be able to plant everything that you did before in your regular garden. Make sure that the raised bed offers ample root growth room for your plants. Tomato plants still need 18 inches for root development; carrots are a root crop that grows deep.  They will need soil depth for their roots to stretch and remain healthy.  However,  you can choose to start growing the short varieties of carrots and that is a good alternative.
  • Raised bed kits usually suggest that you use a planting mix or potting soil in the bed rather than regular soil.  Make sure that you use a blend of soil that offers more than just peat moss; a mixture that has bark chips or bark dust will make for a good blend to plant in.

On Friday, we will be introducing a new feature of the website, called Weekend Project.  This Friday we will focus on how to make a raised garden bed.  Hopefully this will help you save a little bit of money over the pre-packaged kits.

Happy Gardening!