Raised Bed Gardening
Raised Bed Gardening is simply about creating structures for gardening that sit above the ground level. You can use raised beds for growing virtually any reasonably shallow rooted plants such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, etc.
Construct your raised bed garden from whatever materials you can readily and economically get your hands on. (For example: untreated lumber, bricks, concrete blocks, rocks) Or, you can create raised bed gardens by building up piles of compost and dirt, without using borders for the garden bed.
Why Use Raised Bed Gardening?
Using raised bed gardening helps remedy these types of common gardening situations:
- Ground soil is poor for gardening (soil is too rocky, doesn’t drain well, etc.)
- The region gets excessive amounts of rain in the growing season
- The garden plot is in an area that tends to be damp and doesn’t drain well
Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening:
- Raised bed gardening can be easier on your back! You can build the beds at a level that is comfortable for you to work with.
(I’ve seen some built so tall that you can stand comfortably without having to bend over at all!)
- Fewer problems with pests such as rabbits, rodents, etc. Line the bottom of the garden beds with chicken wire to keep out burrowing rodents. Raised beds are easy to cover with netting, offering protection for your tender vegetables or fruit from birds.
- Raised bed gardening can lengthen your growing season for vegetables. (You don’t have to wait for the soil dry out from spring rains, so you can plant earlier.)
- Using cold-frames with the raised bed gardens (in the spring and fall), you can create mini greenhouses, and extend your garden’s growing season. (Be sure to remove the covers when the temperatures warm to mid 70’s, or you’ll risk burning your plants.)
- Raised bed gardening normally promotes a higher yield of garden fruits and vegetables. (According to an Ohio State University study, the average “in ground” garden yields approx 0.6 lbs of vegetables per square foot, while the average raised bed garden yields double that at 1.24 lbs of vegetables per square foot.)
- Create micro-cultures needed specifically for plants with picky requirements for growing conditions. For example, a plant might have soil requirements that are different from the ground in your area. Be sure to test your soil pH level to make sure it's within the range of what your intended plants need.
- Your raised bed garden will have healthier plants, because the soil permits better root production. (The soil doesn’t get compacted from you walking on it.)
Potential Pitfalls to Raised Bed Gardening:
- The soil tends to dry out much more quickly in a raised bed garden, than it does with in-ground gardens. If you mix in plenty of compost to your garden soil, this will help. Also, keep your plants well mulched to help the soil retain its moisture for longer. Regardless, you will need to keep an eye on the raised garden beds to make they don't dry out.
In areas where water is a premium, consider using drip irrigation hoses (available at garden centers). They use less water, and put the water right into the soil (instead of into the air where much of it evaporates). Additionally, using drip irrigation hoses will help you avoid many plant diseases that come from watering directly on the plants.
- Be careful in your selection of materials for constructing your raised bed garden. Items such as railroad ties and wood planks often have been treated with toxic chemicals that will leach into your soil. Your garden plants can absorb these toxins and pass them along to you in your vegetables. If using wood, be sure to use untreated wood.
Save yourself a few headaches! When planning the layout of your raised bed garden plots, be sure to allow room for your lawn mower to fit easily between the beds. Also, plan the width of the plots so that you can easily reach the center of the bed (whether weeding or harvesting) from either side.
As an alternative, there are a wide variety of pre-made raised bed gardening kits available for purchase from just about any garden supplier.
NOTE: Crops such as corn, melons and squash tend to do better when grown in the ground.
Carl from Pellston, MI says…
“We have such chilly nights during the spring, summer and early fall that it hinders plant growth. I built my raised bed garden out of stones, and then added a stone wall behind them (on the north side). The rocks gather and store the heat from the sun during the day, and then release it overnight when the temperatures are cooler. I’ve seen a great change in the production of my plants since doing this!”
Joe from Hamilton, OH says…
“I love to garden, but have limited mobility. I was afraid that I’d lost my ability to garden. When I discovered raised bed gardens, I had mine built so that I can access them easily from my wheelchair! I’m so happy to have gardening back in my life!”
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.