Double-digging and building frames may seem like too much of a commitment for some simple garden plots, but gardeners who build raised garden beds rarely go back to the old way of growing their favorite plants. The modern popularity of this gardening technique might be traced back to the 1980s, when Mel Bartholomew had his hit television show, Square Food Gardening, on PBS. Bartholomew praised the many advantages of raised beds and began a trend that home and organic gardeners continue today.
These garden beds are wooden frames laid on top of the ground and filled with a perfect soil mix. Not just a trendy way to grow food, raised beds have numerous advantages over traditional garden plots. They're the ideal way to put in an instant strawberry bed – and the deep, soft soil makes them the perfect bed for spring bulbs or summer petunias. If you're looking for a solid advantage for your gardening life, you can't go wrong with raised beds.
Here are eight simple things to love about them:
Unless you've got perfect garden soil, (and how many of us do), you'll probably have to deal with the amount of drainage your garden gets. Raised beds are placed above the ground. The perfect soil in these beds has the ideal amount of drainage to keep plants moist, but not so wet that it damages tender roots. Instead of having to mix in sand or vermiculite to counteract the problems with your soil, you can just get right to gardening.
If previous homeowners had gravel walkways or swing sets with compacted ground beneath them, you'd be hard pressed to grow anything in that soil without a major amount of work. There are no worries about that with raised beds. Your garden soil has absolutely nothing to do with the state of your backyard surface. Place your plot wherever it's most convenient and you'll have a perfect spot for planting your garden.
Timing is a problem with it comes to spring planting, especially in the northern part of the country. Tender seedlings will freeze or suffer from damping-off if planted too early in the season. Garden soil has to be warm enough and dry enough before it will grow anything. Not only do raised beds drain faster and earlier than traditional plots, but they warm up faster, too. This makes for an earlier first planting time in your garden, sometimes weeks before your neighbors put in their tomatoes and peppers.
Since the soil is so ideal in raised bed gardens, you can plant crops closer together without worrying about the roots not getting enough nutrients. Closer planting means more food per square foot in your garden. With the ideal soil in a raised bed garden, you can plant:
• Carrots in a 3-inch grid
• Bush beans every 4 inches
• One tomato cage every 12 inches
• Two cucumber plants for every foot of soil
Garden pests are a fact of life, but some exist only in the ground beneath your tender plants. Getting them up off the ground and into a raised bed will reduce the chances of these pests taking out your crops in one large buggy banquet. It's better to avoid pests and other garden problems than to try to fight them.
Ease of Gardening
If you have a bad back, problems bending over or if you simply don't want to strain your back while gardening all afternoon, a raised bed is the ideal way to grow your vegetables. Build your beds from sturdy pieces of wood or solid cinder blocks and you'll be able to sit on the edges of your garden plots while you weed and harvest your plants.
No Soil Compaction
When you walk on garden soil, it gets compacted beneath every step, leaving dirt beneath the surface that's tough for tender roots to work their way through. This can stunt plants or delay their growth during the valuable growing season. You never step on the soil in a raised bed, so it never gets compacted. It stays loose and fluffy, perfect for root tendrils to move through and better for plants to grow quickly. More root growth means larger plant growth, and eventually more food for you to harvest.
You're proud of the work you put into your garden, so why not be proud of the way it looks throughout the growing season. Raised beds, with their neat walls and compact growth, are much more attractive than sprawling gardens in the middle of a yard. While your grandparents may have dug out the back one-third of the yard for their garden, yours can look neatly landscaped with some simple raised beds.
• They're neater, look well cared-for and allow you to put vegetable plots in spots you wouldn't ordinarily consider, including side yards and against the front of the house.
• Raised beds are not just a way to grow garden plants – they can be used as landscaping focal points. The plants are actually secondary in the scheme of things.
• If you've got a retention wall on your property, it's the perfect spot to create a layered raised bed with plants spilling down the levels.
• Add interest to your flat landscaping design by creating multi-layered 3-dimensional raised beds filled with strawberries, flowers, or vines.
Ordinary plants take on a sense of drama when you lift them up off the ground, and the simple act of raising the bed can turn your yard from plain to fabulous.