All About Raised Bed Gardening
What is raised bed gardening?
Growing in popularity, raised bed gardens are beds of soil contained in frames created from wooden boxes, rocks or concrete blocks. These beds are raised higher than ground level. The vegetables grown in raised garden bed are placed closer together than in a field growing environment. This allows for a greater density of plants in a smaller area, making it perfect for backyards and small urban gardens.
Advantages of raised bed gardening
The close spacing of plants in a raised bed garden highlights its most important advantage. As they grow, the vegetable leaves slightly overlap creating a microclimate where weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved. Aside from less weeds, there are several other benefits to raised bed gardening. If the native soil is not nutrient, raised bed gardens are perfect for adding nutritious compost. Often this addition leads to higher yields and healthier plants. Due to spacing in between the beds, it is easier to access the plants and since there is no walking in the beds the soil does not get compacted and hinder plant growth. This space, as well as the height of the raised garden beds, make it easier for the handicapped and elderly to garden.
Constructing a raised bed garden
Constructing a raised bed garden is a quick weekend project for a handy person. For those that are not, there are pre-made wooden or plastic beds available for purchase. A contractor, local handyman or landscaping company can also build a raised bed garden.
When deciding to construct a raised bed garden it is important to pick quality materials. Using treated lumber can be of concern when growing vegetables as it is not clear if the toxins used in lumber treatment can leach into the soil. This use of untreated lumber, or other material such as concrete block, eliminates this risk. When using lumber, cedar and redwood are naturally rot resistant and are a great choice.
- Site Selection: When looking for the site for your raised bed garden, choose a location that is level, free of large debris and that has the appropriate amount of sunlight for the vegetation you are growing.
- Prepare the soil: Next you will want to prepare the site by removing any debris and loosen the soil with a tiller.
- Create the border: Utilizing your selected material, construct a border around your soil. The ideal size for a raised bed garden is 4x4 feet but you can get creative with sizing. Build the boarder to a height that is comfortable for working and allows for good growth. Most plants need 18” to 24” of root depth.
- Add Soil & Plants: Fill the raised bed with half soil and half compost. This mixture is ideal for vegetables. Lastly, plant a selection of your favorite plants and vegetables.
Maintaining a raised bed garden
Being elevated from ground level, the soil in a raised bed garden warms and dries out more quickly than ground soil. While this trait is welcomed during spring and fall, during the heat of the summer this can be hard on plants. Using mulch such as straw or hay can help moisture retention and temperature control. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation placed directly in the bed combats any soil dryness.
Whether on a large plot of land or in a small backyard, raised bed gardening is a wonderful way to start a flourishing vegetable garden in your backyard or on a plot of land.