raised bed gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

How to Save Your Back and Grow a Better Garden

Raised bed gardening offers many advantages over traditional “in the ground” gardening. This simple technique will improve the health and productivity of your garden while bringing the soil up to a comfortable working level. Raised container gardens are perfect for people with limited space, or who have a hard time bending over and kneeling on the ground.

Improved growing conditions, bigger harvests, accessibility, and improved garden pest protection are just some of the advantages of this gardening method. Raised bed gardens also are more efficient in fertilization and water conservation. Gardening in raised beds simply means that you grow your plants above the level of the ground. Plants cover the bed areas; gardeners work from the paths.

Raised Bed gardening

Building Raised Beds

When creating your container beds, make them only as wide as can be easily worked from either side. Generally, the beds are constructed 3 to 4 feet wide and elevated between 8 inches and 2 feet. Taller raised beds allow gardening without much bending.

While you’re building, why not add benches on the sides for even more convenience! Spaces between beds can be left in sod, mulched or even paved with stone or brick. In a vegetable garden, leave enough room for a wheelbarrow.

Wood, brick, rocks, or cement blocks are all popular materials for making a raised bed. Wood is the most common choice, because it is easy to work with and it is inexpensive. The best wood choices are durable materials such as cedar, cypress or redwood.

Deeper beds made of wood will need supports so that the sides won’t collapse with the soil weight. You can also use rebar placed into the ground around the edges of the bed to support the wood. My cedar raised beds have lasted a decade, and are still in use.

Like in container gardening,  with raised bed gardening you can  create the  best soil environment for your plants. Building up a rich organic soil is important and it’s much easier to control with raised beds. You can fill the bed with your own mix of compost and soil if your local earth is not that good for gardening.

You can concentrate on improving the soil by adding compost or fertilizers. Depleted soil can be amended or replaced completely in a raised bed.  That will eliminate diseases and improve the ability to hold moisture.

Compacted soil reduces crop yields up to 50 percent. By eliminating walking on the soil, water and air easily penetrate to the roots. The benefit of  container gardening or raised bed gardening is that instead of battling against poor conditions, you work above ground, where you can have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients.

Raised Bed Gardening: Benefits

The earth in raised beds warms faster in the spring compared to ground soil by as much as 15 degrees. Boost it even more by creating a mini greenhouse with a tunnel of clear plastic.

Set your bedding plants closely together so they crowd out weeds and shade the soil and keep roots cooler. Fertilizers and compost are easily added within the small gardening area, so plants may be spaced closer together.

raised bed gardening

In raised beds, it is easy to control weeds with plastic mulch economically, since the width of the bed can be spanned by one roll. Garden pests and weeds are also easier to control, making your gardening experience less work.

Plants are raised to a convenient working level, so they are easier to tend and enjoy. It also reduces stooping and back strain by bringing plants about a foot closer to you.

Here’s a great short video that shows how to prepare and plant a raised bed garden. Some great tips here from Growing Wisdom’s David Epstein.

Raised beds produce a variety of benefits: they extend the planting season; they reduce the need to use poor native soil; and they can reduce weeds and some pests if designed properly.

Raised bed gardening, space efficient and attractive, presents a secure and enriched area for your plants, vegetables, and flowers to thrive.