Whether you are a casual gardener who is just planting a few kitchen herbs or a seasoned pro looking to grow a few prized tomatoes, raised bed gardens are essential to ensuring your garden is successful. Overall, raised beds make your safer, easier to access, and will ultimately make them thrive. Raised beds are even a better choice for those growing flowers and non-edible plants.
There are a few key reasons you need to be gardening in raised beds:
Number one for a reason, soil contamination is absolutely the most prevalent reason to garden in raised beds. Unless you live 20 or so miles outside of a city or densely populated area – and even if you do—your soil is more than likely contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals that your plants will suck up. As it rains and as you water your garden, those contaminants filter down to the roots. Your plants don’t have a very discriminating palate, so they suck it right up, meaning that your fruits or vegetables are also contaminated.
You’re not growing plants to eat, you say? The fact remains, do you want your flowers and shrubs sucking up chemicals and lead? Probably not.
2. Keeping out the critters
When built high enough, raised beds can keep out certain ground dwelling critters. Squirrels and deer will still find their way to your garden if they’re prevalent in your area, but mice, moles and other small mammals will keep their distance.
Raised beds are still open enough to let in the good stuff, however. Earthworms and other bugs that are beneficial to your plants and soil can make their way up from the ground.
3. Ease of access
Boy, if this isn’t the best reason, we don’t know what is. If you’re a frequent gardener, you know how much your back hurts toward the end of the season. All that bending over to pick veggies, weed the gardens and move some plants around makes back and neck pain a virtual certainty.
Depending on how high you build your raised bed, you can virtually kiss backaches goodbye. Some gardeners even use a picnic table as a base for their beds, bringing up the height substantially. If you don’t want to do that, simply stacking two 2×6’s up for your walls will make for much easier access.
4. Better for the plants
In the long haul, using a raised bed is much better for your plants. You add the soil so there is no need to worry about amendments with your ground. Further, drainage is fast and easy, keeping your roots from getting water logged.
The Downsides of Gardening in Raised Beds
There are, however, a few things to keep in mind as you build your beds:
Raised beds aren’t built out of air – you’ll need some wood! We recommend four 4×4 posts and 2×6’s to create your walls. There are countless plans online, so be sure to do your research before you start cutting!
Of course, this is better than using your home, contaminated soil, but you will have to budget to purchase the soil needed for your bed. Remember, that once you add the soil, you should expect to lose about ¼ of its volume to settling. Wait about two weeks from the time you put in the soil until you plant to see how much more you need to add.
Additionally, the soil you buy may be lacking in some key minerals that plants need. Be sure to review the types of plants you’ll be putting in your garden so you can see what kinds of minerals you may need to add.
Roots can dry out
Good drainage is a positive and a negative. Because water drains away from the raised bed quickly, plants can become dried out and stressed much faster in the hottest part of the growing season. Be sure to keep those puppies watered!
In all, raised beds are far better for you and your plants then flat earth gardening.