Raised garden beds are hugely popular at present. Their popularity has increased during the past few years until now, almost every man and his dog has one. Why? Are they a wondrous discovery, the ultimate hack? Or are they a fancy, modern trend boosted beyond their real value by the power of advertising and the media?
How many people will have been asking themselves: “I have a perfectly adequate flat garden. Why should I go to the expense of converting it to raised beds?” Other people want to know “Do i have to get raised beds to grow organic food for the family?” A simple reply to those questions is that if their existing garden is adequate there is no need for them to replace it with raised beds. If they are starting a new garden, it’s best for them to research both styles of gardening and choose what they think is best for them.
However, that doesn’t answer the initial question.
Are Raised Garden Beds Better than Flat or Level Ones?
There is no straightforward answer to this question: it depends on a number of things. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you? Well, it’s the truth so I’ll have to ask you to bear with me while I discuss the pros and cons of raised beds and then delve briefly into some research that may well influence your decision.
Admittedly it is fashionable to grow your vegetables, herbs or flowers in raised bed. In most cases they have a pleasing appearance and a series of them can add design and geometry to the garden. But that can’t be classed as necessary. So let us look at dominant points for and against their use and let the reader devise his or her own opinion.
The Pros of Raised Garden Beds
- No digging. For the modern gardener, this can be an important factor because of time constraints. Not needing to dig the garden can make gardening a lot easier. But note, you can have a no-dig garden in some situations without having a raised bed.
- It also saves strain on the backs and limbs of elderly, arthritic, or other physically disabled people. I have a sister-in-law who, in recent time, has become confined to a wheelchair. Her son built her a raised garden bed and it’s one of the joys of her life to be able to grow plants in it.
- If a weedless growing medium has been used to build the beds, then the nearly weed-free gardens save a lot of time and effort. If weeding is necessary there is less bending needed for the gardener to remove them. With some designs, the gardener can even sit on the edge while weeding or planting.
- You can start a garden more quickly and easily on grass, or even concrete without needing to dig it up.
- The soil doesn’t become heavily compacted from being walked on.
- If you live where the soil is comprised of heavy clay or sand, or it is stony and infertile, raised beds will be a boon.
- It can be attractive and look neat. The soil is contained and doesn’t spread to unwanted places.
- It is easily covered to keep pets and pests out and to protect the plants from frosts or hot sun.
- By building a cover from plastic or other suitable material over hoops you can have a convertible greenhouse.(1)
- Raised garden beds come in a range of sizes, materials and prices. Alternatively, you could build your own. If you have suitable scrap materials available they can cost very little to build. You could also build your garden in a number of large containers, provided they have drainage holes.
- They are easy to move around, without the soil of course. I moved to this house a few months ago and was able to bring my containers and raised beds with me.
- Durability will vary with the materials used. You can buy or make them for long-term or short-term use.
- You have the choice of style, including shape, size, colour and materials. The garden can be as plain or as decorative as you wish. The raised bed could even double as a garden ornament or focal point.
- If you choose to use hardwood or some other expensive material and have to buy everything you need you could end up with a substantial bill.
- You may have to buy all the soil ingredients and this could also be expensive. If you are on a low budget you would certainly need to price everything before starting the project.
- Setting up a raised bed can be time-consuming and laborious if you have to do it all from scratch. However, it’s a one-time task – unless you want to build more of them.
- It is best to let the bed “mature”, preferably for several months but I would say at least a month so that the soil can compact somewhat and make better contact with the roots of your plants. That means that you need to plan ahead.
- Raised beds drain quickly, especially in hot weather, and need more watering than the conventional bed. A thick mulch can help to counteract this.
- Nutrients can leach more readily so you should be prepared to add compost, manure and/or purchased organic fertilizer during the growing season. Read the instructions on the packet if you buy fertilizer so as not to add too little or too much.
By now you may have decided whether you want raised garden beds or not. If the soil has been contaminated or is infertile, raised beds enable you to garden without having to remediate the soil. They are a boon for physically disabled people as long as the height is convenient.
If you decide to go with raised beds, make sure you get a size that enables you to reach all parts of the garden with ease and without overdue stretching.
The list of “pros” above is longer than that of “cons” but that doesn’t mean that a raised garden bed is essential for every home gardener to have. If you have good, rich soil a garden at ground level should grow your plants well. In this case, it’s purely a matter of choice.
(1)DIY Covered Greenhouse Garden http://bit.ly/1pexxac