What Are Raised Beds? Why Are They Such a Big Deal?
Raised beds, sometimes referred to as garden boxes, are structures that are built to surround your growing area in the garden. They can be made of wood, concrete, steel, or many other materials. The size, shape, and depth of the raised bed is up to you! They can be wide, narrow, short, tall, square, or rectangular, etc. You decide which is best for your garden.
Raised beds can easily be mistaken for large containers, but what makes a raised bed different than a container is its lack of a bottom. Unlike containers, raised beds are bottomless, allowing for plants’ roots to extend into the native soil if needed, instead of becoming root-bound, which is common in traditional containers. Raised beds are usually filled with a loose, nutrient-rich garden soil, which helps with aeration and drainage.
Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening:
So now you know what raised beds are, what are the benefits of planting in them? There are quite a lot actually.
When jumping into gardening the first question you are asked is “what is your soil situation?” What type of soil you have can result in more work and in some cases dictate what you can grow. When looking at your soil, you are looking at drainage. Three minerals present in soil; sand, silt, and clay have an effect on drainage and your gardening success. When using raised beds in your garden you can control what soil is being used, allowing you to pick soils perfect for your plants.
- Ready to Plant: With raised beds, there is no need to amend your native soil, just fill the raised bed with your choice of soil, and it is ready for planting.
- Plant Sooner: The increased elevation of raised beds typically keeps the soil warmer than the soil in the ground. Therefore, you can plant your spring garden a little sooner.
- Better Drainage: Since you are adding and mixing fresh, loose soil, your raised bed will have better drainage. You will also not need to worry about compacted soil issues.
- Variety: By controlling the soil you also open up your options on what you can grow. You can use varying soil and nutrient compositions in each raised bed to create the perfect environment for specific plants.
Modern gardeners are increasingly embracing raised bed gardening; after soil, space, accessibility, maintenance, and pest control make raised bed gardening an attractive choice.
Space, Time, and Convenience Benefits:
- Space-Saving: Short on space? No problem! Raised beds are perfect for those with limited garden space. Raised beds can be built on top of undesirable growing areas with very little effort.
- Grow More: Growing more plants with less space is an advantage of raised beds. Companion planting in raised beds allows you to grow plants in, up, and over the sides.
- Weed Control: Raised beds can be built over most surfaces like grass if you put down cardboard and newspaper then your soil and top it with cardboard and mulch you can greatly cut down on those pesky weeds.
- Help Control Pests: Raised beds help control pests. The added height will help deter some pesky garden pests like slugs and snails from snacking on your prized veggies. Incorporating wire or hardware cloth at the bottom can stop burrowing pests, like groundhogs and gophers, from getting to your plants.
- Back-Savers: The elevation of raised beds makes it is easier to water and harvest, especially for those who have a hard time bending over.
I’m ready to get started with raised bed gardening! Where do I begin?
Decide which material you want to use for your raised beds. Once you decide on the material, it’s time to move onto construction!
Get to work. Now, it’s time to raise those beds! If you chose wood for your raised bed material, grab some nails or some screws and start assembling! If you chose stone or brick, put some gloves on and start stacking!
Choose What You’re Planting. Veggies, Flowers, Succulents… Whether it’s edible or simply beautiful, choosing what you are going to plant should be your next step. By knowing what you want to plant, you can start to plan out how you will fill your raised beds. Do some research to find which plants should be placed together and which plants should steer clear of each other. Companion planting can be a great, natural way to reduce pests, combat disease and increase nutrient absorption. Choosing your plants ahead of time also allows you to create the perfect soil environment for those plants, which brings us to our next step.
Choose Your Soil. One of the great benefits of planting your garden in raised beds is that you can create the perfect soil environment for the plants you want to grow. For example, if you are planting blueberries, azaleas, or camellias, you’ll want the soil to be more acidic. Choose a soil with great drainage and fill those beautiful raised beds! It’s a good idea to line the bed with hardware cloth to discourage entry from tunneling pests like groundhogs and gophers.
It’s Planting Time! Easy as 1-2-3! Now it’s time to get those plants all cozy in their new home. It may be beneficial to draw a quick map to help you remember where everything should be planted. Don’t forget to have fun while you get your hands dirty!