Benefits of raised garden beds

Benefits of raised garden beds

Although the popularity of raised beds is somewhat recent, the idea of it is not. Raised beds have been used for centuries. Of course, centuries ago, raised beds weren’t built or used the way we do now, but the method is not new. So why is this method so popularized, and why have we been doing it for centuries? 

There are many advantages of having a raised bed garden compared to other more traditional methods such as in-ground gardening.  In my opinion, this is one of the best methods for homeowners with medium to large backyards. Let’s dig into some of the advantages of this method.

1- Height

Raised beds can be of any height and made of almost any material, the most popular ones being wood, galvanized steel, and concrete blocks. The variable height of 10 to 48 inches or more makes it easier for kids, the elderly, and people with limited mobility to garden. In-ground gardening can be hard on your back and be an extraneous exercise depending on your needs and the size of your garden.

2- Soil quality

Most gardeners will find themselves with less than ideal soil, or should I say dirt? Soil is alive, complex, and full of microorganisms. Unfortunately, most places that once used to have soil now have dirt due to misusage. Improving soil quality can be labor-intensive and expensive. Raised beds allow the grower to start with a blank slate by adding good quality soil into their raised beds.

Tillage is not necessary with raised beds either; in general, I prefer to disturb the soil as little as possible as tilling can break soil structure and expose soil microorganisms. Also, since the soil in raised garden beds is contained and separated from the inground soil, compaction of the soil is not a problem.

Most of the raised garden bed users just add compost to the top of existing soil at the end of the growing season to add nutrients.

3-Reduced pest problems

Depending upon the height of your raised beds, many critters may find it difficult or impossible to get into your veggies. For example, in our garden, we always have bunnies around taking advantage of a newly sowed seedling, but they have never touched the plants in our beds as they can’t climb them. Another problem that raised beds can solve is in areas where moles are a problem; you can use a metal screen in the bottom to deter them from eating the roots of your plants.

4- Drainage/water retention

As I said earlier, most parts of the US have less than ideal soil, which also means that the soil can drain water too quickly or hold too much water. Both scenarios cause different problems when trying to grow plants. 

For example, the majority of Florida soil is known for being sandy. This is a big problem when trying to grow vegetables as sand does not hold nutrients, and it does not retain water. Unless the native soil structure is improved, gardening is difficult and many times frustrating.

On the other hand, in many places, the lack of drainage is the issue, which can also be fixed with raised beds by providing better drainage.

5-Weeds

As raised beds allow growers to have a separate soil medium, it allows the grower to get a growing medium with little to no weed seeds. Another benefit is that the separation of the raised bed soil makes it more difficult to weed seeds to disperse through wind and other methods.

I know there is a big debate in the gardening community regarding what is and its a weed. But all a weed is unwanted plant in an unwanted place. If your goal is to grow vegetables you don’t want crabgrass or other “weeds” growing in that space since it will lead in competition for space and resources.

6-Aesthetic

This may not be enough compelling reason for many gardeners to choose raised beds; however, having a more organized and aesthetic garden may make it easier and more pleasant to the garden. There are many different options that one can use to make their raised beds; in the end, choosing which one is ideal for you will depend upon your personal preferences and budget.

I have galvanized metal raised garden beds; the reason why I chose them is aesthetic, budget, and durability. All my raised beds have the same look and should last a lifetime. If I was in my forever location, I would probably have chosen a permanent material such as concrete blocks.

Many people prefer the raw wood look for garden beds, and I will admit that I also love the look. However, due to Florida’s extremely humid climate, untreated wood doesn’t last too long here. If you are in an area where it doesn’t rain a lot and would like to make a raised bed out of wood, I highly recommend using untreated cedar. What many gardeners do to extend the life of the wood is a Japanese practice of burning wood with fire weatherproofing it. I don’t recommend using treated wood as some of the chemicals used on it can leach into the soil.

7-Plant competition

In-ground plants compete with hundreds of plant roots all around it. Raised garden beds allow your veggies to have that growing space exclusively. In my personal opinion, root crops are the ones that benefit the most when growing in raised beds as the free and improved medium allows plant roots to grow without hitting other roots or obstacles.

Bonus – Raised beds, can be temporary or permanent

Depending upon the material you choose for your raised bed, it can be considered temporary. If you are renting a place, it may not be possible to do a sophisticated raised bed design. However, there are many options that can be temporary removed.

Final thoughts

Raised beds provide many benefits, and in my personal and professional opinion, it is an amazing option for most homeowners looking into vegetable gardening. There is an up-cost investment required to do raised bed gardening and I recommend starting small and thinking about the space of your garden in long term.

The size of your vegetable garden will depend upon your needs, the level of maintenance you desire, your budget, space, and others. I recommend getting your backyard soil tested to know what you will be dealing with when gardening.

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