Rising Up: It’s Time to Think About Raised Bed Gardening

WiseWords Community Garden by Bart Everson, wikimedia commons

Spring is here: time for rejuvenation and the preparation and planting of your vegetable garden. Many options exist for designing an aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-manage garden. This article focuses on raised bed gardens. There are several advantages to using raised beds for gardening. Some of these advantages are improved drainage, efficient use of space, increased yield, easy access and simplification of weed and pest control.

Improved Soil and Drainage

Soil tends to be higher quality in raised beds since there is an opportunity to build your own soil, with the amount of fertilizers and amendments to suit your needs. You can save money by using compost from home. The soil drainage is also improved, there is much less compaction since the beds are not walked on. Again, since you can mix your own soil,  you can combine well draining soils such as loamy and sandy soils. Make sure to add lots of organic matter so that water is retained during dry months.

Increased Yield and Efficient Use of Space

Come spring, the soil in raised beds warms up more quickly than ground soil, therefore you can plant earlier in a raised bed. This increases the growing season of your plants! Raised beds can be planted more densely than a traditional garden, which translates to higher yields. Another reason the yield is increased is due to the fact that you can use more ground with raised beds, than you can with a traditional garden. You can use wide rows or enclosed beds to cut the amount of space typically used up by garden paths.

Simplified Pest Control

Dense planting in raised beds leaves less room for weeds, and the walls of the beds provide a barrier that prevents weeds from gaining a foothold. Weed fabric also known as weed barrier, can be placed on top of the ground before installing a raised bed to block out the roots of existing undesirable plants. It is always good to use cover crops intermittently between plantings, to reduce the amount of bare soil available for weed seeds to colonize.
Rodents can be blocked from access by attaching metal screens to the bottom of raised beds.  Netting or row covers can be used to cover the beds to protect them from birds, slugs, snails and other pests.

Some Notes on Watering

Water efficiency is important to consider when planning your garden. With the increase of extended droughts and water shortages affecting more and more areas, it is wise to plan ahead.  It is possible to reduce loss of water from evaporation and leaking beds by following a few guidelines:

  • Line raised beds with plastic before filling with soil and planting.
  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of sprinkler systems that water non-target areas.
  • Try watering in the early morning and evening, when plants need water most, and less is lost to evaporation.
  • Use soil high in organic material to retain moisture longer.

For more information on raised beds, including what kind to pick and how to build them, visit the Planet Natural website: the source for this blog post. Special thanks to Eric Vinje for permission to reference his article!
Raised bed