The Joys of Raised Bed Gardening

Do you love the idea of a vegetable garden, but dread all the work? Consider a raised bed garden!

Raised beds are not only aesthetically pleasing…they’re also much lower maintenance than conventional garden plots. Let’s take a look at the benefits of using raised beds:

Till-Free Gardening

No need to rent a tiller or perform back-breaking tilling by hand. Simply add your own fertile soil mix to the bed. It’s much easier to work with than the soil in your backyard. (Did you know that many experts advise against tilling, because it stimulates the seeds of weeds lying dormant in the ground?)

Added bonus: If you’re new to gardening, you won’t have to determine your yard’s soil type before planting.

Easy on the Back

Gardening is much more pleasant when you can avoid bending, stooping and kneeling. Raised bed gardens allow you to work in an ergonomic manner that relieves back strain. Of course, if beds are waist-high, you’ll eliminate bending altogether. But beds that are only 1′ or 2′ off the ground can still make gardening easier on the back.

Elderly or disabled gardeners find raised beds to be much more easily accessible to them.  If the raised bed is contained within bricks, blocks or timbers, it will also provide a place to sit while resting or working on the plants within the bed.

Weed Reduction

Because the beds are raised off the ground and you’re using “clean” soil, weeds are much easier to control than with conventional gardens. Also, plants grow closer together in raised beds, so they tend to shade out competing weeds. Those few weeds that do pop up can be quickly yanked out.

The other key to weed control in raised beds is in the 6” to 8” of organic material and mulch you’ll be using. This creates a permaculture under the mulch which is similar to a forest floor. Underneath, the soil is naturally tilled by earthworms and insects. This keeps the soil aerated and provides the plants with nutrients and minerals.

Faster Root Growth

Plants in raised beds that have contact with the ground develop roots more quickly than those planted directly in backyard sod or hardpan soil. As long as the bed is at least 10” deep, you can install it on compacted soil or even concrete. The deeper the bed, the more soil you’ll need to fill it. (You may wish to use a soil calculator.)

Better root growth equals healthier plants, which equals higher yields.

Less Soil Compaction

A raised bed pretty much guarantees you won’t be plagued by soil compaction, since it will never be walked on. (You can even reduce compaction from heavy rains by purchasing a bed with a shelter.)

Why is this important?

Plants must work harder to grow into compacted soil, which means they’ll produce fewer roots. With fewer roots, your plants will absorb fewer nutrients and water, resulting in poor plant growth. In addition, compacted soil makes it difficult for water to properly percolate through the ground.

Finally, when soil becomes compacted, the air pockets collapse, suffocating plant roots. Like all living things, plant roots need air.

Less Runoff

Since your raised bed has no bottom, runoff will leach downward after a hard rain. The loose texture of the soil allows the water to seep into the bed, preventing quick runoff that would otherwise carry away the fertile topsoil. At the same time, it allows excess water to drain away.

When you water your plants growing in raised beds, the water gets absorbed into the lower layers of the beds rather quickly. It keeps the soil evenly moist but without allowing the water to stagnate.

Higher Yields

Did you know that raised beds yield up to four times more vegetables than the same amount of space planted directly in flat ground?

Factors like good soil aeration and faster root development contribute to this. But the main reason for the higher yields is an intensive culture. In raised beds, a variety of vegetables are planted closer together than they are when cultivated on flat ground.

The rich soil with higher content of compost and organic matter from other sources can support more plants. They completely fill in the bed as they grow, their leaves nearly touching one another.

Get Started

Ready to get started?

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can build your own raised beds from a variety of materials. Click Here for details.

If you’re not quite that handy, there are plenty of raised bed kits available online or through your local nursery or hardware store.

Here’s a quick video clip for a little additional inspiration:

 
 


Sources:

Gardener’s Path

Redeem Your Ground

Freeplants.com

Everyday Vegetable Garden

Natural Living Ideas

 

 

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