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Monday, February 4, 2013

Should You Use Raised Beds?

I've talked a lot about raised beds over the years here and there's no doubt that I'm a fan but are raised beds perfect for everybody?  Does everyone need a raised bed?  The answer is it isn't always necessary.  Anyone could utilize raised beds to have a great garden, but you don't have to have raised beds for an effective and productive garden.  Use this post as a checklist on whether you should use a raised bed or not.

Here are some factors to help you evaluate if you should use raised beds.


photo of soil
The Native Soil.  If your soil is not an ideal soil for growing crops then you may want to use raised beds.  Soils can vary considerably from location to location and even within an acre the soils can be significantly different.  Parts of our yard are sloped with the backyard being pretty much flat.  The sloped areas contain high amounts of clay and very little top soil but the flat areas have a much more rich and humus-y soil.  The areas near the trees are very porous and soft which would be great for growing vegetables except for the fact that the trees would shade the heat loving summer vegetables.  You want your garden soil to be full of organic matter, well drained, and porous enough to allow roots to move through easily.  If the soil is less than ideal then consider the raised beds.

raised bed on a slope - terraced garden
Location.  Raised beds can be built just about anywhere.  You can build a raised bed over rocks, over clay, over poor soil or great soil.  They can even be turned into a table and placed on a deck or patio for the convenience of a nearby kitchen.  With raised beds you have the flexibility of placing the beds wherever you need them. If you only have a slope your raised bed can be higher on one side than the other to create a terraced garden which may allow you to garden in places you didn't think you could!

Convenience of the gardener.  If you love to garden but are handicapped or if you just prefer to not have to bend over as much in the garden tall raised beds can help.  Raised beds can bring the crops up to make gardening more convenient for the gardener.  As a gardener you will do a lot of weeding and plant tending so why not make it more convenient?

Pests!  Do you have voles?  Voles are these little tiny mouse-like creatures that love to nibble on roots.  They will eat your vegetable garden from underneath.  Don't get moles and voles confused.  Moles eat grubs and worms not your plants.  With raised beds you can attach hardware cloth underneath your beds and the voles won't be able to nibble their way through.

Parterre garden layout design
You Like the Look!  A neat and organized raised bed garden can be a very cool landscape feature.  Arrange the beds  in a potager arrangement or a parterre layout and you'll have a garden the envy of every neighbor!

Here's another post I wrote about the benefits of raised beds.  Every situation is different and a raised bed garden may not be absolutely necessary for you but consider your options!

Do you garden with raised beds?

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