Planning your garden presents a lot of options, usually too many. As you decide what to grow, at the same time you need to decide where you should grow. Should you focus on amending and tilling your existing soil, planting in containers, building a planter or raised bed? It is easy to find passionate opinions about which options are the best or helpful guides, but usually there are few explanations that will be helpful as you draw your own conclusions.
We want to share more information about raised beds and why we choose them for helping people grow fresh produce in their yards. We build our own raised beds with a couple of key features, but all raised beds have a couple of crucial benefits for edible gardening.
1. Because you are putting fresh soil in them, you can control for composition, organic matter and draining. The easiest way to do this is get a blended garden soil that is premixed with organic compost. You can add drainage elements such as sphagnum (peat moss) to fine-tune drainage elements. Blending and adding blended soil is also much, much easier than tilling.
2. Accessibility. Raised beds, especially ones that are one - two feet off the ground makes inspecting plants, weeding, watering or almost any garden task much less difficult. A little planning gives you nice walkways and an attractive garden that is easy to get to and maintain.
3. The next big benefit is soil temperatures. This will depend on your local climate, but raised beds get warmer earlier which allow you to plant sooner and extend your growing season. The converse is also true, the beds will get cooler more quickly as well, but this can be counterbalanced by covering the beds as temperatures drop or building cold frames in cooler climates.
4. The big reason we use raised beds though, deals with watering - one of the most common reasons gardens fail. In order to offer a full-service garden, we need to be able to standardize the amount of water plants receive. One great way to do that is a drip irrigation system, but those can be complex to set up. We have built our beds to take advantage of capillary action known as wicking. If you are new to this, we wrote an earlier post that gives the highlights or here is another post with a good overview Wicking systems allow us to place a bed in a client’s yard and know that as long as we keep the reservoir filled, we don’t have to worry about plants getting just the right amount of water. As a bonus, the water reservoir acts as a complete deterrent for underground pests like gophers, they have a layer of rock and water between them and the plant roots they love to much on.
Hopefully our reasons will help you decide what is right for your garden. We are happy to chat and share what we’ve learned. If you’d just like to have us get a bed or two in your yard and take care of it, that is what we do. Click here to purchase an installation.
Cover image by Wicker Paradise CC 2.0