Making and planting a raised bed vegetable garden can be very beneficial to you and your vegetables. I will discuss building a raised garden bed and the pros and cons of raised bed gardening. After reading this article you should be able to decide if a raised vegetable garden bed is the right solution for you.
Why should you make a raised garden bed? There are several reasons, but two of the main reasons, are that there are poor soil conditions in your area or there is poor water drainage on your property. By making a raised bed for your garden, you are able to put the kind of soil you need for raising the plants you want. Also with a raised bed, the water will drain easily so that your plants will not die with too wet of soil.
When building your raised garden, you want to pick a location that gets full sun. Most vegetables require full sun to grow properly. It would be nice if the area is flat, but you can level your bed by digging in to the landscape on the high areas. You can make your bed out of almost any thing, such as wood, rocks, bricks or cement blocks. Wood is usually the product of choice, because it is easy to work with and less expensive than the other choices.
For best results, make your bed long and narrow, about 3 feet wide, then you can access all your vegetables without stepping on the soil and compacting it. The depth of the raised garden is up to you, but if you want carrot or parsnips, the deeper the better. Twelve inches deep is a great depth for all vegetables.
You can prepare your site in two ways for your raised bed gardening. The easiest way but probably not the best way, is to place several layers of news paper or cardboard down over the existing ground cover. You should mow the sod as low as you can first though.
The other way is to dig out the existing sod and loosen the soil below your garden to a depth of eight to twelve inches. Doing this gives your garden extra depth and good drainage. This is especially important if you are planning on growing the root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes.
Construct the frame around your garden. You should now level your bed from all directions. This is very important, because if your bed is not level, the water will run off in some areas of your bed and will sit in other parts of your bed. To level the frame, remove some of the soil beneath the frame in the high areas. Once your frame is set, add your top soil and then you are ready to plant.
If you look at these instructions I have laid out, you will see that there is a lot of work involved. I’ve barely mentioned planting the garden, and the maintenance after planting. Is having a raised vegetable garden bed worth all this work?
Pros of raised bed gardening:
1. If you have poor soil or poor drainage. I have already mentioned this, but you are able to put good soil in the bed that will make your vegetable garden thrive.
2. Your garden areas are easier to access. They can be constructed at almost any height, so if you want very little bending over, construct a bed that is higher. This will reduce fatigue and injury to the back and knees. Also this is perfect for the elderly or disabled gardener that can not reach down to the ground.
4. Raised beds warm faster in the spring compared to ground soil. Your growing season can be prolonged. The soil will be warmer which will promote growth, but you still have to watch frost for the leaves of the plants. Another benefit, it is easy to place a tunnel of clear plastic over the garden bed, making a mini green house, thus prolonging the growing season.
5. Maintenance of a raised garden bed is a lot less. Each spring or fall, it is a good idea to top dress your garden with manure or compost, digging it in to the top two to three inches of the soil. This will help retain moisture and keep weeds down.
6. Fertilizer, compost and manure can be concentrated in the smaller growing area of a raised garden bed, making it possible to space your plants closer together. With plants being grown closer together, this allows the plants to crowd out weeds and shade the soil, reducing evaporation and keeping roots cooler.
7. It is easier to control weeds. Like previously mentioned, you can grow your plants closer together, but also it is easy to use plastic mulch because the width of the bed can be spanned by one roll.
8. Dead leaves and other garden debris is easier to clean up.
9. It is harder for rabbits, moles and other garden pests to access your plants.
10. Less chance of soil erosion.
11. As long as you make your beds deep enough, they are perfect for carrots and other root vegetables because the deeper soil is not compacted.
12. Elevated planting areas can be constructed on small decks or patio’s. You can grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers any where.
Cons of raised bed gardening:
1. Difficult to till, so the digging has to be done by hand. Though I have pointed out, there will be little traffic on your garden beds, so little digging is required.
2. The cost of construction is much more. Though that cost will be reduced in the maintenance of the bed, plus you will have a better vegetable harvest.
3. The edges or borders must be well reinforced during construction, or the beds will break down over time.
4. When constructing your raised garden bed, you want to remember that you should not use treated lumber or railroad ties. The chemicals will leak out and contaminate the soil. It is probably not enough to kill the plants, but may expose you to unnecessary chemicals.