Raised Beds Part 1: Join the Revolution
Raised beds! Y’all have heard about them. You’ve probably seen them around town (Scuffletown, near Lamplighter on Addison, Tricycle Gardens’ in Church Hill.) So what’s the big deal? What makes them so special? How much do they cost? Why should you bother?
In basic terms raised beds give you, the gardener, better control. When it comes to growing plants a lot is left to chance. A perfectly good garden can be decimated by a sudden hail storm, unexpectedly aggressive aphids, or a hungry family of deer. Even with the best garden planning sometimes things just go awry.
A good gardener balances downside risk by controlling for as many manageable variables as possible. You can’t control everything but you can take measures to control most things. And you should.
Raised beds give you lots of control in an otherwise uncontrollable pursuit. Follow along …
Location: Raised beds can be built anywhere, any time. This gives you free reign in determining where and how best to situate your garden. Consider available sunlight, access to water sources, and ease of access and mobility when planning a bed. These will prove hugely important as time goes on so take advantage of the opportunity to control these factors early on.
Soil Quality & Composition: Raised beds need to be filled with soil. This is a great option if your yard has tested positive for lead or heavy metals (get your yard tested!) or if your yard soil if particularly poor quality. This is an opportunity to start from scratch so buy a good quality soil / compost blend and fill ‘er up.
Even if your yard soil is good quality it’s still worth building a small bed and building up your soil over time. Planting year after year in the same sot allows you to monitor and adjust for any changes to nutrient levels or soil conditions.
- * Tip: For large orders I buy a 50/50 soil / compost blend from Peter Rose Landscape Supplies. High quality, affordable, and nice folks.
Moisture Level: Because raised beds are elevated they drain very effectively. Heavy rains can waterlog ground soil and cause root rot or fungal issues but raised beds allow the excess water to drain right through saving your plants from serious woes. Maintaining healthy loamy soil improves drainage further so make sure your taking steps to protect and improve your soil over time through cover crops, composting, protecting and supporting beneficial microbes and insects, and rotating crops.
Soil Temperature: One of the most significant determining factors for seed germination and success is soil temperature. Not air temperature! This means that the warmer the soil the sooner you can start seeds in the Spring and the longer you can grow in the Fall. Raised beds make it easy to speed up or extend the planting season with hoop houses and row cover. Some gardeners even place cold frame covers directly onto their beds for Winter-long growing.
Weeds, Pests, & Critters: Arguably the best thing about raised beds is that they are self-contained which make managing pests and weeds far easier. By starting and maintain soil from scratch it’s easier to stay on top of weeds and pay better attention to insects and critters. The added elevation also means you don’t have to lean over as far and trust me, your back will thank you after a long day in the garden.
Ok, you’re now well-versed in the myriad benefits of raised beds. I started my garden with three 8 foot by 4 foot beds and now have nine. Trust me it’s worth it.
Tune in to my next post to learn how to build a simple, affordable, long-lasting raised bed in your own yard.